This post is the 2nd in a 4-part series on “Saving your sanity.” Subsequent posts will focus on streamlining daily routines and simplifying. (Part 3 will run on Monday.) My posting schedule is Monday, Wednesday, Friday; subscribe via email (via the box at the top right of this page) to get new posts straight to your inbox!
Finally, I’m happy to share that A wish come clear was a featured link on this weeks’ ‘Simple Living News Update’ on RowdyKittens. In case you’ve not visited Tammy Strobel’s fantastic site, here’s your chance!
Have you ever found yourself watching a sporting event that you know nothing about? (Curling, rugby and dressage are good examples for me.) Even if you know very little about the sport, if you watch carefully you can usually tell who the star is. You can spot one person, maybe two, who surpasses the rest. How do you pick up on this, when you don’t know the rules of the game?
You watch for confidence. You watch for gutsy moves, communication and teamwork. You watch for an intensity in their eyes.
I was fortunate enough to see such a star in action two years ago. Her ‘event’? Clutterbusting. Her name? Theresa.* We’d been housemates at L’Arche for over a year before I recognized her clutterbusting prowess.
One Saturday morning, I asked Theresa, “Hey. What do you think about maybe clearing out your room with me today?” I enjoy helping people simplify and declutter. By contrast, Theresa enjoys going to yard sales and adding to her DVD collection. These two personalities put together could have been a disaster waiting to happen…but not for us. We powered through Theresa’s room, amassing 8 large trash-bags and designating more to give away. By the end, I was exhausted and exhilarated. Theresa kept giving me high-fives, and I kept saying things like, “Yeah! 8 trash-bags. What?!”
How did Theresa do it?
She invited me in. Due to the fact that Theresa had so much in her small room, I anticipated resistance to my suggestion. I got enthusiasm instead. It turns out that she had been wanting to declutter, but no one had yet offered to help. I told her up-front that I would respect her choices, that this was her room and that she got to make the decisions. I would make suggestions, but the choices would be hers. Trusting this, Theresa wasn’t defensive. She saw us as collaborators, and relished the task of re-commanding her space with me. As we continued working…
She allowed herself to get swept up. Theresa got excited along with me at the prospect of decluttering her space. This required trust, but it also required uninhibited willingness to play. Theresa didn’t have a preconceived idea about clutterbusting as drudgery. We made it fun (tossing items into bags as though they were basketball hoops, dancing in the open spaces we were creating), and the fun allowed her to make choices more easily. It was amazing to see how…
She made quick decisions, and didn’t look back. She was as free with her yes as with her no. I kept asking the quintessential question, “Do you like this, or can we let it go?” I could tell that guilt was not a factor in her choices. She wasn’t thinking in terms of whether or not she ‘should’ keep an item. She made choices based on what her present self wanted (not her past self or an imagined future self.) There were few items over which she hesitated. For those, we agreed to either a) come back to it later or b) think of a specific person who might enjoy it. In almost every case, Theresa chose to give the item away. As such…
She played to her strengths. Theresa’s natural generosity and her strong spirit of entrepreneurship came to the fore in our session. Often, she’d think of specific people who would love to receive an item, or she’d imagine selling the item in her own yard sale. She also considered the fact that she’d continue going to yard sales. (She has about $5 of her own money to spend at each sale.) We talked about the ‘one in, one out’ rule, and the value of limiting her collection (i.e., only keeping enough DVDs to fill one bookcase.) She could see that clearing clutter today was a way to make room for treasures she hadn’t yet discovered.
Whenever I clear clutter, I think of Theresa. There’s something magical about seeing a champ in action. There’s something beautiful about seeing a person move confidently in newly-cleared space. There’s something amazing about detaching from stuff and allowing spirit to shine through.
With the weekend upon us, I challenge you: what space could you create? Could you enlist some help, be open to the process, let go of guilt and be decisive, open your hands and your heart?
If you’re open to the challenge, here are some excellent resources to get you started:
Living Simply: The Ultimate Guide to Conquering your Clutter (at Zen Habits)
How to Win the War on Clutter (at Miss Minimalist)
Creating Space for Our Peace of Mind (at Clutter Busting)
Thank you for reading! Share your experience of clutterbusting and start a conversation with a comment below.
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*Names have been changed.