Enjoy simplicity! When you appreciate something for what it is then you see true beauty. And that beauty is worth more than anything you can buy was last modified: July 17th, 2013 by Ed and Deb Shapiro
In 1996 I walked away from teaching at one of Boston’s preeminent schools at the height of a twenty-year career. I was at the top of my game, and burned out. I didn’t know what I loved anymore, or who I was.
Teaching was my life. I had seniority, a fabulous community of students and faculty, a salary with full benefits. Why would anyone quit the best gig in town?
You could say I had lost it.
In hindsight I’d say that something inside me needed to be found.
And “finding” I did. By releasing a huge part of my personal and professional identity, I was able to get in touch with the things that made my heart sing (and cringe): my passions, my longings, my fears… my clutter! For the super-organized neatnik that I am, this last revelation came down like a sledge-hammer to my self-concept and world-view.
It turns out I didn’t need to go on a pilgrimage or meditate on a mountaintop to find myself. My home became my temple, my clutter was my teacher, and my journey of self-discovery began with clearing out a single drawer.
Though modest at the start, the process of shedding a lifetime build-up of stress and stuff grew organically and exponentially. Clicking through four pens to find one that worked led to clearing a drawer full of dead magic markers, a pristine box of personalized pencils that I’d saved since I was five, and stacks of movie reviews clipped out of the Sunday paper.
Looking for a plastic food storage container led to recycling dozens of excess lidless yogurt cups, consolidating the condiments in the fridge, tossing unidentifiable freezer items laden with inches of frost.
Removing sticky bulletin board notices, dog-eared flyers, expired coupons, and rubbery refrigerator magnets (selling pest management services) led to the long-overdue renovation project that opened up a dividing wall in our kitchen, added a fresh coat of paint, and offered a new lease on life.
The easy things led to clearing more difficult ones like the clothes I might be able to fit in again someday (not), my daughter’s adorable baby clothes, my matchbook collection, graduate school papers, and twenty years of purple mimeographed handouts and teaching paraphernalia (saved in duplicate, of course, just in case I might teach again).
My clearing process led to surprisingly soothing, repetitive rituals like sweeping the kitchen floor, unloading the dry dishes to make room for the wet ones, rounding up the family room before going to bed.
Before I knew it, my efforts grew into something way bigger than a string of random feel-good exercises. It became a journey – a journey that had much less to do with clearing out “things” than it did with clearing out my attachments to things.
Weeding out the material excesses of my home and office became an enlightening practice of feeling the experience of clearing: Feeling how congested, gummy, or even nauseous I can be after an hour of moving junk around. Feeling the ache in my feet, the tightening in my chest, the drying in my mouth. Feeling how hard and painful and embarrassing it is to let some things go. Feeling how good it feels in the house after I’ve put stuff in the recycling bin and walked it out to the curb for the Friday morning pick-up. Feeling how much easier it is to clear when I am less attached to an outcome and my dramas (surprise, surprise).
Softening the hardwiring of my past – one useless suitcase key and painful memory at a time – has been my Hero’s Journey. Who could have predicted that all my messy and meandering baby steps would lead to significant life changes: reconnecting with a longtime passion for nourishing home spaces, a complete makeover of my professional career, and a love for something I never knew I had in me: writing.
After nearly two decades on the clearing path I can say that it boils down to these basic truths:
- Clearing moves stuck energy.
- Releasing stuck energy is like detoxing: it may not always feel good at first (especially if the thing has been around for a while), but is profoundly nourishing when you stay with it.
- No task is too small. Moving a pile from the floor to the drawer, or even just one paper clip off a chonically-messy desk, creates openings and flow.
- Awareness changes everything. Noticing and allowing sensations and emotions to arise without personalizing and judging them as good or bad is the key to lasting change.
- Repetition and consistency leads to new wiring and habits.
You can start right now. Whether it is a lighter load, a quieter mind, a better mood, a solution to a problem that you’re chewing on, less attachment to outcomes, finding your soulmate or your mojo… here’s my all-purpose recipe:
- Clear (move or address) one thing, one pile, or one annoyance for one minute and notice how you feel. Clear a purse, the glove compartment, or your freezer. Replace a burned-out light bulb, sew a button, unsubscribe from an email list. Start small and keep it simple.
- Give your one-minute task your full and undivided attention. Allow any sensations to arise without fixing or managing them. Notice your breathing. Notice your inner critic. Notice how you feel afterwards.
- If you go into overwhelm, reach for something even easier that does not elicit the fight or flight response: put the cap on the toothpaste, turn out lights, sweep a floor.
And when you feel complete, here’s the advanced practice: repeat the same exercise again tomorrow.
And the next day. And the day after that.
With a little willingness to be pleasantly surprised, this simple daily practice may just lead you places in your home, head, and heart beyond your wildest imaginings.
Spaciousness?!? You’ve got to be kidding. I can’t even get past the piles of paper and the junk in my basement!! If this (or some version) is going through your mind right now as I go into my song-and-dance spiel about the bigger picture, it might help to know that you are not alone.
Do any of these thoughts ring true for you?
- OVERWHELMED: No matter how hard I try, I just can’t seem to manage the sheer volume of stuff.
- BEEN THERE, DONE THAT: I’ve bought the books on clutter clearing; I’ve smudged my entire house with sage; I’ve practiced some of the suggestions on simplifying that I read in Real Simple; I watch HGTV religiously; nothing I do makes any difference.
- IT’S NOT ME: It’s easy for me to get rid of stuff, it’s my husband (wife, mom, child…) who has a hard time letting go of things, or, [variation] who doesn’t even see the piles.
- SPENT: I’ve spent gobs of money on closet systems, containers and baskets, professional organizers, even therapy…but my clutter remains a source of pain, shame, and embarrassment.
- TWO-SIDED: My office desk is perfect. My desk at home is a disaster.
- CONTROLLED: I am a neatnik. I control my chaos with order.
- IN DENIAL: Clutter, me? I hold on to nothing. I get rid of things as soon as they come in the door.
- FEARFUL: What will become of me if I let this thing [thought, relationship, resistance, worry, status symbol] go?
- ATTACHED: My stuff needs me.
Despite the proliferation and popularity of how-to books, make-over reality TV shows, feng shui cures, online support one click away, nifty containers and closet organizing services worth billions of dollars a year, and a self-storage industry bigger than McDonalds, Burger King, and Wendy’s combined, clutter continues to grow, quickly becoming one of the biggest epidemics of our time.
Underlying the dizzying facts is the unrelenting message that if we simply banish this curse we will finally find true heaven on earth. The standard view sees clutter as a “thing” that is separate from us: a nuisance or growth that we must extract, conquer, outwit, or reorganize back into orderly piles. And, like a strict diet that that must be endured, clearing is considered about as compelling as a root canal.
So what gives? With all the attention given to the problem, why is it that most clearing efforts, though well intentioned, do not last? Why do our homes and lives continue to be so stressed, stuck, and out of balance?
Most traditional approaches do not consider the energetic impact of clearing: that clearing one small thing or issue with intention, every day, is more powerful and sustainable than binge-clearing a whole lot all at once. We are more likely to throw in the towel just when things are beginning to shift, quietly, under the radar of any discernible progress. We might lose faith precisely when we should not be giving up and giving in to the agitations of the ego—the part of us that is only concerned with our comfort and keeping things the way they are.
Another reason why many methods of clearing and organizing do not work is that they promote an active and linear process of clearing, like a problem to be fixed, managed, or solved. In our Western culture where action reigns supreme, if we can’t do something or make something happen, now, then we are wasting our precious time. Going slowly and waiting to see what happens is a hard sell for those looking for immediate results. These linear approaches completely dismiss, and miss, the equally powerful receptive elements of clearing that invite us to slow down, allow, listen, surrender, feel, soften, let go.
Most clearing efforts do not make room for us to feel our feelings, honor our ebbs and flows, create a container of safety, embrace our shadow side, or allow us to be more compassionate with ourselves. The modus operandi focuses on the end result, not the journey; on our intellect, not our innate wisdom; on throwing away, not letting go.
Until we begin to make a shift in our mindset that recognizes and embraces and includes the feminine aspects of clearing, we will not begin to change our lives, nor bring change to the planet. It is, in fact, this more balanced treatment that takes us beyond clutter-freedom into the vaster territory of our most spacious self.
Radical in its simplicity, this paradigm shift in clutter clearing is really good news for everyone, including those who believe they don’t have any clutter at all!
Home is not just a physical structure, but the sense that comes built into our human experience of feeling safe and whole. Home is what informs and gives meaning to our lives. Home and well-being go together.
As I see it, homes are not just these empty boxes that we fill with collections of stuff, life experiences, and unique personalities. They are alive and dynamic places that respond directly to our attentiveness (and lack of it). Our homes and workplaces are extensions of us: they affect us, reflect us, support us. There is no separation.
I didn’t start out having this awareness, mind you. It took me over a decade of personal experience, self-inquiry and training with some of the world’s leading experts in space clearing to appreciate the many layers that connect us humans to our living spaces.
It was a journey that began for me in 1996 when I walked away from a twenty-year career teaching at one of Boston’s preeminent schools. I was at the top of my game and burned out. By releasing a huge part of my personal and professional identity, I was able to get in touch with the things that made my heart sing (and cringe): my longings, my fears… my clutter! I didn’t need to go on a pilgrimage to a faraway land to find myself. My home became my temple, my clutter was my teacher, and my journey of self-discovery began with clearing out a single drawer.
I often tell my students and clients that space clearing is “loving up” a place. Doing something every day for your home that feels good lifts the energy in the space. Sweeping a floor, clearing a closet, or just moving a pile from one location to another, moves stuck energy. Allowing yourself to feel the resistance that arises – without judging it as good or bad – moves stuck energy too. In ways both subtle and profound.
There is no separation. When we tend our homes with awareness, we nourish ourselves. When we nourish ourselves we come back into balance. When we restore balance, we bring peace to the world.
That is my idea of home. And heaven.
When you embrace a new day make a commitment to bring at least one of the following suggestions into your life for peace and simplicity.
1. Make a choice right now to live your life in awareness~ be aware of your feelings, thoughts and actions
2. Live your life in the moment – everything is possible when in life life in the moment . Be present with everyone and everything you are doing
3. Don’t dwell on the past ~ it’s history, the future is a mystery and the present moment is all we really have
4. Let go of judgments you have of yourself and of others
5. Be compassionate, keep your heart open
6. Be grateful and acknowledge the gifts that show up in your daily life
7. Go with the flow, be open to everything that is taking place in your life ~ what you resist persists, what you embrace you erase
8. Take time out each day to sit and be quiet – keep the noise out and let the peace in
9. Be aware of the behaviors you repeat that don’t serve you anymore and let them go
10. Be aware of your fears ~ is fear ruling your life?
Honor your spirit and walk towards the journey your heart desires.
Lorraine Wilson has been on a journey of self discovery for many years. She openly shares her experience with others and offers hope, inspiration and an invitation to “Keep Life Simple” through self inquiry and offers one on one support to individuals who desire to investigate their life journey.
Lorraine has been influenced and is incredibly grateful for the teachings of Gangaji, Adyashanti, Eckart Tolle, Pamela Wilson, Muni and His Holiness, The Dalai Lama. She has worked in the field of communications and broadcasting for over 30 years and utilizes her communication skills as a program facilitator for her 4 week Keeping Life Simple Program and as a guest speaker to inspire others.
Stayed tuned for ‘Keeping Life Simple’ on VividLife Radio. The program will be an opportunity for everyone in the community to come together to discuss and be supported in the never ending discovery of who we truly are.
My experience in life has been that when we live in the moment and remain conscious of our thoughts, feelings and actions, there is a natural flow to our life.
We have been conditioned to believe in everything our thoughts tell us – our mind is a very useful tool for helping us to live the practical parts of our life each day. The thoughts that fill our mind throughout any given day about who we are, or who we will become or cannot become, are just not true. Did you know the human brain produces approximately 70,000 thoughts on average per day? (ref: www.wiki.answers.com) Imagine if we attached ourselves and believed in every thought we had, we’d be exhausted.
More about our thoughts!
Thoughts are just thoughts, they come and go and there is no need for us to get on the thought train and actually become the thought, but it does take a certain vigilance to be conscious of not becoming the thought.
Wake up each day and make a commitment not to jump on the ‘train of thought’. Instead, make a choice to begin watching the stories your mind tells you and become the observer of your thoughts. When you begin to let these stories be present without action, they will come and go just like the moment they arrived.
As you become the observer of your life you’ll begin to discover and honour what rings true for you. Start making a conscious effort to let go of the judgements and the expectations not only of yourself, but also of others. It takes so much energy when we resist what is present in our lives. Have you ever heard of the saying ‘ what we resist persists, and what we embrace we erase’ ? When we welcome everything into our heart and let it be, there is no struggle. John Lennon said it beautifully, ‘when I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me, speaking words of wisdom, let it be’. Everyone can have their own interpretation of what these words mean, but it’s the ‘let it be’ that brings about the peace. Try this next time your faced with a challenging situation in your life, and see what happens. It may be uncomfortable to begin with because we are used to taking control towards an outcome, but it is very interesting to watch what happens when you just let go, and let be, before reacting.
We can also discover more freedom in our lives when we start taking responsibility for who we are and stop holding others accountable for our behaviour, including our words and our actions. If anyone makes a comment or judgement about our lives and it triggers a reaction in us, it is our responsibility to go within and investigate what is wanting our attention. We all have the ability to choose how we will engage in any given situation and we have the ability to choose compassion over conflict.
Words of Wisdom
The Dalai Lama says “we all share an identical need for love, and that it is possible to feel that anybody we meet in whatever circumstances is a brother or sister. It is foolish to dwell on external differences, because our basic natures are the same. The key to a happy and more successful world is the growth of compassion”.
How do I begin to keep my life simple?
Our hearts are filled with enormous potential, there is no end to the love that is available to all. Where there is love, there is freedom. Make a conscious decision today to Keep Life Simple ~
Always in love,