Declutter your space, declutter your mind

Alchemy is the process of changing lead into gold. Inner alchemy (personal transformation) occurs when we clear our clutter—internal and external—and let go of things that no longer serve us well. This creates balance and space, a place that nurtures contentment, which I believe is true success.
— Laurie Buchanan, PhD

“Honey, do we have a pen around here? I can’t find one.”

“I think there’s one on the dining room table. Or, maybe on the counter. If not, try the desk.”

After shuffling around the piles of paper on the dining room table, scanning the counter that looks more like a pit stop for homework than a kitchen countertop and rummaging through the desk drawers, you still come up empty.

Then, you spot it. It was on the dining room table the whole time. In plain view. You just didn’t see it for all the clutter.

Is your house (office? mind?) a bit like that?

We have so much “stuff,” we can’t see what’s right in front of us. That makes us inefficient, leaves us easily distracted and results in our feeling overwhelmed—all of which make us even more inefficient!

Under all that busy-ness there are meaningful things, you just can’t see them. Ask yourself, what am I not getting done? What important stuff am I missing?

So, what is this about? Why do we hold on to things that are often nothing more than useless clutter?

What it boils down to is this: you are putting off the decision—intentionally or not—about what to do with it.

When we look at an object, we decide if it is worth keeping. Then, we put it in the right spot: keep it because it is useful or meaningful or discard it (trash or donation) because it doesn’t add any value. If we accumulate clutter, it’s likely because we’ve put off making that decision.

We can apply the same reasoning to emails—it requires an action: deal with it or discard it. How many times have you looked at the same useless email without hitting delete? If you make the decision now, you end up with less clutter.

And not just with emails or “stuff.” The very same thinking can be applied to our, well, thinking.

When we make a decision immediately, the problem is resolved. It’s in the mind’s filing cabinet, but you don’t have to think about it anymore.

When we accumulate “stuff,” we are giving into indecision. We are unclear where we stand, we don’t know what to do with it and it stays there, unresolved, often leading to procrastination and frustration.

When we are clear on our values—what is important to us and what is not—it’s much easier to make those decisions and move forward.

Let’s use the metaphor of a cluttered closet to demonstrate. If you start decluttering with rules (values) in place (anything you haven’t worn in a year is gone, only keep three plaid shirts and NO short shorts), the chore is suddenly much easier. On the other hand, if you have to stop and debate with yourself with every piece (will I wear it, does it have sentimental value, can I repurpose it), not only will it take longer, but the thought of going through every piece may deter you from even starting the process.

Once we know what is important to us, it’s a lot easier to make decisions and even—believe it or not—let go.

For our lives, we can create our own chart of rules that are based on our values. Assessments will be short and allow us to live authentically. This makes everything simpler and clearer. Then, we’ll have the space we need to breathe, think, and yes, see the gems that we would have otherwise missed.

We have a choice. We are empowered to keep or discard our “stuff,” (emails, emotions, thoughts) and keep only what is truly aligned with who we are and who we want to become.

The often-heard complaint is that there just isn’t enough time to go through all of this.

My response is two-fold. First, investing the time we need to understand who we are and what is important to us will save us a ton of time in the long run. Second—and more importantly—we will then be able to do more of those things that make us happy and fewer of those things that just take up time with no meaningful benefit.

Look at your day critically. Many of us are simply on autopilot. We’ve looked at our email so many times and wasted time on so many meaningless tasks that decluttering could give us back an extra couple of hours each day to make life more joyful.

Imagine taking those small amounts of time—that quickly add up to a large amount of time—and making them useful again. Whether it is training, reading, learning something new or any other activity that adds to our happiness—we could use that time to become an expert in just about any topic of our liking all the while doing something we love. How does that sound? Wouldn’t this make a huge difference in your life?

We have a lot more time than what we think. Time is what we make of it. We must stop chasing “likes” and doing other things that really don’t add any value to our lives. Maybe then we will find the hidden gems in plain view.

Let’s be strategic with our time, space and mind. We decide what fills them.

Going through our day in full consciousness and filling our lives with what we really want is our choice. Everyday minute of every day.

There is no room for clutter anymore. Let’s get rid of it and fill our days with meaningful, aligned actions that will make our hearts sing.