Internal chaos manifest itself in many different external forms: an unhealthy diet, insomnia, addictive behaviors, chronic indecision or stagnation. For many of us, it takes shape in the form of messiness. And just like with a fast-food habit or a lack of sleep, the toxins can start to build up.
Just in time for spring cleaning season, let’s talk about a subject I feel I’m a tenured-professor-level expert in: clutter. Internal and external.
The way we compartmentalize our messiness is very telling. Not all of us thrive in a completely sterile environment – on the contrary; most of us feel the most at-home when there’s just a smidge of organized chaos in our lives. Whether it’s a closet filled with knick-knacks or a wallet littered with receipts, we all have our beautiful messes that give us a sense of comfort and ease.
For me personally, it’s my purse. Sure, I probably don’t “need” to carry around half of what I keep in there, but it gives me a sense of preparedness. I’ve tried to clean out my bag again and again, but gradually, my life finds its way back into that black bag. Maybe I like that visual reminder that “I already have everything I need.”
Clutter is one thing – complete disarray is another.
Clutter represents a very specific part of your psyche, the part that knows exactly who she is.
Disarray, in contrast, is a red flag for something deeper you’re not tending to.
Maybe it’s your relationship. Maybe it’s your health. Your apartment is in shambles, laundry everywhere and old mail scattered about the table; maybe you’re afraid to commit to the life you know you want to lead. And just like we detox with sweat or a bowl full o’ greens – when you start to clear away the toxins, you start to have breakthroughs in what formerly seemed like completely unrelated aspects of your life.
Spring cleaning isn’t just about picking up our crap, it’s about picking up the pieces we’ve let fall away. Spring cleaning isn’t just about scrubbing the floors, it’s about shining our souls.
A couple years back, I learned a lot about the difference between clutter and disarray: I moved into a loft with no closets. Instead of a closet, I got two studio-like clothing racks that literally brought everything out into the open. Even in my teeny-weeny NYC apartment now, there are spaces to stash and store. In the loft? It was all on display. Carrie Bradshaw would be horrified.
But something interesting happened when I moved into my nook-less nook: I got rid of the things that didn’t serve me, and I found places for the things that did.
Not coincidentally, I became a lot more clear about what I really wanted in my life.
It’s been almost a year since I said goodbye to that little closet-less loft space and made the leap into a tiny slice of The Big Apple. When we first moved in, friends here would marvel at how much storage space we had – a rarity in this city. But even 11.5 months later, it’s been a challenge to figure out how to use it the most effectively. To me, the space seems superfluous. It feels like an invitation to lose my cool and cling to lies.
Wouldn’t you know it, I still keep my stuff where I can see it.
Honestly, my giant black bag is still just as heavy as an eight month old – and because I’m commuting across the city on a train underground, I usually need to wear my backpack to hold my laptop et al (ps, you haven’t experienced clutter ’til you’ve been on the M at 7pm).
But as far as my apartment goes, when I wake up in the morning and come home at the end of the day, my space is filled with just the essentials. Beautifully organized in a way that suits my personality (think vintage catchalls and necklaces hanging on rods like wind chimes). I’m more easily pleased. I’m drawn to spend much more time at home. I can’t get enough of my space because it’s an extension of who I am.
If, like me, you keep your day bag more stuffed-up than Mary Poppins…if you have a drawer in your desk filled with eclectic knick-knacks and love notes…it doesn’t mean you’re untidy as much as it means that you’re human.
Allow your own little bit of organized chaos to exist – the chaos that serves you and reminds you of all you are.
The bits of disarray that remind you of all you are not? Do away with what no longer reflects who you are, and keep everything that does.
Make your beautiful mess. Clear the clutter. It’s spring cleaning for your soul.
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