Let go of clutter to live mindfully
So if clutter is holding onto the past, and fearing the future … how can we live in the present instead?
I slowly get rid of clutter, and in doing so, I release my mind of these attachments and fears. It’s a liberating process. Clutter is the physical embodiment of these attachments and fears – emotional stuff that we don’t realize we have. By decluttering, we are clearing ourselves of these tangled webs.
And when I’ve gotten rid of clutter, I’m freed. I can forget about those things, and live instead in this moment. I can fully appreciate life as it happens, instead of looking back on what has happened before or looking forward to what might happen later.
It’s, of course, possible to live in the moment even if you have clutter. There is no prerequisite to mindful living. But decluttering can be a beautiful process of helping ourselves let go of the things we don’t realize we’re holding on to.
Clutter as mindfulness practice
And so, as I declutter, not only am I freeing myself up to live in the present … I am living in the present during the process of decluttering.
It’s a form of zazen – which is sitting meditation, but at its core zazen is really a way to practice being mindful. It’s a way to prepare us for dealing mindfully with the rest of the things we do in life. And really, anything can be used as a way to practice mindfulness. I’ve often used running and walking but also washing dishes and sweeping.
And decluttering is one of the best mindfulness practices, in my experience. Here’s how I do it:
1) Pick one cluttered flat surface. It can be a tabletop, countertop, shelf, top of a dresser, floor of a closet, or floor of a room (just a section of that floor to start with). Don’t worry about all the rest of your cluttered spaces for now – just pick this one space. Small is good.
2) Clear that surface. Take everything off and pile it on the floor or another table. Clean the surface while it’s clear – wipe it with a cloth, slowly and mindfully.
3) Take one object from the pile. Forget about the entire pile – just look at that one object. Ask yourself why you have it. Is it for emotional reasons, or do you really use it? Is it for “just in case”? When was the last time you used it? If you don’t really need or use it, put it in a box for donation or trash it. If you do really use it, put it in another pile to be put back on your now-clean surface. If you’re on the fence and can’t bear to give something up, put it in a “maybe” box and put that box away for six months (mark the date on your calendar).
4) Repeat, one object at a time. Practice doing this mindfully. Make a decision with each object – keep, donate, or maybe box. No waffling or putting off decisions. Deal with each object once, then move on.
5) Put the objects back, and make a “home” for each one. Each object needs to have a spot that is its home, and you should always put those objects back in their homes. If you can’t find a home for an object, you don’t have space for it. Donate the items in the donation box, and put away the maybe box. Eventually, you won’t need a maybe box as you get good at this.
Learn to focus on one thing at a time, mindfully, and deal with each object once. This is a good practice for doing things in the rest of your life.