Uncluttering your life includes throwing out your old view of yourself

Click here to learn more about "Throw Out Fifty Things" -- which naturally comes in an e-book version if you'd like to read it without adding to your bookshelf clutter.

Years ago a book called “Clear Your Clutter With Feng Shui” inspired me to start purging the junk I had swirling around me.

One of the concepts that sticks with me is that just because someone gives you a gift doesn’t mean you have to keep it. You can appreciate the gesture, sincerely thank the person, then get rid of it. The alternative is feeling guilt every time you see that thing you don’t want in your space, the guilt and obligation that forces you to junk up your life with something you don’t want.

I launched a campaign to get rid of one thing every day, which worked so much better for me than saying “This weekend I will clean the basement.” Then, of course, downsizing from a three-bedroom Midwestern house to a one-bedroom NYC apartment forced an even more radical purge.

So having some experience with this notion, I was struck by a SmartBrief blog post that connected uncluttering with success.

In “Q-and-A with Gail Blanke: Clearing the clutter can open your path to success,” Blanke, who wrote “Throw Out Fifty Things: Clear the Clutter, Find Your Life,” talks about getting rid of physical clutter, editing the electronic tidal wave of information coming at us — and letting go of your “too-small view of yourself.”

Periodically, we need to “throw out” the old view of ourselves and our companies, the way we always “did it” – and reinvent. Refining our brands is a constant imperative. And clutter blurs clarity. That means we have to let go of anything that drags us back to some old idea of ourselves or our companies.

And speaking of brands, don’t forget to let go of thinking that everybody has to love you. Think about Martha Stewart or Oprah or Ina Garten or Cher … or Lady Gaga. Some people love ‘em, some don’t. Here’s a fact: If enough people love you, the ones who don’t, don’t matter!

I love this idea of letting go of your old self.

For example, when I first graduated college, I made almost no money, and because I was both poor and working crazy hours, I ate pretty badly and gained weight. Years later, when I had a better job, I was still pinching pennies on my wardrobe, wearing cheap, ill-fitting clothes, until my then-boyfriend urged me to go shopping. It took that foot in my backside to realize I wasn’t that poor 21-year-old any more and it was time I stopped acting and dressing like it.

What clutter do you need to let go of — physical, electronic or emotional?

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9 replies

  1. I am drowning in electronic e-mail clutter! I’m almost wishing for my work inbox to crash so that I have a convenient way to get rid of all of it and not feel the pressure of making sure I’ve kept what was important. This post is going to inspire me to blow away a bunch of stuff without looking at it…kind of like that old saying – if you haven’t worn it in a year get rid of it…well if you haven’t looked at it in a year – get rid of it! Looking forward to checking out the book too! I’d so rather spend time with my kids or doing things I love instead of dealing with stuff – sorting, shuffling it, cleaning it. And I know all to well that guilt of looking at something that someone gave to me that I really want to get rid of…I am inspired!!

  2. I’m ditching fifty things by Oct. 19. I started last night, and I’m up to six already.

  3. Forgot the link to a video called “Intolerable Beauty – Portraits of American Mass Consumption”. Wow.

  4. DO IT! So much more comes out of it than you can even realize. For me, the emotional/physical/spiritual journey that has resulted is beyond worth it. I now only own a 5-yr old Mac, a 2-yr old crappy cell phone, a 10-yr old car (I live in the back country), and a few sets of clothes. I’ve lived in Boston, Montreal, and New York City and have gotten rid of everything else from my past. I had a SICK record collection, too – some real gems. Sold (oh, the parties – real memories). And I had some swag that made innumerable yard-salers very happy. It was all important at the time, tied to my identity, or rather my pseudo-identity, but then it just bogged me down and made the creative gypsy life impossible. And that was my true nature. So, commit to it in your own way – even if it means ditching that old juicer, that souvenir your friend gave you from her trip in ’97, and your when-I’m-skinny jeans collection, and say buh-bye. Equally important is keeping your current stuff nicely organized without being OCD or uptight. Clutter is just your insides made visible. Oh, and I’ve gotten rid of over 10 years of my own art, just like Gerhard Richter did. THAT was brutal, but I took my cue from the buddhists – life is transient and transitory and always now. It’s the creativity (and yes, sometimes the artifact or result) that’s the real deal.

  5. Lovely post here! i love the idea of not needing much too. In my opinion we, people, think we need a lot, but in the end what it all comes down to is that we can live with very little stuff, and that very little stuff will actually help us getting more integrity towards ourselves and our own believes, more purity. The big piles of stuff only hide who we really are.

    • Ruth and Scott, thanks so much for your feedback and excellent insights.

      Two lines I love:
      – Clutter is just your insides made visible.
      – The big piles of stuff only hide who we really are.

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