Recently on Hatch Podcast we looked at decluttering – both clearing stuff physically and also looking at the impact of a cluttered mind.
Here are Parts 1, 2 and 3 if you missed them (or subscribe via ITunes). As a round up of the series I wanted to share my 5 reasons why I think decluttering is crucial for bringing more inspiration to your creative life.
1. You get more space
It seems obviously that when you physically declutter, you end up with more space, but actually, this shouldn’t be underestimated. Not only does more space mean you can clear surfaces and put things away (or put things away more neatly!) but it makes you feel better. It’s the ‘calming’ effect that seeing order can bring. When you clear the clutter off your desk you often end up feeling as though you’re able to think more clearly, because there is more space to ‘play with’. All good stuff for that creative playing we’re doing then!
Physical clearing can also just act as a distraction (remember tidying you’re room to avoid revision back when we sat our school exams?) and, although clearing out cupboard might be an avoidance tactic, it actually has a very nice payoff. Tidying and clearing can provide a nice break from your creative work – and I always think when things ‘look different’ as I sit back down at my desk: my ideas come out a slightly different shape.
2. You notice more
Decluttering doesn’t have to just be about clearing out old junk. During our podcast series, I decided to go on a news embargo. I generally read the news through an app on my phone, and I knew I would often check this when I was on the train, without anything else to do. But as I generally felt tired on the way home, I wondered how much I actually wanted to read the news and how much was habit and how much I would actually miss out on if I didn’t read it. So there began a two week experiment to not read the news (either via the app or web or newspaper) which I have since decided to extend indefinitely. I felt less negative about the world (we know that bad news sells better so there is a lot of it) and I found I had time to think. When you deliberately exclude something from your normal routine, you also have opportunity to notice.
I noticed that I was often using the news reading as a way to avoid my emotions – to dull them. When I was standing on a crowded train as usual, I reached for my phone and was scrolling through for the news app then realised it was gone – I’d deleted it. It was when I started scrolling through for the substitute (Facebook) that I realised I actually I had a habit which was triggered by something else altogether…emotions I didn’t want to deal with. Putting my finger on the emotions meant I was closer to dealing with them…was it boredom? Anxiety? Stress? This whole practice of observation means I’m a lot more aware when I visit Facebook during times I’ve set aside to create.
3. You deal with emotions
We hang on to things because of what they represent, the past memories and emotions, even if they have pain attached to them. It might seem strange but we wrap up a lot of our identity in keeping those past things to hand, even if they haven’t seen the outside of a box for five years. When I did some clearing out I couldn’t let go of some items and I began to analyse them in terms of their emotional value, rather than just their necessity as paperwork.
For example I looked at some of my stuff that I wanted to hold onto and realised that it’s often attached to fear. I’ve kept all my payslips from my employers since my very first job (aged fifteen!) even temporary jobs. I realised this is because I had (and still have) a lot of my identity attached to my work. It was a big release for me to get rid of a lot of paperwork that I had stored away (old employment contracts, expenses I’ve never claimed – yes, I know, bizarre!) because I had to talk to myself differently about who I am, that my identity is not dependent on my work. Making this connection, by looking at the stuff I found tough to get rid of was a big eye-opener for me. I believe that dealing with emotions from the past can help us feel freer, more brave and less hindered by the way we feel we are ‘expected’ to be – whether creatively or otherwise.
4. You get to choose what replaces it
My successful observations around my decluttering – whether that was noticing my habits, analysing my junk or assessing the impact of negative news on my stress levels, meant that the space I had created (both physically and in my mind) resulted in a new place for me: I could CHOOSE what to use that new found space for. I asked myself, did the time I had now on my train journey mean I could read more….or just be? Catch up on my emails or take a moment to myself to breathe? Equally, I could choose to go back to reading the news – I wasn’t trying to enforce some kind of regime if I didn’t want to. But it made me stop and think. The clutter – mental or physical, every day, is part of my life. How much of my life did I want to cart around my old payslips, just to prove to myself I’m a good worker? Did reading the five paragraph breaking news stories on a news app mean I was up to date – and did that even matter?
5. Your growth can accelerate
By looking at what’s there, what you actually keep around you physically, and noticing your actions and routines, you can learn a lot about yourself. This noticing – looking at it from a different point of view and realising what you do without thinking (or choosing almost absentmindedly) can be really powerful. This ‘noticing and then analysing’, gives you the insights you need to help you see what you can change in order to grow. Just over this series I’ve uncovered 3 truths about myself, which have helped me get to know myself better, make changes and moved on. For my creativity, I’ve felt as though I’m easier with myself, I know the best circumstances to create and I know the power of my own deliberate choice.
Yes, you’ve guessed, this decluttering series has really had an significant effect on my life. I’ve become almost as though I’m a private investigator and detective of ME. For anyone who is wanting to change something, even if you’re not sure what, I say: Get out those bin bags! Take a holiday from the internet. Put yourself under a 3 week analysis. It might not be easy, but I would say it’s worth it.
OVER TO YOU
Where will you declutter?