Uncluttering Your Life in Times of Change

Modern clean office

I often joke that I’m a goddess, but not a domestic goddess. And although I hope to never be known for my cleaning or ironing skills, I like being immersed in a beautiful, comfortable, and fairly organized space. I also believe that our physical environment can support us when we’re trying to create something new in our lives. Until about a month ago, my space was set up to support me during a tornado or earthquake, but not the other profound changes I had planned for 2015.

When I heard about “Release & Renew: Uncluttering Your Life in Times of Change,” a class that Renée Canali, a life coach, and Donna Dettling, a professional organizer, were holding, I was excited to enroll. I was in the midst of making some very big changes in my career and was determined to return to a healthier weight in 2015. Yes, I wanted to release any toxins and negative emotions I was carrying along with the weight, but I’d settle for finding my to-do list.

Renée and Donna created a very supportive environment as they began talking about physical, emotional, and mental clutter. “Clutter is anything that gets in the way of what matters most to us and keeps us from living the life we want to be living,” Donna shared.

I realized my energy was often diverted from what I wanted to create. And every time I passed those piles, tried to tackle the hundreds of emails in my inbox, or missed an appointment I often responded with unkind mental chatter that didn’t help me move forward, solve my problems, or organize my space.

As Renee and Donna explained, physical clutter is really due to deeper issues. With this in mind, here are some thoughts to rewire the way you think about clearing clutter.

1. Clutter is the physical manifestation of feeling overwhelmed in life. My clutter issues began when I was renovating my kitchen. Living in chaos, lots of noise, and a layer of dust, I often felt panicked. As time went on, I believed I couldn’t “sort through” the mess of my life.

2. Clutter is a sign that you are unable to make decisions. These can be as trivial as choosing where to place the mail and as serious as determining whether to stay in an unpleasant relationship.

Shortly after the kitchen remodel, we had a family medical crisis, and my life moved from overwhelm to OMG. Unable to make one more decision, junk piled up while I was paralyzed with indecision.

Instead of feeling disappointed that I wasn’t able to organize everything myself, I hired a part-time assistant to stay on top of the papers and prepare my financial statements. I couldn’t be happier with my decision! She’s smart and conscientious, and loves to keep things organized.

3. Clutter may be a sign it’s time to address any perfectionist tendencies. When you first begin to organize, it’s common to encounter some discouraging beliefs. Thoughts like I’ll never be good enough; I should be able to do this myself; and if I can’t do it perfectly, I shouldn’t do it at all undermine your self-esteem. Negative emotions like shame, guilt, fear, and frustration will keep you from moving forward.

Instead of beating yourself up, seek help from an organizer, life coach, or other professional. Once I gave up on having to have all the answers, it freed me up—mentally and logistically—to expand my business, host family and friends. I’m even within 5 lbs of my weight loss goal.

Finally, I learned the power of “And.” Things are rarely as black and white as we make them about to be. As Renée put it, “Life isn’t either or; it’s this AND that.” Sure, you may be knee high in muck, but you can still be a loving friend or parent, a great cook or gardener, excellent at your job, and so forth. Instead of letting your negative circumstances define you, use “and” as a bridge to get you where you want to go, while honoring what you’ve been through.