Next time you find yourself in the office or in your car, take a second to look around and notice the space that surrounds you. Would you describe it as cluttered or clean, organized or chaotic? Take a stroll around your home and note the state of each room. As you look around, close your eyes and feel the energy of the room around you. What does it feel like? What words would you use to describe the space? Make notes of your impressions for each room. After noting your impressions, take a look at the descriptions below to see how your space reflects on your life. Keep in mind that the words you used to describe these spaces may very well also describe the aspects of your life that they correspond with.
- LIVING ROOM: Your living room is the room you show to the world. It is your persona and reflects your social life. Clutter in this area represents a blockage in your social life or relationships. They may be neglected completely or, on the other extreme, overrunning other areas of your life. If this room is very cluttered, consider what you are hiding from–or hiding from others.
- KITCHEN / DINING ROOM: These rooms represent the areas of your life in which you nourish yourself and others. Family is particularly relevant here. This is the hearth, where families meet and break bread together. A lack of dining space or an unused kitchen may reflect a lack of connection amongst family members. Clutter and mess can indicate disagreements or discord within the family unit.
- BEDROOMS: Your bedroom is your sanctuary and is reserved for those with whom you are most intimate. A messy bedroom may indicate a need for greater self-care and may reflect discord within a relationship. A couple’s bedroom that reflects only one partner indicates a lack of balance within the relationship in general and a need for compromise. A sparsely decorated or personalized bedroom can indicate intimacy issues.
- BATHROOM: Your bathroom reflects your self-awareness and attitudes toward yourself, as well as your emotional self. An overly cluttered bathroom may reflect self-criticism or perfectionism. A messy bathroom may indicate depression or moodiness. Your bathroom probably doesn’t look wonderful if you consistently find yourself feeling like sh…. well, you get the point. Consistently messy bathrooms may also be indicative of people with patterns of emotional repression.
- OFFICE SPACE: A cluttered office space may indicate indecision, lack of focus, or time management challenges. On the other hand, a pristine, sparsely decorated office space can indicate a lack of passion for work and possible complacency within one’s career. The absence of personal elements may also indicate introspective tendencies or reflect a person who values their privacy highly.
- STORAGE SPACES: If you have four or five closets crammed full of barely or rarely used things, you may be clinging to something in your past. Note what you’re hanging on to for further insights on what exactly may be holding you back. Crammed closets may also represent hidden aspects of your life.
- CAR: Your car represents the transitional spaces in your life. Is your car full of files from work or fast food bags? You may have a tendency to drag your work home with you or be missing out on important opportunities to connect with and nurture yourself and your family connections. If your car hasn’t been maintained properly, it may indicate a stubborn, resistant, or complacent attitude that is impeding your progress.
Please keep in mind that these descriptions do not apply to every single case. Some people really can’t stand living in an organized space, and that’s just who they are. However, if you’re not one of these people and the above exercise causes you to pause and wonder what to do next, please keep reading. There are ways to turn the tide! And although cleaning out the spaces associated with the more troublesome areas of your life won’t fix everything, the act of cleaning them out can instigate change on a deeper level. Following is a simple plan to create inner space by clearing your outer space.
- Identify which spaces need the most attention. Where do you feel least settled with the clutter? When I did this exercise, I started with the foyer. The foyer represents beginnings in your life. Reducing clutter here can create momentum to move to and through other areas of your life. Also, it’s just nice to walk in and not be bombarded by clutter!
- Chunk your progress. You don’t have to try and de-clutter an entire room in one day, and it may not be advisable to try. In fact, if you’re working in a room that represents a particularly challenging area of your life, you may set yourself up for failure by trying to move through it quickly. Listen to your own intuition. You may need to do a small corner one day and a larger section the next. Take baby steps. This will allow you to be cognizant and mindful of the changes that you’re making.
- Remove everything from the chunk of space you’ve targeted. You read that right. Take everything out and move it to another area. Once everything’s moved and you’re left with what was there when you moved in, you can clean the space thoroughly. Really look at it. Ask yourself what a guest would notice about that space. You’ll likely notice things that would have otherwise escaped your attention. Thoroughly clean the space to your satisfaction. In the next step, this empty space will be recreated with intention.
- Redecorate. This is probably the most difficult step. By this time, you have a lovely, clean space in one area of the room and a pile of what used to inhabit that space in another section. Looking at your pile of “stuff,” pick out what you would like to put back in this shiny, new space. Realize that everything you put back in this space represents what you value enough to put there. Thus, everything you put back should be cleaned thoroughly and carefully considered before it’s placed. Refrain from adding anything that you have to justify putting back.
Redistribute. You now have a small pile of things that have been kicked out of the space you’ve just intentionally recreated. These things can either be moved to another space for now, trashed, or donated. Choose wisely!
- Enjoy your space! This kind of mindful cleaning can be extremely gratifying because of the immediacy of the results as well as the exercise in mindful self-awareness. I encourage you to be consistent about reclaiming your space. By doing so, you create intention in your life and in your space, and this intention will yield results, sometimes in surprising ways. By clearing away the old, you make way for the new.