Are you drowning in clutter? Do you sometimes feel tempted to gather it up and throw it all out in one go? Read this article before you go any further.
Twice in my life I have let go of everything I owned and started again. From time to time, someone reads my description of this in my Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui book, feels inspired to do likewise, and contacts me to ask exactly how I did it. Here’s what I tell them…
How I radically decluttered
The first time I radically decluttered my life was when I was 19 years old and living in England. I had just ended a relationship with my boyfriend and decided to move from one end of the country to the other. I didn’t own a car at that time so I packed a change of clothes and left everything else with him to use or dispose of as he wished. He was fine with this arrangement, and many years later he turned up at one of my clutter clearing talks in London and told me he liked my stuff so much that he still had some of the items.
The second time was when I was 37, single again, and had a whole apartment full of things. I decided to move from the UK to Bali and not take anything with me. I sold all my furniture to a friend and sold everything else at a car boot sale (a popular UK selling method). I got on a plane the next day.
In both cases, the decluttering was accomplished within a week of deciding to do it, and I’ve never looked back. By the time I left for Bali, I no longer owned a single possession from my childhood, teenage years, twenties or thirties, and was as free as a bird.
Less radical decluttering
Fast-forward twenty years. By this time, I was married to Richard and we were living in Bali together. We had achieved everything we’d gone to Bali to do and it was time to relocate to the UK. Moving involved a huge decluttering this time because we had a house, a hotel, and conference centre to dispose of.
We sold the properties, sold or gave away most of our things, and only kept twenty boxes of personal items and a teak Balinese daybed that we loved. We left Bali with two suitcases apiece. The boxes and daybed were shipped to the UK after we’d found a place there to live.
Radical clutter clearing is not for everyone
Radical clutter clearing is certainly not for everyone. Whenever I’ve made a major move, I’ve always had a very clear idea of the next important step to take in my spiritual journey after I had lightened my load. This meant that disposing of my things was both meaningful and liberating. I’ve also been fortunate to marry a man who has let go of everything and started a new life even more times than me.
When someone writes to ask me how to do this themselves, it suggests that they don’t yet have this clarity. I therefore recommend that they wait until they are sure what their next step in life after decluttering will be. Letting go of everything you own doesn’t magically improve your life. It can leave you with no possessions and no idea what to do next. It’s essential to have a clear direction to go in, that you feel confident about, even if your logical mind can’t quite explain it yet.
One oil barrel at a time
A detailed map of the journey ahead is not required. In my experience, all you need to know with certainty is the next step ahead. That’s all I’ve ever known, and every major change I’ve made has worked out better than I could ever have imagined.
A lovely analogy for this can be found in Brian Tracy’s book, Eat That Frog! It comes from an experience he had of crossing a bleak 500-mile stretch of the Sahara Desert, where over 1300 people had lost their way and died. Then someone had the bright idea to place a 55-gallon oil barrel every 5 kilometers to mark the route. After that, all anyone had to do was to drive from one oil barrel to the next. The last oil barrel and the next one would always be in view, so no one ever got lost again.
The concept of “one oil barrel at a time” can also be applied to navigating through life. Get clear about your next step, and off you go. If you can’t yet see it, wait until you can. But wait proactively, not passively. Research, explore, be relentless in your quest until you get that next oil barrel in your sights.
Radical clutter clearing is not the same as minimalism
The art of living a spiritual life in the twenty-first century is to have the right things around you to accomplish what you’re here to do, but not so much stuff that it holds you back. It’s about finding the right balance.
Where minimalism so often takes a person off-track is that reducing the quantity of possessions they own becomes the goal instead of following their spiritual purpose. Getting by with the bare minimum is a pointless pursuit if it has no deeper meaning. It can seriously hinder your progress and distract you from your path.
And times have changed. Renouncing all material possessions is not even a valid route for an aspiring monk now. It worked in the past, and periodic meditation retreats are still of great value. But what the world needs at this time is people who can hold spiritual awareness while remaining part of the modern world. They are the ones who can truly make a difference.
Copyright © Clear Space Living Ltd 2018, updated 2023
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