CSO Book Club: Your Spacious Self

Your Spacious Self: Clear the Clutter and Discover Who You Are

As 2016 begins, I’ve been thinking a lot about setting the stage for how I want the year to unfold. There are a few things I know I am going to prioritize in 2016. First, I want to be mindful of the choices I make this year so they line up with what I value most. This includes making time for friends, family, and for myself, as well as for my organizing business. Second, I want 2016 to be a very productive year. I cannot be productive unless I have a clear mind, which cannot happen without a clear space. That leads me to my third goal for 2016, which is to eliminate anything that takes away from the space that allows creativity, opportunity, and inspiration to flow. The easiest way to create this space is by eliminating physical clutter. I’ve noticed my home opens up when I remove any excess, and the same goes for my clients, which in turn opens up our lives. Then we are all free to focus on what we really want, without getting distracted.

 Your Spacious Self

 For CSO Book Club, I recently finished Stephanie Bennette Vogt’s book, Your Spacious Self: Clear the Clutter and Discover Who You Really Are, which was the perfect book to read as 2015 ended and the new year began. This book is not just about cleaning out your garage or tidying up your kitchen. Instead, it is a holistic approach to how clearing the clutter and mess in your life creates not only physical space, but also releases emotional blocks. Bennette Vogt describes the clearing process as the “three Rs”: “Clearing raises awareness. Clearing releases attachments. Clearing reveals a spacious part in us that has been there all along. The three fit together as one organic whole. The more aware we become about the places we hold on, the more likely we are to let them go. The more we let go, the more spacious we feel,” (xiii preface). What better time to let go of the things we are holding onto from our past, both physically and emotionally, than at the start of a new year.

The Ritual of Organizing

What if we thought about organizing not as a chore, but as a daily practice and habit that is integrated into our lives? Your Spacious Self sees organizing and clearing as a ritual. It is a way to practice being mindful about our surroundings and the things we are choosing to have in our lives. This practice also brings us to make decisions about the things that should no longer be in our possession. Author Stephanie Bennette Vogt provides some good strategies for changing our attitudes about clutter, since getting rid of things can be challenging for many. She suggests using the rule “No Home, No Have.” It is clutter if it doesn’t have a specific place and a specific purpose. This is a great test to use as you go through items while you declutter. Ask yourself simply, “Do I keep this item in a certain place where I always know where to find it?” If the answer is “no,” then either a new system for storing that item needs to be implemented, or it needs to go. If you cannot identify a specific use for the item in your current life, discard it.

As you are in the clearing process and going through your possessions, consider sorting into four categories: stay, go, throw, don’t know. Label 4 piles, boxes or bags so you can easily sort as you go. The “stay” category is for the things you instantly know you use and have a home for, no questions asked. “Go” are the things that you don’t like, don’t use, don’t fit you, etc. but that can be donated or sold, whereas “toss” is for anything that is broken beyond repair, items that are stained, or for any trash/recycling. “Don’t know” is for the items that you need more time to decide on. One technique I like to use for items like this are to put them in a sealed box, label it, and put it in storage in the garage, back of a closet, etc. Set a time limit for yourself, usually 6 months is a good gauge. If you haven’t opened that box during that time to get anything out that you needed to use or to wear, donate it without opening it up. That way you aren’t tempted to keep anything by going through the items, and you already know they aren’t in regular use.

Stephanie Bennett Vogt provides a great series of questions to utilize in your clearing process too, which she calls the “Acid Test.” As you go through item by item, ask yourself:

Acid Test for Clearing:

  1. Do I absolutely love it?
  2. Do I genuinely need it?
  3. Does it have a permanent home?

She also suggests utilizing a series of questions as you shop. If you are a more conscious consumer, then it is unlikely you will have to clear your clutter as often or as much:

Acid Test for Acquiring Things:

  1. Do I absolutely love it?
  2. Do I genuinely need it?
  3. What can this replace?
  4. Where will its permanent home be?

Creating Space

Getting rid of a lot of items, especially in a short period of time, is no easy feat, and can be jarring depending in your relationship to the items. Bennett Vogt offers some advice to ease the process: “letting go—slowly, gently—offers you the perfect opportunity to feel and heal the experience of loss. Honor and acknowledge the objects (behaviors, relationships) you are releasing. Thank them, bless them, acknowledge what they have meant to you. Creating a special ritual or altar of letting go can help soften the hardwiring. Reward each clearing effort by doing something that makes your heart sing,” (29). That is the point of this work, to feel good when you have done it, and to reap the benefits of a clutter-free existence. As you clear make sure you surround yourself with people who support you, and also make sure you support yourself. Allow for time to reflect, eat well, exercise, and do whatever else keeps you feeling your best to help this process.

As you clear and create spaciousness in your home and in your life, you will find it easier to focus on the things that matter to you. Once you eliminate items that you don’t love, clothes that you don’t wear, and appointments that you don’t need, you will be able to have more time and energy for the items, events and people that add value to your life. Bennett Vogt describes the effect: “Expanding into your natural state of being spacious—one moment, step, thought, or drawer at a time—has a magical way of making you feel more available and in the flow, as if life were living you instead of you living it,” (184). So with this new year, take the time to clear some space for yourself, physically and emotionally, to let in all that brings you true fulfillment and joy.