I am often teased about a round side table that once belonged to my aunt. It's draped with a Victorian-era cloth of ivory silk, its fine strands of fringe sweeping the floor. On it sits a small wedding photo in a silver frame, diminutive glass sculptures, a hand-painted porcelain vase, and an orchid, all gifts from dear friends. To some, the table is a mishmash of clutter. To me, each object is a treasure that connects me to those whose love is represented there.
When we consciously choose what graces our environment, it will harmonize with our inner journey. Our home will be welcoming, restful, and intensely personal. Rather than mimicking an interior design magazine, each book on the shelf, every painting on the wall, and even the decorations we use at Christmas will reflect who we are and what matters most.
Less is More, and More is Less
As the need for more diminishes, appreciation for what we have increases. Our life bursts with abundance but not in the usual sense. We have more time. Rather than spend life's energy shopping for things we don't need, we can take long walks, read, or build a tree fort with the kids. With less to clean and mend, we can focus on pursuits that add dimension to our purpose in life and enrich our spiritual, social, physical, and mental experiences.
With an uncluttered life, we have more money. It's not that we earn more (although for some increased income is the result of uncluttering); we simply buy less. But when we do shop it is with forethought, not impulse, for we know that what we bring into our life must offer a purposeful or spiritual benefit.
An uncluttered life ends confusion. With things in their places, we save time and frustration. We ease through the day with confidence and clarity instead of spinning into a whirl as we run late, double-book engagements, or forget them altogether. With a schedule that respects our limits and interests, a written to-do list (not the one you carry in your mind), and joy in what we do, life will hum.
A life free from internal and external clutter is healthful. Research confirms that our physical environment, be it home or the office, influences how we feel internally. Organized surroundings positively influence our heart rhythms and blood pressure, reducing anxiety and tension. We smile more, breathe deeper, and notice the details around us. We can control many of the factors that shape our surroundings by reducing nuisance noise, eliminating visual clutter, and making technology our servant instead of our master. Taking charge of our time by under-scheduling leaves space for us to become fully engaged in what we do with reduced pressure and added pleasure.
The uncluttered mind allows space to nurture the childhood brilliance that creates entire towns from egg cartons, or spawn a cook's ingenious fish sauce recipe. The uncluttered mind energizes us to think in new directions that can translate into serious money if that fish sauce is franchised or that novel wins the Pulitzer.
The uncluttered life unleashes joy. When we love what we do, when our work reflects passion and utilizes our gifts and talents, we excel and others benefit. Several years ago Bob and I took a city bus from La Jolla, a community at the north end of San Diego, to visit the zoo. The driver sang out the names of each stop and embraced each passenger with an unbridled smile and a neighborly hello. As the bus moseyed along, folks traded snippets of news. Although we were in a big city with big-city issues, the atmosphere on the bus felt like a small town church picnic -- even though we were among strangers. While the driver provided transportation that respects the environment, he also colored his job with a joyfulness that bubbled like champagne.
The Uncluttered Door Opens to New Possibilities
The uncluttered life is filled with possibilities. I met Janet Stewart Lilly while biking a trail in Derbyshire, near the Welsh border. She had lived in London and worked for a national publishing firm. Now she operated the small tourism office where I had stopped for a map. She was refreshingly open and engaging, and before long she was telling me about the sweeping life change she and her husband, David, had made when they moved from the city. Janet explained why in a letter she later wrote to me:
I was quite happy climbing the corporate ladder. We worked hard, were paid well, and had plenty of disposable income for weekends away and holidays. Can you believe that living in a one-bedroom flat [in London], I even employed a cleaning lady! But the daily demands [at work] increased. Everything became impersonal and PC-based. I was up at 6 a.m. and didn't leave my desk until the mad dash home on the 7 p.m. train.
David had always wanted to restore an old property and so we started looking. I never thought I would be the proud owner of an expensive pile of stones, but here we are [in Derbyshire]. And what a life! I can't believe that I have become such a keen veggie gardener. I wear the same old clothes -- what a relief from having to worry about your appearance. We eat homegrown food and I get lots of exercise in the fresh air. I also have time for others, time to write letters and talk on the phone, time for myself, time to cook proper meals. Even though we have given up some things -- financial security, expensive clothes, and holidays -- I wouldn't want to go back to the way we lived.
While not all of us wish to restore a derelict property or muck about in the garden, Janet's letter sparkled with the message of the uncluttered life -- purposeful, creative, authentic, and mindful. When we release clutter, we harness clarity. Our goals are focused, our path is clear. We know what matters most and we discard the rest. We choose our experiences and don't let others direct our lives. Vicarious experiences are not for us. We want to taste and feel and be in life! We take the high road and recognize the right of all to live their own truth, even if it differs from ours. We put money in its place and know the difference between price and value.
The uncluttered life exudes peace of mind. Free from the weight of negative thoughts and toxic people, our life is filled with affirming and enriching relationships. In place of righteousness, resentments, grudge holding, and jealousies, we find acceptance and compassion. When our world rocks and rolls, we hold on, knowing that life is textured with challenges. And when we take our last breaths, we'll know that the life we lived was truly ours.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher,
Beyond Words Publishing Inc. ©2004.
Unclutter Your Life: Transforming Your Physical, Mental, And Emotional Space
by Katherine Gibson.
Are you ready to move into a bright clutter-free future? From noise pollution to financial messes and stressful relationships, clutter affects ALL aspects of our lives--not just our physical spaces. If you¹ve tried feng-shui and other organizing techniques and you still can't find clarity in your life, this down-to-earth guide will show you how to evict the clutter culprits and cultivate peace of mind in your home and soul.
Info/Order this paperback book and/or download the Kindle edition.
About the Author
Katherine is a member of the Canadian Association of Journalists and the national board of the Periodical Writers Association of Canada. Katherine holds a Master of Education degree and is a recognized educator who offers courses at the University of Victoria. Katherine is a dynamic keynote speaker and seminar leader and also provides private coaching to writers. Katherine is based in Victoria, British Columbia. Visit her website at www.katherinegibson.com