I ’ve been full of confessions lately so here’s a big one for you: I used to live a horribly cluttered life. No, not “hoarders” level, but any guest visit was often preceded by a lot of rushing around , stashing stuff in closets and under beds, and hiding all those extra pans in the oven. It wasn’t that the house wasn’t clean – I mopped and dusted and vacuumed on a regular basis. The honest-to- goodness truth was there was just too much stuff.
See, I had grown up with the lesson that a new book or a new outfit was the solution to sadness. I tried to soothe the fact that my (then) husband was rarely home by buying knick knacks and linens. I tried to fill the ache of loneliness by filling it with sweaters and books. I showered my kids with over-abundant amounts of videos and toys to cover the fact that their father would rather spend time at the gym than hanging out with the family.
Needless to say, the clutter I tried to fill emotional holes with caused additional fights in an already fragile relationship.
As I’ve shared before, we finally ended the 17 ½ year marriage. He dealt with the clutter of our relationship by buying new furniture and leaving 95% of the household belongings with me and the kids. I dealt with clutter by enlisting a friend over a long weekend and literally cleaning house – stained and broken furniture, clothes that didn’t fit, and other items I didn’t utterly love sat in a giant pile on the curb awaiting the trash truck.
I wondered how I could have believed that the piles of possessions could fix my marriage or make me feel happy or secure. It was in those moments, after shedding volumes of things, I began to discover that clearing physical clutter would set me on a path to living a live I could love.
My heart soared for I had rediscovered faith in myself, not possessions.
My battle with clutter has continued since my divorce. I discovered that when my schedule was more cluttered, my world followed suit in little piles of clutter in drawers and on nightstands. (I kept it under control by hiring household help.) And then I spent almost 3 years living out of suitcases. Spending more time in hotels than at home is a sure-fire way to wade efficiently through collections of suits and shoes.
And then, life events inspired me to take a harder look at my stuff.
My mother died in June 2010. When my sister and I helped our father clean out Mom’s closet, we ended up with twelve 50-gallon trash bags full of clothing, shoes, belts and handbags. Many of the clothes still had the price tags on them. Lots of the shoes were unworn.
I was saddened at the volume of stuff. My mother was an unhappy woman and no matter how many new clothes and pretty shoes she had, she couldn’t find satisfaction in life.
In December of 2010, I sold my house in Texas and moved to Ohio. Despite massive de-cluttering since my divorce in 2004, I realized that there wasn’t a lot that I loved enough to transport 1000 miles.
JB and I created a life together by combining what I loved enough to bring to Ohio with what he had brought here months before. Over the last two years, we’ve slowly added pieces of furniture that we both love and have begun to fill blank walls with art that has meaning by framing photos we took while traveling.
I believe it’s important to surround yourself with items that make you love your life. Don’t surround yourself with stuff in order to fill a lack of love for yourself or your life.
These days, I only have small skirmishes with clutter. The search for scissors and pens in the kitchen junk drawer, the search for one particular shirt in a sea of clothes, or the search for the baking powder in the pantry are typical of where my clutter forms. But to keep my skirmishes from expanding into a full out war again, I regularly attack my clutter by creating regular tasks on my calendar to organize my pantry, closets, and desk.
I’ve learned that by clearing my spaces of clutter, I’m better able to think and dream. I’ve learned that by having less, I actually have more. I’ve learned that in order for there to be space for achieving bigger and creating a life where you love the day-today, you have to clear out the stuff that isn’t enhancing your world.
What about you?
Have you been filling your space with stuff to make yourself feel better? Do your surroundings enhance your life or make you feel stressed? Is your wardrobe made up of tasteful pieces that you will wear for seasons to come or is it crammed with items you rarely wear?
You may just need to dig it out under the things you’ve got covering it up!
What if I could help?
I may not be able to come over and help you sort through your closet, but I can be there in spirit. On October 26th, my popular 30 Days to Clarity: Clutter Busting Edition begins for the last time this year. What better way to move toward the holiday season with a lighter heart and clearer vision of what you want in 2015 than to clear out the clutter that’s distracting you?
Tell me, darling: what one area of your world can you clear to make room for a life you love?