Imagine if a hoarder invited you to dinner, and the kitchen was the nexus of their hoarding empire. You cringe while watching them attempt to cook among the chaos. It's so cluttered, they're forced to move random objects off the stovetop burners and even out of the kitchen sink, including a fake fish tank, holiday lights that never got strung, and a beaded frog. It's painful to watch.
This is exactly how I feel watching my kids attempt to play in their toy kitchen, which has become a de-facto storage area. The visual clutter drains me every time I look at it.
It's crammed. Crowded. Constricted. Cluttered. Chock-full of stuff they don't need.
On random occasions, when I'm feeling motivated, I'll whirl in like a cleanup hurricane, only to discover I'm battling it out with a never-ending anti-tidy tornado. As soon as I turn my back, chaos reigns once again. This space has taught me an important lesson about decluttering: All of our spaces are connected.
When you declutter one area, it affects you physically, mentally emotionally, and even spiritually. Here are five simple strategies and habits to help you declutter way more than your home in the new year:
1. Start a dialogue with your surroundings.
This fun and useful exercise comes from self-help guru Martha Beck. She suggests we each have an area in our living space that we really don't like. It could be a junk drawer, a guest bedroom, or an overstuffed closet. Once you identify what that space is for, you ask it, "What's your reason for being?"
For me, this was our children's play kitchen. I asked what its reason for being is, and it replied, "I'm here for the children. To help them play and create magical things and remember they are magical themselves."
"But…," the art table and play kitchen continued, "there is no space for play, magic, and creativity here."
And I realized this is a perfect mirror of my own life. I've become too cluttered to let the magic in. I'm so overbooked, overscheduled, and overextended that there is no room for anything else.
My office, like my kids' play area, is also crammed with piles of paper, random receipts, and checks to be filed. I'll be decluttering this space in the coming weeks, making room for the magic to come in.
I invite you to talk to your home. Find the space that you like the least and speak to it. As Martha suggests, write out how this space must feel (in the first person). And then ask it, "What is your reason for being?" And finally, "What lesson or wisdom do you have for me at this time?"
2. Declutter your mind.
Creating mental stillness and inner calm in one of the best ways to provide the quiet space for new ideas to come in. Meditation has been scientifically proven to quiet your mind and enhance creativity. Make decluttering your mind a daily habit by creating a ritual, go on a walk by yourself, or set a timer and meditate. (If you're looking for some accountability, try out my 30-day guided meditation challenge.)
3. Just say no.
Can you think of at least one project or activity that you regret saying yes to? Our busy culture reinforces a tendency to overcommit. Many of us have an unconscious belief that our self-worth is based on how much we do rather than who we are intrinsically.
It's scary to do less. Maybe you're afraid people won't like you if you tell them no or that you'll lose out on future opportunities. While it's true you might disappoint people, living in alignment with your truth feels so good, it's worth the risk. Be courageous and just say no to one project or activity that isn't lighting you up.
4. Pull away from relationships that don't light you up.
As you reflect on the people in your life, who are you spending time with out of a sense of obligation rather than because you genuinely want to be with that person? Some people are energy drains, and yet we give them our precious time out of a sense of guilt or obligation. Maybe it's a family member who you believe you "should" spend a certain amount of time with or a colleague at work who always leaves you feeling depleted. You keep saying yes, even though it feels awful.
Take an honest look at your relationships and declutter them in the new year. This doesn't have to involve a dramatic breakup or ending a relationship entirely (although that can help too); this could also be a gentle easing away from someone who depletes you.
5. Choose one thing to cut from your diet.
While it's tempting to make big, bold commitments about our health in the new year, if you tackle too much at once, you may quit before you start. Instead, think of one substance you want to declutter from your physical body. Is it sugar, alcohol, caffeine, dairy, gluten? If you get really still and quiet, what do you know in your gut is harming your body the most?
One quick way to decide what you should give up is to notice what you really don't want to give up. The substance that's the hardest to give up is probably the one you're most addicted to. Try "decluttering it," just for a little while, and see how it goes.
As you move into 2019, I invite you to declutter before you move forward with new projects. It will free up literal and energetic space for the next wonderful thing to come along.
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