From Clutter to Clarity

This week I’ve been cleaning my office, which is in the lower level of our home. It’s a perennial project, as the words “Clean office” are constantly on my To Do list. This time, though, I’m taking it seriously, because my inner wisdom is telling me there are new projects and life changes on the way. I need to clear out the clutter so they can arrive without having to squeeze through the door, only to find there’s nowhere to sit.

I’m not just shoving books aside and carrying piles from one end of the room to the other, pretending to clean. This is the real deal: I’ve discarded enough paper and old files to fill up a jumbo trash container. If I’m brave enough, I may even throw out an autumn flower arrangement that was once spectacular but now is brittle and faded. Can I remember the fun Bob and I had making the arrangement without the flowers taking up space in a corner of my office? Yes, I tell myself, I think I can.

While it’s still summer according to the calendar, this time of uncluttering is a fall-like activity. Autumn is nature’s time of letting go—a stage of the cycle that’s just as important as planting seeds and watching them grow. As women, we’re used to saying goodbye. It happens in the mundane tasks of everyday life: tossing out the casserole no-one ate or bagging up outdated clothing for Goodwill. And it happens in the poignant and profound events: nudging children into their next grade at school or saying good bye to parents who have reached the fall of their life.

But sometimes we also hold on too long, whether it’s to clutter we no longer need or beliefs that no longer serve us well. Frequently in my office I feel like I’m sitting in a nest of my own making, as though all the files and stacks are twigs and bits of grass I’ve woven together into a place that make me feel safe, even if it’s chaotic. My clutter keeps me disorganized both mentally and spiritually. Surrounded by 20 projects in my nest, I can’t focus on one and bring it to completion, which robs me of the clarity I need to move forward.

A few years ago at one of our monthly dinners, an Inner Gardener made a statement I’ll never forget. She works in a male-dominated industry, so she’s witnessed plenty of oppression and prejudice toward women. She could have bought it, fought it or ignored it, but instead she got focused and looked inside herself. She realized that changing the pattern needed to start with her. And so, she said, “I decided I wouldn’t contribute to the oppression of women…and that meant no longer beating myself up emotionally.” She let go of the clutter, got clear and welcomed a new belief and a new pattern to walk in the door.

That’s what letting go is all about—gaining clarity and creating space. So I will continue to sort through those endless old slips of paper in my office, each bearing a thought that I just know seemed profound when I wrote it. Changes are coming, and I want to prepare room for them to sit and stay a while.

Diane and I are thinking about what we’re letting go of. We’d love to hear your stories!

4 Responses to “From Clutter to Clarity”

  1. Ramona Lynam says:

    I did the same thing last week – though not with a sense of any “change coming” – more a promise to myself to clean out the file drawers.
    I ended up with a pile of paper I could recycle, one I needed to shred and one I could just throw away.
    But those little slips of paper on which I had written passages from books which touched me, the lines from a poem, quotes I’d read somewhere, a few of my own ‘profound’ thoughts – those I couldn’t part with. They went back into the drawer.
    Someday they may be a clue to my children or grandchildren as to the woman I was.

  2. Diane Glass says:

    What a lovely idea, Ramona….that what we choose to save is a gift to the next generation! Diane

  3. Deb Richeal says:

    This is a herd concept for me although I have been working diligently on it. My new favorite word is “Kindsight” which means letting go of the things in my past that I use to beat myself up. I can’t go back and change the things that cause me grief, but I can let myself leave them in the past and move forward. I have learned from most of them and don’t need to keep the guilt which keeps me from living my best life. So I may not be clearing clutter from my office, but from my mind and heart, and that is a huge burden to set down and leave behind.

  4. Deb Richeal says:

    Well maybe not a herd concept, but a hard one anyway!

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