A lot of us have been wondering about what’s next: What will our economic landscape look like after the pandemic? What will happen politically? How will we treat each other when this is all over? The questions can feel endless, and the wondering takes many flavors from fear to hope to insight.

If you’re like a lot of my clients, you might be wondering what your work-life will look like after the pandemic. You might be worried. And, you might be experiencing an unexpected blessing in being able to step back and reflect on what you really want.

Today, I’m writing to encourage you to take advantage of any newfound time that you might have during this time to do one particular thing: declutter your space. When I begin working with a new client, the first step I have them take is to dedicate time and space to get clear about what’s next. 

If you’re contemplating a big work-life change, it will be so much easier for you to get clear about what’s next if you first dedicate decluttered space to getting clear.

Many years ago, I used to teach Simplicity Parenting classes developed by Kim John Payne. Payne developed Simplicity Parenting while working as a therapist in England with children diagnosed with ADHD, OCD, and other emotional and behavioral challenges. Previously, he’d worked in refugee camps in Thailand, and he discovered that his well-off British clients were exhibiting the same symptoms as children in the camps. 

What was happening, he later concluded, was his British clients were so overscheduled, overloaded with information, overwhelmed by endless distractions that it was creating a trauma response. The children’s brains and bodies were not capable of integrating the amount of information coming their way, just like the children in the refugee camps were unable to integrate the overwhelm they were experiencing. Payne developed Simplicity Parenting as an approach to help parents reduce their children’s overwhelm, heal their brains, and eventually reverse their diagnoses.

If your environment is cluttered, scattered, and full of distractions, then you can probably relate to Payne’s clients. 

A scattered environment triggers the amygdalae. 

The amygdalae are two almond-shaped lobes in the center of the brain that are responsible for processing emotion. When our physical environments are cluttered, it can activate the amygdalae, setting off the fight or flight response, causing us to feel chaotic internally, like our brains are jumping from one thing to another, unable to focus. An activated amygdala triggers a nagging feeling like something is not quite right or as though danger were lurking.

Living with clutter can make a person feel powerless and helpless, stuck in a downward cycle of wanting to change but being unable to access the motivation. This spiral can lead to low self-worth that spills over to other areas of life and make changing any realm feel more difficult.

If your space is cluttered, your mind is likely to feel cluttered, too. It is nearly impossible to create something new when your body is in such a state.

Our inner worlds mirror our outer environments.

When you declutter your physical space, you declutter your mental space. By creating space on the outside, we create a sense of spaciousness on the inside. We go from feeling scattered to feeling grounded, from feeling constrained to feeling as though creativity has space to flow through you. There is wisdom in the old phrase, “Out of sight, out of mind.” When we put our stuff away, we give our minds the space to be calm and effective.

Think of yourself as a fresh little plant who needs healthy soil to grow. Your workspace is that environment. 

With that in mind, I invite you to choose a space you’ll work in and to declutter this space. 

Now, before we go further, I’ll share an important caveat: 

Be mindful of the difference between procrastination and proactivity.

I’m a huge fan of decluttering as a way to create physical and psychic space. That said, I am not encouraging you to procrastinate. You must discern the difference. As you’re probably aware, engaging in house chores is a common procrastination strategy. If you feel drawn to declutter your entire house, take a step back, and ask yourself what’s most important right now. Your gut may tell you to declutter a little bit but not devote too much time. Or, your inner guidance may say that decluttering is a necessary first step to creating space for flow in your life. There’s no one right answer, just make sure to check in with yourself.

Something that can help prevent procrastination is using a timer. Decide how long you want to invest in decluttering (say, fifteen minutes or so), set a timer for that amount, and see how fast you can go. Move quickly, making as many small changes as you can. Just don’t go so fast that you forget where you put things! My Babka was right when she called for “a place for everything and everything in its place.” When the timer goes off, sit back down in your chair.

With all that in mind, I invite you to take the following steps:

  • Decide which space in your home you will use for your creative work (setting your goals, getting clear about what you need and want, setting your goals, designing a website, etc.).
  • Remove any clutter from this space. Get rid of any pictures or objects that distract you. Either through things away or move them to where you know you’ll be able to find them. 
  • Optional: Get rid of objects that pull you away from your vision. Someone once asked the famous sculptor, Michelangelo, how we carved his masterpiece, David. He answered, “I did not carve David. I took away that which was not of David.” So it is with your space. Each time you take away that which is not of you, you create space to be who you truly are. 

As you organize your space, ask yourself, “Does this item help me manifest the intentions I have for my life?” Each item in your environment is like an unconscious anchor tied to a memory of something else, influencing how you feel, think, and act. For example, I’m sitting in my living room as I write this. As I look around, my yellow and blue walls remind me of the colors on the streets of Oaxaca, Mexico, where I lived when my son was little. I look out of my windows, past the purple flowers and green plants on my window sill, to the trees in my backyard, and I feel grateful for the beauty and peacefulness of nature here. The books on the shelf and the art on the walls spark my creativity. 

If there are objects in your home that no longer represent the life you want to live, when you see them, you will remember them. If it doesn’t take too much time or emotional labor, I invite you to let go of objects that pull you away from where you want to go, sending them to the local Survival Center or Goodwill. 

  • Optional: Bring in visual reminders of your vision. Your home is a metaphor for your life, and it represents who you are and what you value. If you have photos or artwork that inspire you, bring them into your workspace. 

I am wishing you so much insight and spaciousness in the weeks and months ahead.

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Much love,

X

Forgot Password?

Join Us