Why is it that every spring we crawl out of our winter caves and go into a frenzy of clearing the chaos that has collected in our homes and lives? It’s like somewhere around October we lost our way and we’re back to square one.
As I see it, spring clearing is neither. It has nothing to do with spring, nor “getting rid of.”
Clearing our spaces is a journey that starts right where you are. It makes no difference if the spaces are the external ones in which you live and work, or the internal ones that you fill up with a chattering, worrying mind. Clearing any thing or thought opens the channels to that part of us that is always clear, spacious, and not attached – like the vast blue sky sitting above the clouds.
So how do you release the stuff, reduce the noise and connect with that which makes your heart sing?
One minute at a time – in present time. Awareness. It changes everything.
Clearing is not what you think
At the heart of it, clearing is not about tackling the unsightly messes, the clothes that don’t fit, the emails that invade your inbox, the to-do lists that get longer by the second. Clearing is not about fixing a problem or reaching for a solution. It is how you relate to the experience. It is the space between the issue and the outcome where the real goodies are and where the real clearing happens. And the best way to release what isn’t working for you is to enter that sometimes scary zone called feeling. Feeling the overwhelm, resistance, attachment, guilt, despair, shame… Feeling it all without judging it as good or bad or taking it personally.
Clutter is stuck energy; clearing it releases stuckness – for good!
Moving things from one place to another – clothes from floor to drawer, dishes to dishwasher, attic treasures to Goodwill – moves stuck energy. Sometimes the release of stuck energy doesn’t feel very good (especially if the thing has been sitting around for a while). Add mindfulness (and subtract self-judgment) and you have just created a gentle clearing practice that is both sustaining and sustainable.
Take a moment to look away from your computer screen. Do you see anything that is out of place? If so, here’s a radical idea: just put the darn thing away. Or take sixty seconds to move a pile from one corner to another. Push chairs in, turn off lights, make the bed, cap the toothpaste, lower the toilet seat, put the books (reading glasses, remote control) back in their home every day for a week. What does it feel like to consciously place one thing where it belongs?
Is there a situation that feels unresolved? Are you noodling on something that you can’t figure out, doesn’t add up or make sense? Do you feel stuck, rattled, jangled? If so, reach for your broom and sweep for one minute today and notice what it feels like. Sweep a floor, a room, the front steps or cobwebs that are hard to reach. You can use the practice of sweeping to invoke a fresh start, anchor an intention, open a path to a solution, cultivate mindfulness or calm the noisy mind. Who knows, you might begin to experience a peephole of quiet spaciousness that was not there before.
Wash and release
In the spirit of the Japanese saying, “Let the past drift away in the water,” wash your hands mindfully to release the strings or attachments of your day and/or to bring in cleansing energy. Wash a dirty dish or two: smell the soap, feel the cleansing warmth of the water on your hands, gently place the clean dishes in the drainer to dry. Slow down. Breathe. Allow.
Ease. For such a little word, it lingers and expands if you say it out loud. With very little effort, it works magic on your nervous system. Try it now: stop, take an easy breath in and repeat the phrase “I choose ease.” Anytime you notice yourself feeling overwhelmed, jangled or ill at ease, simply repeat the phrase for one minute and notice the quality of your breathing (is it shallow… is it full?) before, during, and after doing this practice.
Clear for one minute
Declutter a purse, a wallet, a drawer. Throw out a pencil nub, outdated bulletin board flyers, lifeless food item from the freezer. Recycle a newspaper, magazine or catalogue. Clap, rattle or ring a bell to clear stuck energies and/or to prepare a space for something new. Make a list of things or issues that weigh you down on a piece of paper and burn it – with gratitude.
There are the obvious external clues of clearing success, of course: an emptier bookcase, a new love interest, a job offer. But what about the internal markers? How spacious and detached and present can you be when the next family reunion rolls around? Or a child becomes seriously ill? The next time you notice yourself feeling rattled or your buttons getting pressed, take a breath and replace the personalizing “I am…” or “I have…” thoughts with the more neutral declarative: “This is…” For example, “I’m worried” would be “This is worry,” “I have a headache,” would be “This is a headache.” Notice if this simple daily practice helps you become more of an observer of the emotional “weather” instead of being the weather.
What are you grateful for? Take one minute to stop, breathe and express gratitude for your life, your home, your body and your world. Practise this exercise especially when you feel down or hopeless. See if by shifting the focus onto the idea of having rather than lacking you observe something you had not noticed before. If this exercise brings up some resistance, take it as a sign to stop, feel and observe the emotional weather without doing anything to fix or manage it.
Pause for Joy
Joy is contagious, very attractive and the best beauty treatment around. If you want to support yourself in feeling lighter, do one small thing every day that makes your heart sing (read: love madly), activates your senses and feels good. Laugh out loud to get the energy flowing. Lightening up creates powerful chemicals in the brain that reduce stress; it opens up new channels and possibilities for change. The lighter you become, the lighter you attract. It’s as simple as that.
Start over (… and over)
How’s it going? Do you feel the same as you did before scrolling through this series of messages? Adopt any one-minute practice into your daily life, every day for a week or longer, and watch what happens. You may notice that your buttons don’t get pressed as much. You may even feel inexplicably happy for no particular reason. Remember, consistency, not quantity, is the key to freedom and lasting change. Over time you might begin to notice new habits of clearing arising naturally without the need to “do” or fix anything!
Stephanie Bennett Vogt is New England’s leading space clearing expert and the author of Your Spacious Self: Clear The Clutter and Discover Who You Are. She brings over 35 years of experience to SpaceClear, a teaching and consulting practice she founded in 1996 to help homes and their occupants come into balance. Stephanie shares her unique perspectives on simplifying, personal reinvention and letting go as a course contributor for DailyOM and a blogger for the Huffington Post. Learn more at spaceclear.com.