Clearing ‘Wannabe’ Clutter (And The Air)

“I may have had a negative reaction to some of the previous clutter-related articles. Now I get it. The author is writing from the perspective of someone who helps hoarders or shopaholics. And I found balance ages ago so I don’t get it. But ultimately the question is who gets to decide what is or is not clutter? Or what is an acceptable level of stuff? How about an article that helps people determine for themselves what may be signals that they have a problem rather than advising everyone to just get rid of possessions for the sake of getting rid of them?”- a commenter from my last clutter article

While I think those are valid questions, I was more than a little surprised to read that someone who’d been reading this series of articles on clutter didn’t already know the answers. First of all, it is not my intention to separate everyone from everything they own. Note the emphasis on everyone and everything. I mean, really? Who wants that job, even in this economy? Please allow me to clear the air…

Certainly you’ve recognized that I am not everyone‘s taste. I tell stories, sometimes painfully long ones, in a virtual world where I’m encouraged to be brief, redundant, and organized by bullets because you are supposedly busy, bored, and overwhelmed by people like me offering information about how to change your life. If I’ve ever had a “clickable” title on one of my articles it was an accident. I refuse to promote gratitude during November or fresh starts in January. I will not invite you to something useful and free just to follow up with an invitation to the thing you really need at a cost that I’ve dramatically inflated simply because “they” say that you’ll think it’s high quality.

I will not pretend I am something I’m not just so you’ll feel reassured about my professionalism, nor will I tell you that you need to hire me as a coach, come to one of my classes, or read my articles. (Yes, I’m aware that by many people’s standards, this means I suck at marketing. I’m okay with that… stay with me here.)

I trust you.

I trust you to know if your needs are in alignment with my work.

If I write something that resonates for you, I trust you’ll read it (again and again, if that’s what it takes). I trust that if you like what I’ve written that you’ll “Like” it and if you think people in your life would enjoy it, I trust you to share it with them. I trust you to get what you want and ask for what you need. I trust that you’ll hire me if you want to work with me. That seems like such a reasonable policy to me.

It is my intention to use whatever is within my means to be a major player in the loving transformation of the world. People are suffering, sometimes too stuck in the suffering to make the desired change, and my work is about cultivating freedom.

What’s “within my means” includes 10 years as a professional organizer, plus almost three as a life coach. I have some random but powerful skills and abilities–coaching, teaching, writing, etc. I am passionate about women, creative people, children, our planet, equality, non-violent solutions to conflict with others and our ourselves, and living simply. It is my love of those people and things that keep me doing this day after day. These are all I have to work with, all I can use to do my part to heal the world.

This summer, I was struggling, confused about my work and I asked for direction. I asked what I could do with my business–the coaching, writing, and teaching–to really make a difference in people’s lives. I want that… I think we all do. The answer was breathtaking:

Prepare them to travel lightly through what lies ahead by releasing attachments to things and old wounds.

I not so metaphorically cried back, “Oh no, not that… anything but that! I don’t know how to do that! One woman thinks the fat is her problem, while another thinks her husband is the problem, and yet another blames work. I don’t know how to create something that works for all of these people.” There was some banging of heads against walls, shaking of fists at the sky, tears of frustration and more than a little fear.

Then, I found this in, “Feng Shui Your Life: The Quick Guide to Decluttering Your Home and Renewing Your Life,” by Tisha Morris:

Our home is simply a mirror of our self. A common example of this is how, when the home is messy and in disarray, we may feel mentally disheveled as well. The better your home feels, the better you will feel. And when you feel better–physically, neatly, or emotionally–then life will simply flow better for you. this is the beauty and magic of feng shui. The positive changes you make in your home will be reflected out into your life.

(Cue full circle moment music.)

That’s it, said the frustrated life coach who used to be a professional organizer, while bouncing the heel of her right hand off of her forehead. Your house reflects your inner state and you can either break that pattern by changing your inner state, which allows the conditions in your house to change, or you can change the conditions in your house. It doesn’t matter which side you tend first. Once that lock is broken, the changes that you want to make in all of the other areas of life become possible. To find people who could use this information (because I’m already aware that I’m not for everybody), I started writing about clutter here on Care2 and in my newsletter. I asked powerful questions like these:

Are you stuck? Are you sick of it? Do you believe that releasing that which no longer serves you from your physical environment will free you to make the changes you desire? And if not, are you willing to suspend that disbelief for a day, a week, or a month to try a different approach to change?

Yes. Yes. Yes. It only takes three to change your life. Basically, I’m a teacher who’s looking for students. If you’re not stuck, I’m not for you. If you’re stuck but you’re not yet sick of it, I’m still not for you. And the same goes for the last ones, if you don’t believe or can’t suspend the disbelief, then what I’m proposing can’t possibly be the support you need. The good news is, my way is not the only way.

So, who gets to decide what is or is not clutter? That would be you. It doesn’t matter if you’re reading this article, paying to study in the Sick of Being Stuck Classroom, or going all the way with one on one life coaching, these are your decisions to make.

If you’re not stuck, I celebrate with you! If you are stuck but you’re not ready to release certain things, I don’t care. We can work on the rest of it. Either way, I trust you to make decisions about your stuff.

As a life coach, I know how to ask the right questions, broach specific emotional areas, and equip you with the with the ability to find your answers. As a teacher in the SOBS classroom, I try to offer new information and perspectives, and cultivate a community for support and accountability. The control is yours. I suppose that’s the good news and the bad, right?

Being out of control of our lives is what gets us stuck to begin with.

What is an acceptable level of stuff? Everyone has a different definition here. For me, it’s about living within our means. As for “an article that helps people determine for themselves what may be signals that they have a problem rather than advising everyone to just get rid of possessions for the sake of getting rid of them”… well, I already wrote that one.

Perhaps the best part of this whole experience is that I’ve discovered so many new things about myself. Doing in my house what I challenge others to do has allowed me to see my relationship with stuff in a whole new way. I keep discovering new kinds of clutter, like convenience clutter, which I keep forgetting to write about and last week, I was a little embarrassed to discover that I have Wannabe Clutter. In turn, I come here and share my stories with you because for some people, the idea is enough. (And honestly, I don’t have the energy to make you hire me when I can just put it here for you to find when you’re ready.) What in the world is Wannabe Clutter?

I want to be the kind of woman who hems too long curtains and pants. Since I am only 5’2 and our cats shed on everything they can reach, this desire is not as romantically domestic as it may sound. This is about being functional, too. I want to make pillows that match the new couch I hope to get someday. I want to make gifts with nothing but a trip to the fabric store and the sweat of my brow. Okay, that was a little dramatic but you get what I’m trying to tell you. I want to be the kind of woman who sews.

I always wanted to be this kind of woman. I even paid $172.50 for a sewing machine on December 17, 1996. I can tell you that because I am actually the kind of woman who tapes her receipts inside the owner’s manual and then files them in an expandable file folder in the filing cabinet. Don’t laugh, we all have our issues. Okay, go ahead and laugh. You and I both know that getting you to laugh about my clutter is one of the most effective means by which I taunt you into considering your own relationship with stuff.

A few months into sewing machine ownership, I made a single, square curtain to hide an ugly cabinet under the sink in a half bath. I was filled to capacity with my first child and in hindsight, I credit some sort of nesting instinct for the incident. It was the most crooked little curtain I’d ever seen but I made it and I was excited about it. Mostly, I was excited about not seeing the cabinet but whatever.

I have no recollection of sewing anything else with that machine. Nothing. Not one other item or repair did I produce with that machine. Oh, and that baby I was brewing the last time I used it is now counting down the days until he can drive a car. I wish I was kidding. I am decidedly not, by any visible measure, the kind of woman who hems too long curtains and pants.

My sewing machine is clutter.

It’s not junk. It’s a fine little machine. It will do whatever I might need it to do… except turn me into the kind of woman who hems curtains and pants.

And it’s not that I’m not capable of being that woman. For the most part, I’ve been able to do whatever I wanted to do. It’s a matter of choosing to invest the resources to make it so. I haven’t done it and since that machine sits there in the closet, do you know what other clutter I just realized I have? I have a stack of pants that belong to my wife and me, probably seven pair in all, that cannot be worn because they are too long.

I haven’t hemmed them because I can’t. I don’t know how. But, I also haven’t taken them to be hemmed because I had that damn sewing machine tucked away in the back corner of the closet. If I didn’t have the machine (because I want to be that woman who…), then those pants would have long ago been taken down the street to the nice lady who will make them not clutter (meaning we can use them) for a few dollars each.

Seriously. What the heck?

So today, I’m fixing this. I’m releasing my sewing machine, and my want to be the kind of woman who sews. If I can do it with a needle and thread, then I will. If not, I will either pass on the project or pants, or I will pay a woman who sews to sew it for me. And if someday in the future the want to be the kind of woman who sews flairs up again, I choose to trust that the universe will provide for me another fine, fine machine.

Photo Credit: tsuacctnt via Flickr


Elisa F.
Elisa F4 years ago

Thanks for the reminder. Need to clear out the garage.

Rebecca F.
.6 years ago

so true. thanks!

Chris R.
Chris R6 years ago

Thanks Christy!~

Holly Lawrence
Holly Lawrence6 years ago

Great ideas - thank much!

Norma V.
Norma Villarreal6 years ago

Clutter is clutter....thanks for reminding me that clearing out the physical clears out the mental as well.

Brian M.
Past Member 6 years ago

When we recognize mindless consumerism for what it is and reject it; when we limit our consumption of goods and services... then clutter has a much harder time of accumulating.

Mandi A.
Amanda A6 years ago

Thank you

Michele Wilkinson

Thank you

Linda H.
Linda h6 years ago

Thanks, this is a huge issue. In fact I can do lots of things but now after many years maybe I just don't want to any more? I have to learn to not feel bad about that. I like my cleaner simpler lifestyle. Thanks again for September. Things are not perfect yet but boy they are better and now I can see what more I need to do without a lot of panic. Haha, in fact I am writing this from a clean and clear entirely empty table! Kisses to you and your family.

Deborah B.
Deb B6 years ago

Barbara M. WELL SAID!