Clutter is a State of Mind; Clearing is a Way of Being
by Stephanie Bennett Vogt
Ready for change, one paper clip at a time? In this excerpt from Your Spacious Self, Clear Your Clutter and Discover Who You Are, Stephanie Bennett Vogt traces clutter to its source (your mind) and proposes a new way of getting clear.
Change happens slowly, then all at once.—Unknown
“Spaciousness?!? You’ve got to be kidding. I can’t even get past the piles of paper and the junk in my basement, let alone talk about spaciousness!” This is what many of my clients and students are saying, or at least thinking about, when I go into my song-and-dance spiel on the bigger picture. Do any of these thoughts ring true for you?
- No matter how hard I try, I just can’t seem to manage the sheer volume of stuff.
- I’ve bought the books on clutter clearing; I’ve smudged my entire house with sage; I’ve practiced some of the suggestions on simplifying that I read in Real Simple; I’m hooked on TV’s Clean Sweep but my clutter just creeps on back, like a nasty weed.
- It’s easy for me to get rid of stuff, it’s my husband (wife, mom, child ) who has a hard time letting go of things, or, [variation] who doesn’t even see the piles.
- I’ve spent gobs of money on closet systems, containers and baskets, professional organizers, even therapy but my clutter remains a source of pain, shame, and embarrassment.
- My office desk is perfect. My desk at home is a disaster.
- I’m a neatnik. I control my chaos with order.
- What will become of me if I let this thing (thought, relationship, resistance, worry, status symbol) go?
- My stuff needs me.
You’re not alone. Despite the proliferation and popularity of how-to books, magazines, make-over reality television shows, feng shui cures, closet organizing services worth billions of dollars a year, and a self-storage industry that is bigger than McDonald’s, Burger King, and Wendy’s combined, clutter continues to grow, quickly becoming one of the biggest epidemics of our time. There is no denying that our stress and our stuff is burying us alive!
Underlying the dizzying facts is the unrelenting message that if we simply banish this curse we will finally find true heaven on earth. The standard view sees clutter as a “thing” that is separate from us: a nuisance or growth that we must extract, conquer, outwit, or reorganize back into orderly piles. And, like a strict diet that must be endured, clearing is considered about as compelling as a root canal.
So what gives? With all the attention given to the problem, why is it that our homes and lives are still so stressed, stuck, and out of balance? What’s missing from this equation?
As we have touched upon already, clutter is not separate from us, and neither is it who we are. Yes, it shows up in our life as a physical nightmare of unsightly piles and disorganized messes (or in my case, as controlled chaos). But if you really think about it, clutter didn’t begin that way. Clutter didn’t just crawl into the house all by itself.
What most clearing modalities do not recognize is that clutter—before it becomes something tangible that spills out of our closet or trips us in the basement—exists in another, more invisible form.
Clutter has to begin somewhere. That somewhere is a gestational unit with a built-in continuous “on” switch called the human mind. Our negative thoughts and our fear-based attitudes beget clutter, and that clutter spawns more clutter, thanks to the universal laws of attraction and resonance. How you construct your life, and with what and whom you choose to surround yourself, out there, has everything to do with what is going on—in here—in your mind. There is no separation.
Most traditional approaches do not consider the energetic impact of clearing, no matter how miniscule the task or effort. The fact is, clearing anything consciously and gently, as this book teaches, creates an energetic opening—a spaciousness—that works on us slowly and surely to soften our grip of attachments. You are more likely to throw in the towel just when things are beginning to shift, quietly, under the radar of any discernable progress. You might lose faith precisely when you should not be giving up and giving in to the agitations of the ego—the part of you that is only concerned with your comfort and keeping things the way they are.
What most people do not recognize is that the simple act of clearing one little thing with intention, every day, is more powerful and sustainable than binge-clearing a whole lot of things on the fly. By consistently clearing something small like a purse, a wallet, or even just one paper clip off your chronically messy desk, you can bypass your brain’s fight-or-flight wiring system to such a degree as to create a sea change—a clearing movement of global proportions!
Another reason why many methods of clearing and organizing do not work is that they promote an active and linear process of clearing, like a problem to be fixed, managed, or solved. In our Western culture where “action” reigns supreme, if we can’t “do something” or make something happen, now, then we are wasting our precious time. Going slowly and waiting to see what happens is a hard sell for those looking for immediate results. These linear approaches completely dismiss, and miss, the equally powerful receptive elements of clearing that invite us to slow down, allow, listen, surrender, feel, soften, let go.
Most clearing efforts do not make room for us to feel our feelings, honor our ebbs and flows, create a container of safety, embrace our shadow side, or allow us to be more compassionate with ourselves. The modus operandi focuses on the end result, not the journey; on our intellect, not our innate wisdom; on throwing away, not letting go.
Until we begin to make a shift in our mindset that recognizes and embraces and includes the feminine aspects of clearing, we will not begin to change our lives, nor bring change to the planet. It is, in fact, this more balanced treatment that takes us beyond clutter-freedom into the vaster territory of our most spacious self.
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