Sometimes it feels like forces in this world are actively working against inner peace and joy. Our modern world inflicts too much chaos and overwhelm upon us. Let’s face it our lives are inundated with mayhem not of our own making, which may lead to us creating mayhem of our own making. Of the modern afflictions clutter is one I am very intimate with.
If you haven’t heard, clutter is both a symptom of inner distress and a cause. Which puts a person into a Catch 22. Clutter makes you anxious, and anxiety leads to clutter. Getting your shit together is a challenge in a society that pushes shopping as therapy. From an animist point of view stuff has spirit energy, and it gains it from people. So all those things that surround us can really bring us down in more ways then one.
Clutter can grow faster than you can say Netflix. Clutter is a demon, a succubi that ebbs life force. Facing it is not easy emotionally. It does not boil down to clever storage containers. Also good to know is that having too much going on in your life erodes capacity to face the disorder demons. If you are beset by these beasts there is hope. If you are committed, you can do this.
So what are we to do? Here are a few suggestions:
- Cut yourself some slack. Your clutter is connected to a long line of ancestors, all their emotional baggage is being made manifest in your house. By acknowledging that this is more complicated than simply putting things away, you can get some traction. Clutter is more than just a symptom of moral slovenliness. Besides guilt makes you useless as a slayer of demonic clutter dragons.
- Get some help. Be selective in who you bring into your mess. That friend with the perfect house is probably not a safe bet. Preferably choose someone who has slain a few clutter dragons of their own. Choose someone you can talk to about your issues with your___________ (insert difficult relationship here.) An atmosphere of empathy can really empower letting things go. I once flew in my best friend from college to help me reclaim my studio from hell. She was trapped at my house for a week which made her very helpful. It was also very bonding. (In a Stockholm kind of way.) Even years later I still call upon her when I need to tackle some new mess, and she calls on me too. We text each other encouraging words, and like magic we have the fortitude to get the job done. She has become my personal Patron Saint of Order.
- Give yourself time and space to work. Probably longer than you think, Rome was not built in a day, and neither was your mess. Sometimes the mess gets bigger before it gets better and you need time for dealing with that. Nothing is worse than taking apart your kitchen over the weekend and then going back to working overtime at your demanding job before you are finished. Give yourself time, because endlessly “addressing” it on weekends ruins your social life anyway. This may be the most important vacation you ever take.
- Have a food plan. You will need to eat, and you will likely not have energy to stop and cook, or time to go out. Eating out while cleaning can be a big procrastination/distraction. (No-Bake-Cookies and coffee are not adequate nutrition for the job by they way – I can tell you that from personal experience.) Eat a good breakfast, Pack yourself a lunch to make it easy to eat during the day. A casserole made ahead and heated up in the oven can be ideal for dinner, set an alarm for when it needs to go in. The delicious smell from the oven will call you to dinner. Soup is also good. Plan ahead otherwise you will forget and resort to either not eating, eating cookies, or ordering pizza. Food is love, so love yourself enough to plan good meals to support your efforts.
- Create Altars: Make yourself an altar to strengthen your resolve. Having a light burning to hold your intention is needed. Call in all that you hold holy to help, know that they are happy to do so. Burn some incense, sprinkle salt, bang drums, ring bells- these are all good additions to cleansing rituals. Seek out what resonates for you and invoke some spiritual assistance. Tackling clutter is akin to an exorcism.
Paying the right person is worth it. You are looking for courage, efficiency and kindness. Someone who is willing to clean with you rather than someone who prefers to work alone in your already tidy house. Someone who doesn’t have hang ups about tasks being beneath them. While I was cleaning our house getting ready to have my second baby I hired a completely useless house cleaner. (Basically she was only willing to vacuum, and we don’t have any carpet.) In contrast the right person is like an angel who you can scrub walls with.
- Pace yourself: You need breaks during the day, meals are only part of that. Stop, stretch and breathe periodically. If you are working several days at your task you need to pace yourself over those days. After a hard day of cleaning get out of your house to clear your head, or just escape for a while. Taking a walk or going to the movies might be the most productive thing you can do.
- Create a good place to sleep: Having a zen bedroom is very uplifting. If this means you need to sleep in a tent in the yard during the big clean it may be so worth it. If this means you only commit to getting everything off your bed before you get in, well that works too. You need good sleep for the task at hand, do what it takes.
- Ask the right question: Is this useful? Should I keep this? What can I use this for? These are NOT the right questions. “Does this spark Joy?” Is the one true most brilliant, and most useful question. It was first proposed by the wondrous cult mistress of tidy, Marie Kondo. It is like a magic sword that can pierce the scales of even the most sticky demonic object and gets to the very heart of things.
- Give it up with Gratitude: Sometimes we can be so overwhelmed it can seem impossible to focus on gratitude. Sorting through your life is an excellent opportunity to get clear with the spirit of what you let go of. After you recognize that something does not spark joy, you can pause for a small acknowledgement. “Thank you shirt for covering my body. I no longer wear you, I’m setting you free.” Letting things go with loving intent provides closure and greatly reduces that purge regret that we all fear. Plus it is excellent practice, and makes the days go faster and happier.
Of course this is not an exhaustive list. It doesn’t talk about the need for dump runs, or thrift store drop offs, even though you need those too. The most important message here is that clutter is a symptom of the ills of society and it is our own personal history made manifest. It is the hero’s journey to tackle it. When you do you contribute order to the field of our collective unconscious. When you address it you make it easier for your neighbor, your sister and a total stranger somewhere in New Zealand to tackle their mess. Together we can do this.
All images are from the enormous Angers Apocalypse Tapestry which was woven in the late 1300’s. It is proof that our fears and anxieties are not new to humanity, even when they do take new forms. I did an independent study for art history to study this tapestry while in college. I even dyed samples of wool using the historic dyes used in it. The tapestry is an amazing and unparalleled feat of woven artistry. I hope to someday see it in person.