Clutter vs. Creativity: Clearing the Stuff That Holds Us Back

by Reyna Eisenstark

I’ve been wanting to write about clutter for days now … but there’s a huge pile of papers on my desk. Every time I sit down to write, I look at that pile, and suddenly I want to be just about anywhere else. But, a little while ago, I straightened out the papers and arranged them in a way that made sense. Suddenly there was clarity, both literal and figurative. And then I started to write.

Most of us have some kind of clutter in our lives. Perhaps, at this very moment, you’re avoiding your own endless piles that have been building up for days, weeks, years. According to life coach Izzy Lenihan, clutter can be defined as both “a confused or disordered state or collection” and “scattered or disordered things that impede movement or reduce effectiveness.” She says our physical environment is a mirror image of what’s going on inside our heads: a crowded environment equals crowded thoughts. No wonder we can’t get anything done.

Psychologist Maria Sirois explains that “clutter is literally the stuff in our lives that no longer serves us.” This can be actual clutter, like papers taking over your desk, but also emotional clutter—the stuff that holds us back, like thought patterns that repeat over and over in our minds. For some people, Maria says, piles can become a way of life. People end up spending all their time and energy ruminating about their clutter, which distracts them from what would actually help them move forward. Clutter is often just a distraction from something much larger.

Even bad relationships—the toxic, energy-draining ones—fall into the category of clutter. “Keeping ourselves connected to people who don’t honor us, to people who don’t help us move forward, will clutter our lives,” says Maria. She likes to ask people this simple question: “What would your life be like if you weren’t putting energy around that pile or those people?”

Maria says we first need to figure out what the clutter in our lives actually is, and whether it’s attached to anything larger. After that, look closely at the block you have around clearing it. This process can help us get past chronic, and often destructive, ways of thinking. Without clutter, Maria explains, we’re freed to make choices.

“Undoing clutter helps you create space,” Izzy says. “Clutter is the energy that’s holding you back and keeping you heavy.” Those papers on my desk turned out to be clutter that was, ironically, keeping me from writing about clutter.

Izzy recognizes that any kind of clutter can be overwhelming. She says one way to tackle it is to break it down into smaller steps. Start at the bottom: Clear out your car or clear off your desk. Uncover a little bit at a time, and some surprising things might reveal themselves to you as you begin to peel away the layers.

Reyna Eisenstark is a freelance writer living in Chatham, New York. She writes a blog inspired by stories from her life.

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