I find nothing scarier than the hidden, unkempt drawers in my home. There are not many, but they are enough that I think about them at least a few times a week, when they are a complete mess. Maybe more than toys on the floor, hidden mess terrifies me. It signals limited resources: time, clarity, joy, room. On a more everyday note, for me, it means that I am much more of a mad woman — hair up, eyes wide, clothes half-buttoned — than I’d ever feel comfortable being or appearing. My mom used to say, “Your house is a reflection of your mind,” and whether or not that has been or can be scientifically proven is not really what I care about. It is the feeling that my house is a reflection of my mind. Even as I disregard my mother’s comments and the way she kept her own home, I can’t shake the feeling.
In a way, I’ve tracked myself and my own patterns over the years. I have learned that there are seasons when my house is a mess and I do not care. In those seasons, I can approach the messes with ease. And then there are seasons when the messes dictate my mornings, afternoons and evenings. Running a business, writing a book, raising two children, taking care of a home and all of the stuff in between leaves little room to allow such things. So I sort of have the mess cap down to a science… most months.
A month ago, I looked around my apartment and realized the closets and cabinets felt cluttered. Around the same time, I looked at my phone and felt a similar clutter. It was frustrating. In my frustration, I needed an answer, a soft approach that kept my time and needs in mind.
Here’s the thing: Life is full. We are inundated by news, events and life stuff every single day. And it is my belief, now more than ever, that while we cannot ignore, we must refocus and declutter. Since I need to be active politically, I don’t shut off those alerts, but I limit them. Since I need to work, I work, but need to shut off and, honestly, say no to more things than I ever have. I rarely go to work things; with no back-up childcare, evenings are of the essence, and my mind can’t handle more stuff for stuff’s sake. There’s friendships, too. I’ve been working with my dear friends and my therapist to really sit with and assess relationships that are just kept, conflict-bound or unhealthy in their own right. Do you have any of those? When feeling weighed down and cluttered, I have to look at those, too. Remove myself clearly, and feed the things that are priority and least harmful or taxing. Friendships have ups and downs, but often we are part of things that aren’t where we need to be, or put our time into. Its okay to remove yourself. To clean out. And then there is social media. When midterm elections were gearing up, I grew even more frustrated with the silence that was loud and the stuff we don’t need was abundant. The entire incident made me think more about this space, too. How I don’t want to clutter it with things that you don’t need, or I don’t care about.
So how can we declutter, mentally and physically? The first step is to create a list. Break the list in categories, whether it is work, social media, friendships or home. Tune into your needs, and write how you plan on cleaning out. When time was limited, I promised myself that I would try and organize things each time I touched them. So at night, when I would tidy, I had an evening when I had to put the plastic containers away, it was the perfect time to lean in and declutter them and reorganize. The same happened with the kids’ dresser when putting away laundry, and my bathroom cabinet when putting makeup on one morning.
It starts with a list. It ends with clarity.
Would love to know how are you dealing with life’s clutter?
I loved this. The simplest and quietest offenses are the ones that burrow the deepest; wanting and clutter are what weigh me down. Seems silly and counterintuitive; if you want more but also less? Life is a charming dichotomy. Thanks to Erin Boyle and Marie Kondo clutter is at an all time low. Thanks to social media and the horrifying political landscape retail therapy is accessible and a bad idea masked as a good one. All to say, onward. And declittering as you go is a lovely idea; old contacts in my phone, emails, work tasks that carry tedium, I’ve got my list made.
When I was organizing the cabinets I texted Erin about it! hahah And wanting and clutter and feeling weighed down, is exactly right. I’ve learned to stave off wanting, only to realize it passes as quickly as it came, and then it all feels way easier and I feel more free. And on clutter, I don’t think I’ll ever get rid of it completely, but handling it when I can makes me feel so free and Able to think and create. xo
Thank you for this post. It resonates with me. I’ve been telling myself my house is pleasantly cluttered and lived-in, but the truth of the matter is I need to tend to it. The mess is indicative of my mind space, which is currently feeling pretty tapped.
Thank you Ellen for reading!
I think decluttering is always a work in progress, but if you are feeling trapped and/or overwhelmed, its a good time to look at the”stuff.”
I love your idea of taking on each area of our life and looking at it individually instead of one big project of decluttering. I’m going to start this weekend. Once again, love your conversations.
Thank you so much! I tend to get overwhelmed, so its good to break them into areas and have a look. And I mean, the decluttering can take weeks.. months. It is not an instant job. And I don’t think anything that is done with love for yourself or your life or mental health is. Things take time.
I just had a lightbulb moment that I should delete the 3500 unread emails in my inbox that date back 4 years.
DO IT!!! YESSSSSSSS