All These Things — Inner and Outer Clutter

posted by Andrea | 12/31/2010

The following is a guest post from Barb Reichow; organizing coach, home management expert, and owner of Life in Order.

There is a ton of information to digest here, but if you have ever struggled with clutter in your home, family, work, or life — this article is a MUST READ {which means we should all read it!} So, as you enter into a brand new year, full of potential, remember that a life of order, simplicity, and organization IS possible.

Happy New Year!.

Can you believe we’re here again?

Another Christmas is history — 2010 is winding down. It’s time to take a deep breath and look around at the aftermath of all the planning, shopping, entertaining, decorating, wrapping, partying, feasting, celebrating, gathering, and giving.

It’s time for all of us to look at where we’ve been and consider where we’re going.

All of us have full and overflowing lives. So much stuff, so many roles and responsibilities, so much to do. Modern life is practically defined by busyness. We are overloaded by technology — email, Facebook, TV, cell phones, home phone, smart phone, apps, internet.

Our houses are bigger than ever and we keep accumulating possessions. We multitask to achieve greater productivity. Everywhere we look, a celebrity is promoting luxury and indulgence. As much as we don’t like to believe it, it pulls at us, doesn’t it? TV, magazines, and websites showcase an idealized, airbrushed world that makes us crave more, newer, flashier.

At the same time we long for simplicity — less of what doesn’t matter and more of what does.  And we feel caught between the two ideals. Our lives certainly don’t measure up to the lavish abundance and perfection portrayed in the media, but they don’t reflect the elegant simplicity of the ultimate “organized life” either.

What’s going on here?

What are we doing wrong?

What is the deeper reality behind this tension?

All these things can affect your internal clutter and external clutter. If you will be quiet and honest, you may see this tug-of-war in your own heart.

Inner Clutter…

…is what I call the unique mess of conflicting desires, intentions, needs, guilt, fears, denial, motives, resentments, shame, turmoil, unresolved emotional issues, baggage from the past, hurt, insecurity, brokenness, and accumulated junk we each carry.

And it’s a major cause of disorganization and clutter in our outer lives.

Inner Clutter…

  • can cause us to make choices and behave in ways we don’t like or even understand
  • causes fuzziness about who we are, what we want, how we feel, what we think
  • contributes to mixed motives and divided loyalties
  • can interfere with our ability to make decisions, set a direction for our own life, and set limits
  • gets in the way of creating genuine, nurturing relationships with others

A life that is truly “in order” begins by clearing the inner clutter.

Outer Clutter…

…is your visible life — encompassing your time, space, stuff, information, and relationships. It’s an expression of what’s going on on the inside.

A system imposed on “outer clutter” will never produce lasting change if the “inner clutter” is ignored. This is why you may have gotten organized numerous times, but it never stuck. The piles always returned. The weight came back. The laundry took over the house…again.

If you are unclear about your priorities, conflicted about how you spend your time, or trying to control some painful hidden part of yourself; those inner conflicts will show up in your life as chaos and disorganization.


The Relationship Between Inner & Outer Clutter:

When you are surrounded by confusion — you don’t know where things belong and can’t find what we need.

When untended responsibilities hang over your head, shadowing you with shame and weighing you down with guilt — your mind and emotions are churning, racing, and in turmoil.

When you miss appointments and worry constantly that you might lose a vital piece of information — you are not free.

When you look around and see a mess and have no time for things you want to do — fear gnaws at you and a sense of failure overshadows you.

Your home stresses you out and you just want to escape. Denial kicks in.  You stay busy to avoid making decisions. You live life in fast-forward perpetual motion so you can control something.

While what you see in your visible life has its roots in your inner clutter, your external reality also keeps dumping more junk on your inner pile. It is, as they say, a vicious cycle.


Clear Your Inner Clutter:

GOOD NEWS: This does NOT have to be a major undertaking involving years of psychotherapy.

There is hope! True transformation {real, deep growth} can and does occur outside of the therapist’s office.

The keys are awareness and direction, relationship and accountability, and time. You can work on these issues with personal introspection and the help of a good friend. Another option is to enlist a coach to guide you through the process.

Moving forward toward a more peaceful, ordered life is mainly about priorities — putting first things first.

1. First, get quiet and ask yourself what REALLY matters in your life. Remember, every time you say yes to something you’re saying no to something else.  Really think about what your choices bring into your life. What are you craving? What are you chasing? What’s driving you? What has come to you as a result? Face reality!

2. Next, decide to make some new choices. We don’t have to live in chaos, in fear, in unsatisfied demands and unfulfilled expectations. When we seek first what really matters, all these things will fall into place.

However, knowing what the problem is and doing something about it are two totally different things. We’re talking about growth — and the growth process is a gradual one.  It is a daily exercise; it takes learning new habits.

3. Finally, get support! Too often we want to “do it ourselves”.  Don’t get me wrong, tips and tricks do help.  They give us ideas and get us thinking in new ways.  But real lasting change takes effort, practice, AND, support and encouragement. The raw material needed for true growth comes in the form of relationships — accepting, constructive connections with other people.


Clear Your Outer Clutter:

Visible clutter is never simply about messiness or a failure to try hard enough. It is a symptom of something deeper. Getting to the root {addressing the inner clutter that’s holding you back} will set you on a path toward becoming the person you were meant to be.

If stubborn pockets of outer clutter in your life hint at a deeper source, decide to take action.

  • Begin to pay attention to who you are and what you really think and feel
  • Do an inventory of what you find inside yourself {good and bad}
  • Decide what really matters
  • Practice gratitude
  • Forgive
  • Set boundaries on others’ control of you
  • Give yourself permission to be who you are
  • Get feedback
  • Take small steps every day

If you find you are still stuck, try coaching. The objectivity and insights a coach can provide {together with support, structure, and accountability to walk through the process of change} may be exactly the gift you need to give yourself in 2011.

It’s possible to identify what really matters to you and design the right kind of balanced life — one that contains the perfect blend of style and simplicity; abundance and organization…enough, but not too much.

It’s possible when you start on the INSIDE and clear the clutter there first!

WOW, what an awesome post! Thanks so much Barb!!

If that doesn’t give you something to think about as you enter into a brand new year…I don’t know what will.

I know there are SO many of you who are currently struggling with outer clutter as a result of inner clutter — I know because you’ve told me. If this article describes your situation, please go back and read it again, then bookmark {or print} this post and refer back to it through the next year.

Happy New Year!

Filed under: OrganizingMental & Emotional

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