How to Turn Clutter into a Peaceful Space

by Dr Angel Adams and Lynn Adams

“Out of clutter find simplicity;

From discord find harmony;

In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity”

-Albert Einstein-


© (CC) Keven Law

I have been doing it slowly but surely… decluttering my flat. Believe me, it is liberating. My kitchen, like many British flats, is very small; however, it looks much bigger now that I have cleared the shelves and the counters! Instead of vitamin jars and piles of boxes of teas, I now have a few beautiful and meaningful objects strategically placed to give it a Zen look. Metaphorically it feels like a shedding process. In the world of nature when the snake sheds its skin, it devotes all of its time and energy to getting rid of the old to make room for the new. For me, getting rid of clutter gives me room for a new look and a new feeling of external and internal space, and I feel lighter. There is more space to live in and work in—more space in my head because that minimalist look makes my brain feel less cluttered.

“Suffering the bankruptcy of space with unmanageable clutter is far worse than the loss of questionable items”.

Many of us have a real tough time with letting go of clutter. Maybe there are memories and attachments associated with it. I remember years ago, after keeping some of the beautiful little dresses my girls had grown out of, I cried when giving them away to charity. Sometimes it is just painful to let go of a particular chapter in your life knowing that it will never happen again. You may also feel guilty because you are throwing away something that was expensive—at least when you bought it!

Or maybe you think you might need to use that object again, but think again! Are you really going to use that old cake mixer, the large pile of unread newspapers, the books that are collecting dust, the iron that’s broken, and a pair of trainers that you haven’t worn in three years? Yes, there is the case that you might need a thing after you have discarded it, but suffering the bankruptcy of space with unmanageable clutter is far worse then the loss of questionable items.

Clutter can just take up your time or space and thwart you from the pleasure of enjoying quality over quantity. It’s so much nicer to enjoy a single beautiful piece of furniture or one painting on the wall, then to be bombarded with stuff that just turns into a cluttered jumble. This has made me realise that the sofa I bought for my small living room flat is just way too big. My goal is to find an affordable smaller-sized one in due course.

Image: A beautiful home interior

By Lynn Adams

Here are 5 tips to turn clutter into organised space:

  1. To reiterate from our last article we stressed the importance of having a home for everything for you and your children (if they are still at home): then when something is lost, it will be a total relief to know that it’s safe in its home. We suggested actual training sessions for you and/or your kids so they develop this very important excellent habit. You can create it as a memory game for them and make it fun! Who can remember where the home is for their books, or toys, or school materials? If they don’t have a home, then they need to create one!
  2. Have a handy notepad and pencil near to you at all times when you need to write telephone numbers, appointments, etc. For years I’ve had the bad habit of writing things down on a slip or scrap of paper that 99% of the time gets misplaced. Instead of grabbing the first bit of paper, tell the person to hang on for one moment to grab your handy notebook, and you will save hours of looking for it in the long run.
  3. Use a mail/paper basket. Have this in a central location. Have an inbox for all your mail and papers. Also, keep all your associated materials here such as stamps, checkbook, cello tape, pens, and calculator, address book, etc. Keep them in this place and only use them in this place. Designate an Inbox for incoming papers instead of having them all over the house, the car, and even the bathroom! Every piece of paper should go there. Then use our barking dog method (AARF) so you don’t waste time looking at the same item over and over.
    • AIM it into the bin! Get rid of it forever!
    • ACT on the priority items. Pay the bill, post that needed correspondence, etc.
    • REFER it to someone else or read it later (not more than a week!)
    • FILE it in its home

    It is absolutely time saving and therapeutic to only handle it once (OHIO). So give it a try!

    “I think I better keep this in case I never need it”

    -Dr Irwin Moon-

  4. Clear off counters one at a time. The place I started with was my desk. Instead of piles of papers and books and coffee cups, I only have a computer and screen, speakers and a mouse. I also have a small kitchen timer to increase my productivity. One of my heroes is Leo Babauto, has six kids and walks the walk. He has written a lot about decluttering. In his words: “You want to get your house so that all flat spaces are clear of clutter. Maybe they have a toaster on them, maybe a decorative candle, but not a lot of clutter. So start with one counter. Clear off everything possible, except maybe one or two essential things. Clear off all papers and all the other junk you’ve been tossing on the counter too”.

    Image: Rocks stacked on top of each other

  5. Remember that clearing away clutter is calming to the brain. Clutter is a form of visual distraction. An interesting study on distraction and the brain’s prefrontal cortex has been carried out by Professor Richard Vogel from the University of Oregon. He states “Our attention is the continual interplay between what our goals are and what the environment is trying to dictate to us,” Vogel said. “Often, to be able to complete complex and important goal-directed behaviour, we need to be able to ignore salient but irrelevant things, such as advertisements flashing around an article you are trying to read on a computer screen. We found that some people are really good at overriding attention capture, and other people have a difficult time unhooking from it and are really susceptible to irrelevant stimuli.”

Vogel’s hypothesis is that people who are good at staying on focus have a good ‘gatekeeper’, and compared it to a bouncer hired to allow only approved people into a concert. He reports that “Understanding how to improve the gatekeeper could lead to therapies that help easily distracted people better process what information is allowed in initially”. Living and working in an organised clutter-free space will surely help your gatekeeper to keep your attention on your goals.

As usual, we conclude this article with drawing upon the wisdom of birds or animals. Our title holder for the Zen home environment is the intelligent male Bower Bird, who is an architect incorporating nature in its designs. He builds pavilions to attract female birds using colourful shells and stones, even beetle shells to adorn his constructions. He uses the simplicity and colour choices of natural elements to create an inviting home. This is one my favourite clips of all time. Watch this bird create with fierce determination and focus (especially when his admirer, the great David Attenborough sits still) a beautiful place to live in.

We hope you get rid of clutter and create a beautiful space for yourself and your loved ones if you haven’t already. Enjoy!


Thanks for taking the time to read this Monday’s Motivational article.

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