Is Clutter Getting in the Way of Self-Care?


Author: Emily Burrows

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Even though I’m a self-care and wellness coach, there are plenty of health habits that I’m still in the early stages of addressing. This post is about one of those habits.

Uncluttered spaceAs I write this, I’m sitting on the couch, an area where I generally would prefer not to write. I’ve been working from the living room for the past week for one simple reason: it’s one of the tidiest rooms in the house.

My usual work space is in an open area of our house where, from my office chair, I can see the kitchen in my peripheral vision. When clutter occupies a lot of space on the counter, my ability to focus on work plummets.

Some people would use this is as motivation to organize the kitchen, but not me! Nope, I tend to flee the mess and go in search of a calmer place where I can do my best work.

It’s not an unusual predicament. For many of us, the messier our living and working spaces get, the more scattered our thoughts become, and vice versa. Tidier homes and offices, on the other hand, are much more welcoming to productivity and concentration.

When our environment feels chaotic it can get in the way of making lifestyle changes, too. I see this challenge arise often with coaching and yoga clients who want to create at-home mindfulness practices like yoga, meditation and journaling. Clutter adds a layer of resistance and distraction from diving deeper into their inner work.

However, once they cultivate a little bit of physical space that reflects how they want to feel in their new practices, they tend to look forward to savoring the mindful quiet.

Likewise, there is one room in our house that is always uncluttered and tranquil. It’s a small guest bedroom that serves as my yoga and meditation space. I created this yoga space so intentionally that, unlike other areas of our house, it doesn’t descend into messiness when we aren’t paying attention. It only contains items that support restfulness; there’s no miscellany.

The walls are a soft green, and the baskets for yoga mats and props are pretty and organized. My favorite piece of furniture, a set of shelves that tucks into the the corner, holds little tea lights and a beautiful photo of a spiritual teacher with her hands folded over her heart. It’s a space so closely aligned with the peace I want to feel, that as soon as I step into the room, I notice myself relaxing.

In this time of spring cleaning, I’m working on making the rest of our home conducive to mindful living, too.

My action plan (and I hope you’ll join me) is this:

  1. Consider the room’s purpose. Before making any changes, ground yourself in the purpose you want the space to fulfill. For example, I want my kitchen to be so inviting that the cutting boards, muffin tins and pots feel magnetic to my hands.
  2. Start small. Start with just one corner of one room, so you don’t get overwhelmed by the task ahead of you. This is especially important if you have been procrastinating cleaning that space, like I have. That’s why this evening I’ll spend just 10 minutes tackling only the island in the kitchen, so it can be an extra-welcoming place for food preparation.
  3. Clear the clutter. If it doesn’t serve the purpose of your space, don’t just store it in a drawer; let it go. Recycle it, donate it or throw it out. Old issues of Yoga Journal aren’t helping me cook in the kitchen. Neither is my sad blender with the burned-out motor. They’ve gotta go.
  4. Celebrate! Acknowledge your de-cluttering in any way that will motivate you to keep your momentum going, whether it’s photographing “before” and “after” shots of your space or lighting a candle and sipping a cup of tea while you admire your progress.

Look around at the room you’re in right now. What purpose do you want this space to fulfill? How do you want to feel when you’re in it?

Now, if you’ll excuse me, clutter in the kitchen awaits.

Did you like this post? Find more activities from Emily Burrows here. For one-on-one accountability and support:

Learn about Self-Care Coaching with Emily.

Learn about Private Yoga Lessons with Emily. 

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