An Uncluttered Life

by elizabethbrantley

Can you fall in love, when you are surrounded by your own clutter?

Before I fell in love with myself, with Life or with another, I had to clear away the many physical messes in my life. One Thanksgiving break, I dedicated all the extra time I had after work, to go through the thousands of papers and memories I had accumulated over the years. I drugged up from the silty soil of my home (and soul) the old pictures and memories and forced myself to look at them, through both tears and laughter.

Although this process was one focused on my external surroundings, it was a highly emotional and a deeply physiological experience. I supported myself  during the process by treats like my favorite store-bought tea (Kombucha) and listening to my favorite  music (Enya) or perhaps a book on tape that was enthralling. Above all, I allowed myself the time to look, to change, to purge and to remember. It was a very self-indulgent time. This experience was felt in both my body and in my mind, as I saw old aspects of my past and myself.

By designating this time and clearing the clutter, I found a sense of lightness and freedom. I became free from my past and other lingering strongholds that I had a vice grip on for years.  On a spiritual level, by facing and clearing away my environment, I was creating space within my life to welcome in who I was, as well as, other people and more love. There had been only a few other times when I felt so in sync with the Universe and “clear” about what I wanted from Life.  Each  of these times were when my surroundings were simple, useful and uncluttered, like during long camping trips, sailing voyages and being at camp.

As you choose to embark on this purge and self-examination, be strong as you face the dark, hidden spots of your own self and the past.  Through this honest self-examination and “de-cluttering” you are creating an opportunity for personal change. While this experience can be emotionally challenging, you will come out of it stronger, more confident and clearer on your purpose and goals in this life.

I encourage you to come to this task with an open mind, asking questions like “Why do I choose to live this way with all this stuff?” In my journey, I realized that my constant pattern of having a mess reflected a distrust I had towards Life. By maintaining clutter and a messy environment, there were four main things I was not trusting. One, that there will be something good and meaningful to do in the future. Two, that there will be more memories and more things to look forward to. Three, that it is ok to take time for myself in “indulgent” ways. And four, that I am good enough to live in a beautiful, clean and self-serving environment.

I found that each of my piles represented my fear of letting go and facing the truth that I was worthy of spending time on me and living the life I desired. Over time these piles, and therefore my fear and self-neglect,  built up and began to take over my time and life.

My mess was also an excuse. “I can’t do that, until I clean up here.” “I can’t accomplish that until….”  This deadly conditional phrase had kept me from pursuing and following every day that which I needed to accomplish. I was sabotaging myself and using my mess as my excuse for not living the way I wanted to live.

Everything in our lives serves a purpose for us, even our messes. After I had taken the time, that entire week, to look through these piles, although I felt better, I hadn’t cured myself of the habit of creating them. It wasn’t until recently that I realized that now these piles served another purpose by giving me “me time”. Having had the great experience of the first purge, I now set my life up so that I could spend weekends, perhaps weeks, dedicating myself to clearing, cleaning and organizing. Although this may not sound fun to many people, this was a time that I could completely and utterly indulge in my life. I had created a system that set me up to have time that was focused on me, in a way that I felt was acceptable and necessary. After realizing this, then I was able to address the real “need” I had for piles and disorganization – it was my way of claiming time for myself, to reflect, to remember and to honor myself.  I, therefore, had to find a replacement, and a change in my understanding that there were other, more constructive ways of focusing on myself, than setting myself up for marathon cleaning weekends.

As you can see, the process of understanding ourself through our stuff is endless and constantly changing, yet it is one that we must look at and address. If you want some change, if you want to begin to create more love and excitement both externally and internally, we must all look to the piles and the messes surrounding us. What have we created and allowed to maintain presence in our lives? We must accept all that they hold and represent. Then, we will notice how by addressing our environment we can change ourselves.  As on the external, so the internal. Address the mess. Address the need it is fulfilling in your life and then consciously choose to fulfill these needs in other, more meaningful and significant ways of your choosing. You are worthy of this.

(One of the greatest lessons I learned about organizing is that it is not just something we are born with, but a skill we can each acquire. The best book I have read about organizing is Julie Morgenstern’s Organizing from the Inside Out. I highly recommend this book as a way to gain knowledge and encouragement about useful ways to organize. It has transformed my own life. I still will listen to it while I am cleaning or organizing to remember the tips and tools she offers. With Love, – Elizabeth)