Clutter conversations

Golly gosh, I didn’t intend to stay quiet for so long! As some of you know, I moved house in early January, and it took a lot of my mental and physical resources in the run-up, doing it, and the fallout. Of course everything’s a learning experience…

Life, luggage and the pursuit of happiness

So yes, I moved. Three doors down the street. See, I didn’t really want to move right now, but I didn’t want to stay in my rented house either, as it was increasingly in need of TLC that it wasn’t getting and the issues were becoming louder in my headspace. Then a sign sprouted in a neighbour’s garden, and I thought I’d better take the hint from the universe!

Pile of clutterThat led to a mantra about letting things be easy, which I want to keep coming back to in my own development this year. Mind you, it was hard to hold on to that as I spent a week and a half carrying all my worldly goods down the street (with a friend and some neighbours helping with the tricky bits and moral support). Musings ranged from, “Hmm, I love books but they are an inefficient medium for transporting information”, to, “By the gods, why do I have all this crap?!”

Seeing all your possessions there in piles, spoiling pristine new rooms, certainly shows you something.

I got rid of some stuff in the month before – I had a nice collection of environmental reports from the 1990s! But not anywhere near living up to my good intentions (though there was a yucky cold and a minor foot injury in there). I’m going to do more before I adapt and it becomes part of the background again.

Clock pic
A photo of my clock on the internet

The question popped into my head multiple times, “Why am I carrying this?” Not literally – well, yes literally (aargh), but more in the sense of a life thing, with possessions claiming pieces of your energy. Case in point: I have boxes and bags of superhero comics that have followed me around for years. I need to see if they’re worth anything, keep a few favourites and get rid of the rest.

The nice thing, the opportunity, apart from the house itself being in better condition, is that it’s unfurnished. So what’s in my living environment is very much my choice, and I’ve been enjoying choosing pieces of furniture and other things, like a new clock deliberately tracked down on Etsy (see pic). Nothing fancy or over-expensive, but a nice reflection of my tastes. I tell you, interior design lost a genius! I realised the other day that I was looking at things and they were making me smile. That’s what you want lying in wait for you around the house, rather than problems that need fixing.

A suspiciously appropriate interlude

One of the sessions for the Inspired Entrepreneur group in London fell in the middle of moving week. At first I thought I couldn’t afford the time, then the speaker was announced: Kate Emmerson on ‘Letting GO to create energised flow’ – all about getting rid of clutter. “Subtle,” I thought. “Guess I’m going. And a day off might be a good idea…”

Kate’s early years were in Lancashire, then she moved to South Africa. She does things with vowels you won’t believe. 😉 Her approach to clutter is wider than just physical objects, including unwanted stuff in your body and emotions. She suggests asking yourself:

  • Do I love it?
  • Is it useful?
  • Does it add energy and value to my life?

If not, indeed, why carry it?

I look forward to reading Kate’s book. I swear I know exactly where it is… You can visit her at or on Facebook.

Of course there are other people working on clutterology. I’ve had Clear your Clutter with Feng Shui by Karen Kingston for years, and although I’m not sure about the detailed feng shui stuff about room orientation and whatnot, it has sensible advice about the psychological effects of clutter.

(I’m somewhere on the spectrum with feng shui: I do look at the more big picture and practical stuff, like energy flowing round, symbolism, not sitting with your back to a door. Sadly my new office will only work out if I restructure the house.)

Pay attention, here comes the writing part

Never mind biography and life wisdom aphorisms, I hear you say, what about how we write good! Well, you know (streeeetch) there’s clutter there too.

If you edit a piece of writing – including your own, if you’ve left it long enough to get the perspective – a lot of what you’ll do is to smooth out habits the writer has picked up that muddy the piece rather than letting it shine. I have mine as well. I tend to set too much stuff aside in brackets, and throw in qualification words rather than stating things boldly. I need that second look to weed those out.

Here are some habits you might recognise.

  • Long sentences running ideas together rather than separating them and making it snappier.
  • Comma plague – lots of fragments of text that sound breathless and make the reader lose the flow of the sentence.
  • Colon splurge – using them all over the place, to introduce lists, end paragraphs, even in headings. They should be rare. Often you can do what I’ve done here, with a full stop, as a statement, and let the context show the connection.
  • Mental chatter – I surely do this! You’re getting one idea across and take a detour into one or more other things within the sentence. That can be good if you get it right, especially as a humour device, but it needs careful control.
  • Style. You may have unhelpful habits in the way you use language. People with a background in large, bureaucratic organisations are especially likely to have picked up this clutter. Develop the perspective to spot it and smooth it away.
  • Things that changed when you weren’t looking. If you’ve been writing for decades you may have habits that don’t work so well in the modern world. One prime example is typing two spaces between sentences if you learned on a typewriter. Maybe there are layout tricks that are common now that weren’t when you learned, like bullet lists and the way bold, italic, headings and typography are used to shape and distinguish text.

You might also be carrying outdated ideas about how to talk about what you do, or even how to see it; or who your audience are, or who you are now. Are you trying to push the wrong thing and just feeling off about it? (Check out my freebie for help with that.)

The process of developing skills includes reducing these and perhaps eventually throwing them out altogether.

We can finally tidy this post away

If any of this strikes a chord, or you have more useful resources, please leave a comment.

In the meantime, here’s today’s homework: identify one physical object that makes your energy drop when you encounter it, and remove it from your living or working space (and not just to a box in the garage). Or spot one writing habit that doesn’t serve you and resolve to work on it. Or both!

And as I rather missed the start of 2014, here are good wishes for the year now! May we all get rid of bad stuff and bring in good stuff.


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