How Can We Holistically Declutter?
Making the connections between clearing physical, mental, and emotional space
Clutter surrounds us in many parts of our lives, whether it’s one too many boxes of items hidden in a closet, a calendar full of obligations, or overwhelming thoughts that put our brains in overdrive. Whatever form it takes, clutter can undoubtedly weigh us down. But by rē-framing our perception of what it means to “declutter,” we can mindfully clear out our spaces, boosting creativity and productivity along the way.
rē-framing our outlook on decluttering
Michele Vig, author of “The Holistic Guide to Decluttering,” rē-spun her career five years ago. She left corporate America to follow her passion for entrepreneurship and professional organizing in the form of Neat Little Nest. Quickly, Vig became aware of how physical clutter in an individual’s home had a domino effect on other parts of their life. This ultimately holds them back in areas in which they could thrive.
“It was as if I could see the ‘behind the scenes’ of what was happening,” she tells rē•spin. “[As an executive], I was coaching people often about time and mind clutter, and now I was seeing another dimension. It became clear to me that they are intricately linked.” Through her book and her practices, Vig says she has one simple mission: “To help people live their most desired life by being able to see, and then declutter, the three biggest areas of clutter — physical, time and mental — that can get in the way of them living their most desired life.”
Clearing our physical space
When we approach a decluttering process, we mainly focus on the physical objects in our lives. This includes clothes, decor, miscellaneous items lingering around our homes, etc. In addition, this process tends to happen around an arbitrary date, whether it’s spring cleaning or the moment we hit a breaking point that signals it’s time to clear our space.
While a daunting process, decluttering can be tackled by approaching the task with a plan of action and an open mind. One of Vig’s top tips when decluttering our physical spaces is to envision your ideal life by looking inward to connect with yourself to find your desired outcome. She explains, “Thinking about what the end state is that you’re striving for makes it easier for you to do the work when it gets hard in the middle.”
She also recommends tackling the process category-by-category rather than room-by-room. This is part of Marie Kondo’s KonMari approach, in which Vig is certified. Instead of finishing an entire room at once, she suggests gathering all items in a specific category (for example, books, makeup, cleaning supplies, etc.) and deciding what you’ll keep or remove from that particular category before moving on to the next one. Vig also recommends decluttering first, then organizing second. We tend to want to do everything at once and get excited about purchasing bins and baskets for our home to host all of our items.
Vig says that the excitement of beginning the organization process can lead to us rushing through the decluttering aspect, and we may skip steps along the way. She explains, “Doing the decluttering step first and doing it thoroughly makes it easier (and usually less expensive) to organize because you don’t need to buy as many bins.”
Tackling mental and emotional clutter to achieve balance
While our physical space is essential to clear out and rē-organize, we shouldn’t neglect the psychological areas of our life, either.
“Usually, our physical clutter is just a manifestation of one of the other areas of clutter,” Vig points out. “When we clutter up our calendar and don’t give ourselves enough time to finish what we need to do, we might have a cluttered office, for example. If we are caught up in a negative loop in our mind, we might not have the energy to make decisions about putting our stuff away.”
Innately, our physical clutter is linked to the clutter of our time, mind, and emotions. When we ignore the holistic view of clutter in our lives, our mind is not open to the full range of possibilities ahead of us. “By seeing how they are linked and working on each of the areas separately and together, it can become clear very quickly how much of a stronghold clutter in these different areas can be holding us back from living in the way our hearts desire,” says Vig.
When approaching our mental declutter, Vig notes that it will appear in various ways. Sometimes, it will be through a negative spiral in our mind, such as damaging self-talk and overthinking things. “Tools like using a compassionate voice when speaking to yourself internally, finding the root of your negative thoughts or self-doubt and working through them, or taking deep breaths when your mind is racing, and you are anxious and bringing your awareness to the present moment — all of those techniques help declutter the mind.”
Vig emphasizes that it’s never too late to begin decluttering all areas of our lives. “By facing your physical clutter, it requires you to have an internal dialogue with yourself about what you love and what you no longer do,” she says. “That simple process will reveal a lot to you about the other areas of clutter and what you might need to focus on to improve those areas as well.”