This blog features over 300 articles by international bestselling author and leading clutter clearing, space clearing, feng shui and healthy home expert, Karen Kingston

Stash Acquisition Beyond Life Expectancy

Knitting yarns

There’s a wonderful acronym that I’m told is often heard in knitting circles. It is SABLE, which stands for Stash Acquisition Beyond Life Expectancy. It is used it to describe a knitter who has acquired so much yarn that they couldn’t possibly use it all in their lifetime, even if they were to knit full-time for all their remaining years.

You might think this would bring a knitter to their senses, but not so. In her entertaining book, At Knit’s End: Meditations for Women Who Knit Too Much, Stephanie Pearl-McPhee explains: ‘Achieving the state of SABLE is not, as many people who live with knitters believe, a reason to stop buying yarn, but for the knitter it is an indication to write a will, bequeathing the stash to an appropriate heir.’

I recognize this same syndrome in many of the clutter clearing clients I work with. They cheerfully employ my services, hoping I can help them organize and cram their possessions more effectively into whatever storage space they have. We’re talking jars full of paper clips that have been salvaged from documents over many years, great heaps of scrap paper waiting for notes that will never be written, empty jam jars that will never have a purpose, plastic bags that could be knotted end to end to form a circle round the planet. And so on. You get the idea.

A few of these items could come in useful someday, but seriously, ALL of them? It’s not going to happen.

In the case of knitting yarn, it’s conceivable that the ardent knitter may know someone who would love to inherit their stash. But paper clips, jam jars, and the like? Probably not.

So what is the fate of these things likely to be? Well, you can wait until you die and leave someone else to dispose of them (probably muttering and cursing as they do), or you can take responsibility for them now and relieve your heirs of such a clutter clearing burden. It’s the decent thing to do. This course of action may not feel so obvious while you’re still in the prime of your life, but when you reach a certain age and the youthful illusion of immortality begins to fade, the reality becomes more obvious.

I never tell anyone to throw anything away. What I do is to help people to see their clutter from a different perspective. The thing to understand about stuff that’s stockpiled and never used is that it stagnates the energy of your home, and this, in turn, stagnates your life. Whether you realize it or not, you will feel stuck in some way. So it’s not just your relatives or friends who will thank you for clearing out your stashes before you die. You will reap the benefits too.

And yes, this does include knitters. The turning point is realizing that SABLE is not a badge of honour but an indication of how far your hobby has got out of control. A much better motto to live by would be: Keep the Best and Dump the Rest!

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Copyright © Karen Kingston 2014, revised 2018

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Professional Clutter Clearing Practitioner Training, 2020

The Professional Clutter Clearing Practitioner Training led by Richard Sebok and I has been moved from 2019 to 2020.

Here’s why…

The main reason is that is the first time we have offered the training in Australia rather than the UK, and we have not received enough confirmed interest for it to be able to go ahead in 2019. People are letting us know that they want to participate but need more time to save for the trip.

Our rescheduling has also been influenced by the fact that earlier this year, I made the decision to teach only one series of online courses in 2018 so that I could take six months off from teaching during July to December 2018 to focus on writing new books. Since then, I’ve heard from many people who wish they had been able to take the prerequisite foundational online courses in time to be able to apply for the 2019 training but will now have to wait until the next series is offered next year.

We therefore feel it will work best to move the training to 2020, which will give everyone the time they need to prepare.

Who can apply for professional training?

Anyone who has already completed the three foundational courses and the Living Clutter-Free course is welcome to apply for professional training.

The next series of foundational courses starts in January 2019:

Foundational Courses
Fast Track Clutter Clearing
Zero Procrastination
Clear Your Paper & Digital Clutter

Advanced Course
Living Clutter-Free
(open to anyone who has taken all three foundational courses since 2015)

The new dates

Part One (March 24-27, 2020)
Part One consists of a 4-day residential course at the tranquil location of the Joondalup Resort in Perth, Australia. This part of the training includes all the skills that cannot easily be taught from a distance and also allows trainees to meet and get to know each other before embarking on Part Two.

Part Two (April 1 – September 30, 2020)
Part two consists of a series of case studies conducted over a 6-month via skype, email and a private message board.

What is the training really like?

We are often asked this question. The training is not like any other. We believe it is the most advanced training offered anywhere in the world for people who wish to help their clients to clear their clutter and — most importantly — understand why they accumulated it in the first place. Without this depth of insight, the sad fact is that it all tends to pile up again.

The training also includes tried and tested personal energy management techniques that we are convinced are essential for everyone working in this field to know and practice.

This article explains more: What’s different about our professional clutter clearing practitioner training?

What previous trainees say about the training
Part One testimonials
Part Two testimonials

More information
About professional clutter clearing
Professional Clutter Clearing Practitioner Training Program (PDF)

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Copyright © Karen Kingston 2018

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Negative owning of space

Keep Out sign

There’s a great art to learning to energetically own the space of your home, but what many people do not realize is that there is both a positive and a negative way to do this. The positive way is done consciously, is empowering, and benefits everyone concerned. I will be writing more about this in future articles. But first it is necessary to understand negative owning of space, which is mostly unconscious and can have very undesirable consequences.

Negative owning of space

One of the best examples of negative owning of space I have come across was in the home of an American woman who booked me to do a clutter clearing consultation. She had managed to spread clutter through every room of the 3-bedroom house she shared with her husband, covering every inch of floor space except for narrow pathways through it.

At first, I was baffled by why she had done this. The chaos in her home did not reflect at all the capable, intelligent person I could see she was in every other aspect of her life. But by the end of our first session, the true cause of the problem emerged. She had married an Italian man, who she loved dearly, but she had not realized until they set up home together that she had also married all his relatives. They were loud, party-loving people, who thought they could visit at any time of the day or night, enter without even knocking, and treat the place as if it were their own.

This was fine for her husband because it was how he’d been brought up, but it felt like an intolerable invasion of privacy to her. Her way of coping with it was to cover the floor of each room with a banket of clutter so that his family would not want to visit at all. She’d done this very gradually and unconsciously, as a form of self-protection. She didn’t like living with the mess, she told me, but it felt like the only way she could keep the relatives out of her home.

Territorial marking

Humans are territorial animals and putting personal possessions in an area is one of the main ways we establish our claim to a particular space. We do this in our homes and workplaces, and other locations we frequent. You can see this in any library, where a person arrives and stakes out their claim to an area by spreading out their books and perhaps putting their jacket on their chair. Or at a conference table, where all the delegates arrive and each has their own defined space with pen, paper, perhaps a glass of water, and so on.

However, when clutter is used to do territorial marking, it’s known as negative owning of space. It establishes ownership, but in such a way that no-one can use the space, not even the person defending it. It’s an act of self-sabotage that creates stuckness and pulls the energy of a place down.

As a result of unconsciously using this tactic in her home, this woman’s self-esteem had sunk to an all-time low and her relationship with her husband was in a downward spiral, with fights and arguments nearly every day. She could see it was going to end in tears unless she did something about it.

The solution, once she had understood the cause, was very simple. It turned out she had never discussed her feelings with her husband so she sat him down, explained how it made her feel when his relatives descended on their home unannounced, and they worked out how to handle it better in future. The core of the problem was not about clutter or their relationship at all but about cultural differences in behaviour between his Italian homeland and where they had made their life together in the US. “When in Rome…” wasn’t working. It needed to be updated to “when in California…”

As soon as this got straightened out between them, she swiftly and easily decluttered and tidied her home, established a room that was uniquely hers where visitors never ventured, and took positive ownership of the space, enjoying her new role as a warm and welcoming hostess to relatives who arrived at agreed times. She told me the family became much more respectful of the space, tidying up after themselves before they left, and she grew to enjoy their visits rather than dread them.

More examples of negative owning of space

After reading this article, as you go about your life, you are likely to find other examples of negative owning of space that you may not have noticed before.

If you work in an office, go take a peek at the most cluttered desk there is. If the person is a capable worker, their piles of paperwork may be their way of telling their boss they are at peak capacity so please don’t load any more work on to me!

When driving, someone who stays in the outside lane after they have finished overtaking is negatively owning that space, much to the frustration of other drivers held up behind them.

And when parking, it’s not your imagination that many people take longer to exit when they know someone is waiting to take their space.

Related article
The art of owning space

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Copyright © Karen Kingston 2018

Posted in Clutter clearing | Read 5 comments...»

Give up wanting to control the destiny of the items you let go of


It began so innocently. Kathy was decluttering to move home so she decided to set up a stall at a flea market to sell some items she no longer needed or wanted. To while away the time, she spent ten hours chatting to her neighbouring stall holder, who was selling hand-woven baskets that he made.

By the end of the day, they had both sold very little. As they were packing to leave, he decided to give her one of his baskets. “Oh no, I can’t possibly accept that!” she said, knowing how long it took him to make one and how much he sold them for. But he insisted, and she finally accepted the gift.

“The thing is”, she said, “I’m not a basket person. I knew instantly that the basket wasn’t anything I’d use or would want to keep. I think it’s a beautiful basket, but there’s just no affinity for baskets within me. None.”

She had just accepted clutter into her life.

“It’s like rehoming a pet”

Her first thought was to give the basket to a friend (everyone agreed it was beautiful but nobody wanted it). She tried using it herself for a while for vegetables. She didn’t particularly feel any need to honour the man who had given it to her but came to realize that she felt a responsibility about how to let it go.

“It’s like rehoming a pet”, she explained. “Is the next owner going to appreciate it? Are they going to take good care of it?”

On a deeper level, she also realized, “I didn’t want to be perceived by others as an ignorant person who doesn’t value things. That fear of being judged keeps me from making my own decisions and trusting myself to decide what’s right and good for me”.

These unconscious beliefs and thoughts were running her life and making it difficult for her to let go of this little basket and many other items that were cluttering her home.

Give up wanting to control the destiny of the items you let go

Four years later, the basket was still gathering dust in Kathy’s home and she was willing to consider other ways to dispose of it.

When her housemate offered to give it to a friend to use for kindling, she agreed. Previously, she would have rejected this idea as not good enough, even though, admittedly, she had not been able to find a worthier use for it herself. But the intervening years had mellowed her sense of obligation. She even resolved that if this didn’t work out, she would simply give it to a charity shop and let its fate unfold.

“I’m officially giving up wanting to control the destiny of it”, she stated.

As it turned out, neither of these outcomes came to be. A few days later, she happened to meet someone who owned a big country house, who gladly accepted the basket as a gift.

The bigger picture

What has to be weighed up when clutter clearing is the virtue of finding the right home for each item versus how much you can personally make a difference in the world if your life is working better because you are not encumbered by all your stuff.

Viewed from this standpoint, if you have a major backlog of things to clear, how you dispose of items really is not so important at first. In the greater scheme of things, it is more essential to free yourself up to be of more use to humanity than to agonize over where each thing ends up. The luxury of deciding the individual destiny of items comes later, after you have got your life back on track. At first, it is just a matter of digging yourself out of the pit you find yourself in.

Yes, I know this radical approach flies in the face of environmental correctness. But I have seen people who really could make a difference in the world paralyzed for years by indecisiveness about how to let go of all the things they have accumulated in their home, and they are rendered next to useless because of this. They want to make sure their things go to a good home but, in truth, they are not the best custodians themselves. The items are stored indefinitely and never used instead of releasing them back into the world where others could actually make use of them.

The people who read my books and take my online courses generally aspire to do something in their life and know they need to free themselves from the chains of clutter to be able to do this. So if you are one of these people and the story of this basket resonates with you, please let yourself off the guilt hook.

Gift or sell some items if this can easily be done, but be willing to accept that some things will have to go to landfill or be donated to any old charity just to get them out of your home, to free yourself up to be all that you can be. Once you’ve made the decision, let go. Forgive yourself, and move on. Don’t stay stuck in the past. It’s far better that you put your time and energy into present time and learn how not to acquire clutter again in the future.

Related articles
Intercepting clutter before it even starts
How eco-consciousness can become eco-neurosis

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Copyright © Karen Kingston 2018

Posted in Clutter clearing | Read 7 comments...»

Let go of clutter and live your life to the full

Let go of clutter

What would your life be like if your home were completely clutter-free and you were totally up-to-date with everything you need to do?

The goal of clutter clearing

Most people who start clutter clearing have this as their goal, and it feels wonderfully exhilarating to achieve it. Their home environment starts to supports them rather than holding them back and they are able to focus on what’s important in life rather than feeling stuck in the past.

But some people reach a point somewhere along the journey where they suddenly realize, ‘Whoa. This is actually happening. What is it really going to feel like if I keep going until all my clutter is cleared?’

Consciously or unconsciously it dawns on them, ‘Without the distraction of clutter to sort or an endless To Do list to work through, I will be left with myself, and then what will I do?’

To some people, this feels gloriously liberating, but to others it can be a very scary proposition, and the whole clutter clearing process can stall because of the anxiety it brings up.

Clutter suppresses emotions

What needs to be understood is that, to some degree, anyone who has clutter of any kind uses it to suppress emotions in some way. It provides a protective layer to numb emotions you’d rather not feel, such as emptiness, loneliness, loss, hurt or fear.

This numbing can take many very socially acceptable guises, such as acquiring things that look nice or may come in useful someday, collecting things that have a perceived value, or filling time by helping others, creative pastimes, watching TV, engaging social media, or mining the internet for interesting or entertaining nuggets. Some people take this further and also use food, sugar, alcohol, cigarettes, drugs, gambling, gaming, or other addictive behaviours to keep their feelings under wraps.

A study conducted by psychologist Timothy Wilson at the University in Virginia in 2014 showed just how uncomfortable many people feel when they have clear time and space. Hundreds of students were recruited to sit alone in a room for 6-15 minutes with nothing to do. It turned out that 67% of the men and 25% of the women preferred to deliver an electric shock to themselves as a way to pass the time, even though they had all said before the experiment began that they would pay money to avoid this.

Keeping clutter for later

A very poignant example of stalled clutter clearing came from a woman who took my Fast Track Clutter Clearing online course and has given me her permission to share her story here.

At the time, she was caring for her husband, who had some very serious health problems, and it seemed likely he would soon die. During the course, she had an “Aha!” moment when she realized she was deliberately delaying finishing clutter clearing her home in order to have something to keep her busy after his death.

I pointed out to her that my experience of working with clients whose partners have died is that not one of them was ever inspired to do clutter clearing in the weeks that followed. In fact, many of them told me that their real clutter problems started from that time, when they felt paralysed by grief and were unable to function normally.

So my advice to her was, ‘Don’t delay. Do your clutter clearing now’.

We rest our consciousness on the place we live and the things we own, and I felt sure it would help her enormously to have order in her home as she went through this. I explained that she would be able to hold the space for her husband in a much better way, and the process would be easier for her too.

She took my suggestion to heart and re-engaged clutter clearing with renewed enthusiasm and vigour.

She involved her husband in the process too. ‘I told him that I had decided to intensify my efforts to get our home in better order so that we could be more comfortable,’ she said.

At one point he said, ‘I don’t know how to explain it, but what you are doing makes me feel hopeful.’ Another time he said, ‘Thank you for what you are doing. It makes me feel better.’ It made her feel more hopeful and better too.

Most surprising of all, she contacted me seven months later to let me know, ‘My husband is better! So much better that we are now going on trips again, which is his great love, and I love it too.’

‘Your guidance was on-target,’ she confirmed. ‘It transformed my perspective on leaving any portion of clutter clearing unfinished. You helped me see with fresh eyes what I knew in my heart – that saving clutter was not going to help, it was going to hinder. Clearing it helped to create a more nourishing environment for my husband to heal and thrive.’

Let go and start living

Clutter is never the problem. It is only ever a symptom of an underlying issue. Emotions that have been buried in your clutter will naturally surface as you sort through your stuff, but don’t let that hold you back. Get support from a therapist if you need it, or work with one of the clutter clearing practitioners I have trained, who are skilled at helping people through this.

What you need to remember is that there’s a fine line between fear and excitement, and it’s easy to mistake the two. When you start to feel scared or vulnerable or exposed, it could actually be the stirrings of excitement about how your life could be.

Many people tell me that after clutter clearing their home, they feel so much more alive. Some describe it as changing from black and white to technicolour, or from 2D to 3D.

As one woman said to me, ‘I think I was afraid of becoming available for living. After clearing my clutter, it gave me the courage to pursue a more meaningful life and become the person I’ve always wanted to be.’

Related article
The art of living with clear space

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Copyright © Karen Kingston 2018

Posted in Clutter clearing | Read 6 comments...»


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