A closer look at clutter…

by | Aug 29, 2014 | Getting Real: The Blog


As many of you know, this summer has been an adventure in moving out of my farm, and into my ‘now’ sweet little home in the next county, about a half hour away.
Well… our new home was one we picked up as a pre-foreclosure. It had been abandoned for months, and though it had good bones, it needed pretty much everything visible renovated. Inside, and out… And we did the lion’s share of the work ourselves.

So, a little background on me… I’m NOT a project person. I have ALL the grace and patience in the world for people, and the process involved in growth and change, but give me a hands-on project, and I stress. Big time!

The size of this project was beyond overwhelming for me. My oldest son, Joshua, took lead on it, and without him, it simply wouldn’t have happened. I came along beside him, and did general oversight, and those things within my abilities. (painting walls/trim/non-vaulted ceilings)
And I packed up the farm… and moved boxes… and orchestrated those workers we needed to hire, to do the things we couldn’t.

I’m not a neat freak by a long shot… but I do like my life in some semblance of order. Well, there was no order anywhere!! The more I packed, the messier things got. It’s like the chaos bred overnight while I slept! The farm was a mess… the new house was a construction zone… and I was living between the two, trying to single parent, and give time to my boys, as they also processed the change.

Once we got the bedrooms painted and the flooring installed, we started sleeping at the new house. No kitchen, no appliances, no kitchen sink, and still painting the rest of the house… But it was good to be stationed at our new place.


Out of self-preservation, I began taking pre-dawn walks through our new neighborhood, to escape the mess and find some sort of order and peace.

I was astonished at how completely the clutter I was living in, paralyzed me. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy or fun… but what I didn’t count on, was that it depleted my energy reserves, my creativity, and my ability to proactively respond to my life.

On those early walks, I would step back, and look at this.

Earlier this spring, I’d taking a course “From Clutter to Clarity”, offered by my dear friend, and fellow coach, Kathleen Nelson Troyer. It was the first time I had really looked at the mental, emotional, logistical, and relational clutter in my life, and identified it as such.

I coined the phrase ‘Involuntary Clutter’, to describe the mess that accompanied my move/renovation.
I found myself longing for the day when we had our appliances, and I could go to the grocery store, buy food, cook it, and eat at home. Then dreaming about when the cabinets and counters and sinks would all be installed, and I wouldn’t have to wash dishes in the bathtub…

I KNEW, and rightly so, that as this ‘Involuntary Clutter’ moved out of my life, that I would have the time and energy to get ‘my life’ back.

As I used those morning walks to take stock of where I was and what was happening, I noticed that sure, the imposed chaos of the move would soon be gone, but if I thought of my life in terms of how much energy was caught up in clutter… I had to acknowledge that I was not a stranger to creating clutter. For me, it’s rarely physical mess, but more a case of taking on more than I can handle. Kind of an insurance that I’ll be dancing with overwhelm. One of my favorite sayings used to be, “I have to be 3 people to get everything done that I want to do.”

I never acknowledged this as clutter before… because it was usually all things that I loved. It didn’t feel like a mess… just like I needed more of me to go around. ;)

So now… as I anticipated the end of the season of moving/renovation, I recognized that if ‘clutter’ was my internal set point, I would simply switch back to the ‘Voluntary Clutter’ I had identified earlier this Spring.

The interesting thing about this temporary clutter caused by the move, is that it’s so intense, that it sweeps away most of the self created logistical clutter I was more used to. Well, I certainly didn’t want to just pick that right back up again!!

All types of clutter in my life, take out my creativity, my energy, and my motivation. Hmm…
So what might it look like to create a life that had enough time… enough space… and enough energy to live my priorities?

For me, the first step is checking in with myself, and asking how this old pattern is serving me? What does it get me to keep it around? Why am I doing it?
I don’t often do something without a payoff. And if I ignore that, I’ll rebound right back to the old behavior.

What I saw, is that living in some sort of chaos, gave me an excuse for not taking the risks to go forward in the areas that scared me. It kept me feeling small, and ineffective in my own life. My familiar stomping ground from way back ~ And it replaced productive with ‘busy’, as I spun my wheels in safe ruts.

Hmm… what if I chose to address that head on? What if I let go of the ‘Voluntary Clutter’, and allowed myself to face the pieces underneath? To do something different this time… ?

I may have had to live with the mess and chaos of the move/renovation, for a season, but I don’t have to choose to keep chaos as a set point in my life.

The good news is, that simply bringing awareness to the pattern invites change. I don’t have to repeat it unconsciously. I’m able to make a different choice.

I’m playing with this in my life, and seeing some wonderful results. I’d like to invite you to notice the places in your life where ‘Voluntary Clutter’ is zapping your energy, creativity, and motivation.
Just recognizing it, is a HUGE first step.
From here… you are in a position to choose differently, as well.

And if you’d like some fabulous support here, check out Kathleen Nelson Troyer’s program, “From Clutter to Clarity“,  that starts September 3rd.
I’ll be taking it again, as I begin to integrate this concept even more deeply into my life.

Have fun with this!!


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1 Comment

  1. Suzanne

    I know this was a long time ago… but there’s nothing like cleaning out and de-cluttering, huh?! The chaos and clutter is also a mind zapper! It plays on your mental clarity! If you ever need a refresher course, try “Becoming a Minimalist” ! It, too, is pretty awesome! Glad you found peace in cleaning out and organizing!