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What stays when clutter goes?

"Out of clutter, find simplicity." -- Albert Einstein.

When you realize it is time to downsize and physically move from one location to another -- as JoAnn and I recently realized -- a number of challenges appear. One of these challenges is dealing with all the clutter that you have accumulated over the years.

Perhaps this is a fringe benefit of moving -- you have no choice but to face the accumulation of stuff that has been going on in your life in recent years and in years long, long gone.

As difficult as it can be to do this, I am becoming aware that doing so brings many, many rewards.

JoAnn and I have a saying, "one step at a time." When it comes to dealing with clutter, I find there is no other option. I not only have to take one step at a time, but one room at a time – and indeed one object at a time. Fortunately, there are only three possibilities. Keep it. Give it away. Or throw it away.

For example, as I sit at my computer in my little office, I see a small blue canvas bag lying on the desk in front of me. The bag is empty. A dozen or so seashells are sitting on top of this empty bag, which incidentally is covered with a thick coat of dust.

As I look at this particular object I realize I've never given it any thought at all. It has been sitting in front of my nose for a number of years -- and yet though I love the sea with a passion I've never even glanced at these pretty little seashells.

So one reward of "de-cluttering" is that I pick up one of these shells and hold it in my hand and admire it. It is beautiful. At last, this shell from some faraway beach is receiving some attention and love. It means something to me. It is not hard to decide that I would like to keep these seashells and the connection that they provide for me with the sea.

Then there is my bookcase. Actually there are four of them. Books of various sizes and shapes abound in riotous profusion like wildflowers in the spring. They overflow from the shelves, some of them lined up vertically -- some of them lying in horizontal piles here and there.

Books have been coming in, year by year, month by month -- but no books have been going out. So I have been looking over my books with the same eagle eye that I bestowed upon my seashells. If a book has meaning to me, I keep it. If it doesn't have meaning to me, out it goes.

Of course, there is much more to "clutter" than mere material possessions. There is the clutter that we accumulate over the years in our minds and our hearts, for example.

There is the clutter of thoughts that may have served us back along the way but do not serve us any longer. There is the clutter of thoughts that are not our own thoughts at all. Someone else -- perhaps society itself – perhaps an enterprising columnist or TV host -- has stuffed them into our mind for us.

"Out of clutter, comes simplicity," said Albert Einstein, and how true that is. But I would say that there is another reward that comes when we face up to our clutter at every level of our being, and that is truth.

We are free to become increasingly conscious of what is not clutter -- the stillness and peace of our own being that is always present with us no matter what may transpire in our lives.


{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Corinne Rodrigues January 26, 2010 at 8:12 am

Another great one! I’ve been meaning to do a post on clutter too – but you said it so well, as always!
Warm regards


NEIL SALKA January 27, 2010 at 7:34 pm

hi chris – your post here is absolutely, synchronistically, timely. i’ve been procrastinating about my storage space i pay dearly for on a monthly basis (serious procrastination and avoidance). stuffed to the gills and so overwhelming i generally do nothing about it. it is away from the house by several miles and commuting minutes. not comfy or convenient. but i did go today. slooooowly, piece by piece i look at each note, copy, article, etc. i feel like a clinging, attached fool: i throw out some. still keep some. will i EVER get over my-self and just LET GO. it is SO TIME CONSUMING, but i must do it. such a humongous albatross around me vs the wizard of oz and the cowardly lion: “courage. COURAGE!” yes, and perseverance, stick-to-it-ness, discipline(?), trust. so i love what you wrote. it is so true about the internal clutter. i intelligently know the outer should also be pristine and clear. working on it. it IS a process.


Gail Storey September 16, 2010 at 3:14 pm

I so much enjoyed meeting you at Gangaji’s retreat, and as another writer and blogger could relate to your question. Your post about clutter strikes a chord. I have fairly little external clutter, but have been obsessed with paring down to even less, until Gangaji’s “Just stop” revealed that what bothered me was the internal clutter. No clutter in infinite space! I’m subscribing to your wonderful blog, thank you for
your insights.
Gail Storey recently posted..How to Pitch a Bedroom in the Woods


Christopher Foster September 16, 2010 at 6:16 pm

Thanks so much for your comment Gail. It sure was a pleasure to meet you at the retreat. It also was a pleasure to visit your blog. It’s a cool blog. Congratulations! Thankyou for subscribing to my blog and …love and blessings.


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