There’s a huge difference between the deep, lasting changes that clutter clearing can bring about and the superficial effect that just tidying and organizing the things in your home creates.
Personal organizers include clutter clearing in their skill-set, and clutter clearing practitioners also do organizing, so at surface level these two approaches can seem quite similar. But when you dig a little deeper, there are some important and substantial differences between them.
Organizing can be done on a purely mental level. It’s about tidying and arranging things so that you know where everything is.
A good example would be sorting through an area where stationery items are kept – putting similar things together so that you can see at a glance what quantities you have and can easily find what you need. Or sorting through your household cleaning materials and arranging them in groups according to type so that you can see when something’s running out and can quickly locate what you’re looking for.
Most of these types of items still have some use, so you may not discard very much when you sort through them, and the results are generally not life-changing in the same way that clutter clearing can be. It can feel satisfying to have all your ducks in a row.
But is it enough?
Clutter clearing goes much further than organizing. It’s not just about rearranging the things you have. It’s about letting go of everything you no longer love or use to bring yourself up to date with who you are and where you are headed in your life.
The impulse for clutter clearing is therefore not just a mental one. It comes from a higher part of a person that sees how restricted their life has become by their over-accumulation of material possessions and the effects of the stagnant energy that collects around them. It’s the part that sees the bigger picture and wants change.
The clutter clearing process usually brings up emotions and involves some tough decisions along the way. So it’s not as easy as tidying and organizing, but the rewards are far more fulfilling. It’s freeing and empowering. It allows a person to reclaim their life. And it opens the door to new possibilities so that they can move forward rather than living in the past.
If you follow the methods in my books as you sort through your things, you will be doing far more than categorizing and putting things where they belong. You will be assessing whether each item gets to stay in your home or not, and why.
First ask yourself:
- Does it lift my energy when I think about it or look at it?
- Do I absolutely love it?
- Is it genuinely useful?
If the answer is not a resounding “yes” to question (1) and an equally resounding “yes” to either question (2) or (3), then what is it doing in your life?
The ‘Does it spark joy?’ method used by some professionals will take you part of the way, but I’ve seen people sort through huge piles of stuff, claim that every item sparks joy, and not throw anything away, even though they never use any of the items and didn’t even know they still had them. A deeper approach to each item is needed, in the form of extended questions such as these:
Does it lift my energy when I think about it or look at it?
Recognizing whether you feel energized or not is the most reliable part of the Clutter Test. Your mind can fool around with you and invent all kinds of excuses so that you get to hang on to stuff, but your body knows the truth and never lies. Trust the feeling in your body.
Do I absolutely love it?
If so, does it really inspire me, or is it just “nice”?
Do I already have enough of this type of item for my needs?
In spite of how much I love it, does it also have sad associations in my life?
Is it genuinely useful?
If so, when did I actually last use it?
When, realistically, am I likely to use it again?
The professionals Richard and I train are called Clutter Clearing Practitioners to differentiate them from Professional Organizers. Their services include tidying and organizing, but this is only a small part of it. Their primary aim is to help a person understand why they felt the need to acquire clutter in the first place, guide them through the process of letting go of the things they no longer love or use, and teach them how to live clutter-free from then on. Why? Because there really is no point doing all that work and then finding yourself back in the same situation a year later!
Copyright © Clear Space Living Ltd, 2015, updated 2023
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