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What Your Clutter, Big or Small, Is Trying to Tell You

Clutter means much more than the just mess you see.

Cluttered Woman

I love it when people send me their books to read or review. I may not always have time but whenever I can I try to read them. The other day a contact I'd met through Linked In, Ranka Burzan of SOS (Solutions Organizing and Simple), sent me a copy of her little handbook, The SOS Guide to Organize and Clean Your Home. I went out for lunch after passing by my post office box, so I pulled the slender book out of my purse and read through it as I ate.

I was looking forward to getting some simple insights and tips into organizing my life, but as a life coach I instead found myself marvelling at some of her insights about what clutter might truly represent. I've written about clutter myself, in fact my book, Live a Life You Love: 7 Steps to a Healthier, Happier, More Passionate You has a whole section about clearing out the clutter in your life - not only the physical clutter, but the social, emotional and financial clutter that can keep you overwhelmed and stuck.

Here are some of the quotes I underlined in Ranka's little book:

1) "We always relate to routine and familiar circumstances even if they work against us. That is one reason that people stay in abusive relationships, low paying jobs and cluttered homes, because it's predictable and we become experts in dealing with unpleasant situations."

Just think about that one for a moment: have you become an "expert" in dealing with certain unpleasant situations in your life?

2) "The container companies make it easier for us to keep a mountain of things we don't like or use. You just have to contain and label everything and your clutter problem is solved. The clutter problem is not resolved; it's just shifted to a different area of your home.

The container suppliers are not to blame; they are simply meeting the demands of consumers. We have to admit that we are out of control when it comes to buying, we have too much stuff that we don't need in our homes and our lives."

If you look around at the clutter and "stuff" in your home and in your life, what does it tell you about you? Where are you out of control? Where have you taken in or on too much stuff, whether it's in your closet or your appointment book?

3) "People who constantly live in a state of chaos are prone to procrastination and an inability to commit to work or relationships. They get anxious and overwhelmed with change and usually give up before they even start the project. Their finances and time are wasted; they feel stuck and bad about themselves".

How does reading that one feel? How does your clutter affect you and your life? Where does it keep you stuck?

Normally I'm pretty organized but I've had to move a couple of times this year and am still in a transient situation right now. I had to sift through and shuffle papers on my desk this morning in order to create the "space" to write (writing is the thing I've now promised myself to do every single morning) and almost let myself get distracted by them. I've been way too busy lately and have gotten into bad organizational habits. As I look at all the stuff on my desk after reading this, I cringe. I also imagine what my morning at my desk would feel like if the desk was actually clear, with everything in its place...

4) "It's estimated we lose 15-20% of our annual budget because we procrastinate and avoid making decisions about the way we live and function."

Read that one again. At first it seemed excessive, but when I think about it, it's probably accurate. If I'm unorganized with my grocery shopping, I'll be less likely to have enough food in the refrigerator and more likely to grab takeout on my way home. If I don't follow-up with those clients that I know I should, I probably won't enjoy their business. Unless I get really aggressive about what my top priorities are, I'll continue to be bogged down keeping up with everything that comes my way instead of moving forward steadily and powerfully in my life and career (see my post on "Have You Given Up Halfway?")

5) "What's your excuse? I urge all my clients to clarify their own personal and specific procrastination pitfalls by writing a list of 20 things they need to do but are ignoring...there is one more very good reason for writing a list, you will likely make changes when you have a written list on your fridge...keep it visible and you WILL finish your projects"

What are some key things you need to do but are "ignoring"? (I love that way of characterizing the true nature of procrastination - in fact, I think "ignoring" is a much more useful word than procrastination...we all procrastinate so much that the word itself has become weak and unmotivating). Would writing a list out, owning it, and posting it help? I think so - this is a great coaching exercise.

It's hard to clear out the clutter. It's also hard to continue to keep life clutter-free even if you do clear it out, because "nature abhors a vacuum". I'm hoping that you (and I), by understanding the deeper meaning and cost of clutter, will be helped by the information here. Saying "I really should get my office more organized" is one thing. Understanding what you might lose if you don't is another thing entirely.

To read my book, complete with its section on my approach to clearing out life's clutter, go to For more information on Ranka Burzan's work, see .

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