Clutter. I don’t know about you, but I’m constantly fighting a losing battle with clutter: my husband and I have too much stuff, too little room, too little time to deal with it—and most significantly—our clutter has an insidious way of creeping up on us.
I haven’t done a major clutter purge in more than 15 years. I know exactly how long it’s been, because the last time I made the leap to clear the clutter, my whole life changed.
In 2000, I was living in Manhattan, feeling stuck. I had been doing the same job for over 10 years. I could do the job in my sleep, yet didn’t know what I wanted to do instead. Then some time that year I stumbled upon a small paperback, Clear Your Clutter With Feng Shui, by Karen Kingston. Ms. Kingston’s premise is: “For your life to work well, it is vital to have a good flow of life force energy in your home and workplace . . . Any kind of clutter creates an obstacle to the smooth flow of energy around a space. This in turn creates stuckness and/or confusion in the lives of the occupants.”
OK some of you are thinking—way too woo woo for me. Skepticism is healthy, yet so is curiosity.
I started with the boxes under the desk in my bedroom. I hadn’t opened them in the 12 years since I moved into that apartment! I had no idea what was in them. It occurred to me, that if I couldn’t even remember what was inside the boxes, then I could easily live without the stuff. But, I was curious, so I opened them. I found a blouse and jacket of my Mom’s that I wanted to keep. She had died seven years earlier, and I wanted to hold on to the memories woven into the fabric. The rest I let go. I continued throughout the bedroom, clearing the space and allowing energy to flow in and around my room. I started to feel lighter.
More importantly, this new flow of energy helped clear my thoughts, and I became more focused on what I wanted in my life. I started imagining living in a house with a porch, outside the City. Soon after clearing the clutter, I heard from a friend who invited me to attend a one-day career workshop, where we explored our career goals and how to achieve them. One month after the workshop, I received a cold call from a headhunter about a job in Boston. As a native New Yorker, I had never imagined living in Boston, but said yes to this big interview—more out of curiosity than anything else. Two months later, I had a wonderful new job that challenged me in ways my old job had ceased to, and I was living just outside of Boston, in a house on a hill with a porch. I wonder if clearing the clutter had released my hold on staying in New York?
This January, I thought it was time to attack the clutter again. I started small, targeting one corner of the kitchen. As I did 17 years ago, I kept a couple of items, and cleared out the rest. Next, I focused on a dresser that hadn’t been cleaned out in 15 years. Four hours and one bursting garbage bag later: done.
Now I only needed to wait and see if clearing the stuck energy would usher in any new business.
The next day, a client handed me a check for a new coaching engagement, a testimonial came in from a former client, I gained a new Twitter follower, and three emails from potential new clients popped into my inbox. Not bad.
So, if you are feeling stuck in any part of your life, pick a corner, a drawer, one shelf in that overstuffed bookshelf, and start clearing. We all cling to things in one way or another, and for different reasons. Some of us hold on to beliefs, or grudges, or images of our younger selves that are no longer serving us. Letting go of the possessions that no longer serve us, requires us to reconsider who we are today. When you decide whether to keep an old shirt, or book, or letter from a friend, you are swept back to the time you first acquired it, and to reflect on its meaning for you today. Does this object still hold meaning? Do you still need this in your life now?
When we clear the clutter, we let go of more than just the stuff. Releasing our hold on physical possessions that have lost their resonance liberates us in profound ways. When we choose to stop bearing the weight of outdated beliefs and assumptions, we are freed to explore new opportunities and new ways of seeing ourselves in the world.