Inspire Your Inner Clutter-Tamer

I recently (finally) read Marie Condo’s The Art of Tidying. Have you heard about it? She takes a really common thing - dealing with accumulated stuff - to a whole new place of mindfulness and gratitude. I’ve read so many stories of life-changing results, I had to check it out. Full disclosure: I’m a kindred spirit here and have always lived clutter-free - honestly, if anything goes missing in my house, all eyes turn to me with an accusatory stare.

If you haven’t read the book, or if you’re facing spring with a little energy (or maybe a familiar desire but no energy) to create some space and order in your home, I’ll share what I like best about her process, combined with some of my own practices. 

  1. Get clear on what you’re doing: this is about letting go. Cleaning and storage comes after. So you’ll end up with less stuff, but much more meaning and joy.
  2. Rather than start with a drawer or room or even closet, start with a category. Seriously, it changes the whole deal to do it this way, so stuff isn’t just mingling around from one spot to another, undoing your good work.
  3. Gather everything (seriously: every last thing!) in that category into one place - maybe socks, sports equipment, books, tools, bedding, towels, bath and beauty products, even something little like writing utensils can be an easy start. Clothing can be done all at once, or you can break it up into categories like: sweaters, pants, coats/jackets. Just be sure to first gather every single item that fits the bill. Spread it all out on a floor or bed or table.
  4. Take a few deep, calming breaths. It’s okay. You can totally do this. Take some time to acknowledge the use you got out of each thing. Feel grateful for the purpose it served.
  5. Now, rather than focus on what to get rid of, focus on what to keep. Keep what truly serves you now, or as Condo says, what sparks joy. Then, simply discard the rest without drama. Have a place ready to put the things you no longer need, like a giveaway and throwaway bag/box. You don’t have to keep anything because it’s still useful. By giving it away, you share that use with someone who needs it more urgently than you. Take a picture if it has emotional value or triggers a nice memory.
  6. Neatly put away what’s left - what you’ve chosen to keep - in its most logical spot. Don’t rush to buy storage containers unless there’s a real need. Usually more storage just means more stuff, and after you pare down, you’ll find you have plenty of space already. Keeping things where they go is the best way to stay in touch with what you have and where it is. Imagine no more digging or frantic searches.
  7. Before you tackle another one, finish each category all the way to the end. Make a trip to the dump or thrift store with the discards now, so you don’t end up creating an overwhelming mountain of it all you’ll have to face later (or be tempted to rifle back through…).
  8. Use this practice to notice your shopping habits. Pause to be sure it’s something you truly need that’s missing in your life. Yes, a sale is great, but maybe you already have something like it with good use left. Our culture is built on creating urgency around consumption (act now! 40% off!), but you know very well that another sale will happen later.
  9. Feel the ripple effect. This process will merge into the rest of your life, leaving you feeling lighter, more in control, and more purposeful. Notice how having less feels like more, and that it changes your ability to make and trust your choices in other areas of your life. Don’t force downsizing on your family, but allow them to watch you, get curious and try. See where it leads…

For more on my process, check out my new Decluttering service. I’d be happy to help you get started, get finished, or get the whole darned house done.

For more on Marie Condo’s process, get the book! She really dives deep into the phycological and spiritual practices in a small, readable book (if your buried, forgotten stuff had feelings, would it be happy ignored in the dusty dark of a closet for years? And never insult your socks by balling them!). But seriously, she writes wisely on fear about the past, the future, reasons we feel attached to stuff, and how learning to simplify our personal space spreads out into our lives in big ways. 

You’re replacing a false sense of helplessness (I can’t face all this crap - it’s depressing and makes me feel guilty.) or preparedness (I’m safe because I have everything I could possibly need “in case”.) with a true sense of confidence (I have enough, and I can handle whatever life steers my way.). 

So I guess, yes, in a way it’s a practice of the spirit if you want it to be.