zen habits : breathe

The Declutter Your Space Challenge

By Leo Babauta

Our lives get filled with clutter not instantly but slowly, one gift or purchase at a time, so slowly that it’s difficult to even notice the clutter creep happening.

But it does happen, even to the most devoted of minimalists. If we’re not ever vigilant, clutter rises like a slow never-ebbing tide.

Stacks of paper, closets overflowing, floors slowly covered by things we’ve meant to get to, shelves spilling from books we haven’t gotten to, counters disappearing beneath piles.

It’s time to clear some space to breathe.

I’m issuing a challenge for this month: declutter your space.

Here’s how the challenge works:

  1. Commit to the challenge (#declutteredspace on Twitter, or wherever you’d like to publicly commit).
  2. Pick a space each week (your bedroom closet, the kitchen counter), and focus on clearing it out.
  3. Report to your peeps every Monday on how it went.
  4. Enjoy the hell out of your newly decluttered space. Breathe. Smile. Love.

I’d love it if you joined me in my Sea Change Program, where I’ve issued the Declutter Your Space Challenge and will be holding a live video webinar on my simple clutter method (Sat. July 7), and writing 3-4 articles to support your decluttering challenge.

The Joy of Decluttering

While taking on a declutter challenge can feel exciting at first, for some people, it can feel overwhelming. Another project to take on!

But actually, it can be a mindfulness practice, a time of reflection on your life and priorities, and quite a joy.

Imagine deciding to declutter your kitchen counter. Piled with crap, you look at it and feel overwhelmed. No worries! You take a deep breath, and start with one item. One thing to focus on. Narrowing your universe to one single thing: you look at it and fully consider it. Is this worthy of space in your life? Does it bring you joy or fill space needlessly?

Then you make a clear decision: this should stay. Or it should go. Then you take action: if it stays, find a permanent spot for it. If it goes, put it in a box to donate or recycle.

One thing at a time, you give an item your complete focus. This is a mindfulness practice of letting go of the world and just being with one item you’ve chosen to bring into your life. Breathing, noticing the texture of the object, giving full consideration of whether it belongs in your world, or whether you should practice letting go.

Letting go can be seen as difficult, as we notice our attachment to things. The things themselves aren’t the problem — it’s our attachment to them. So can we loosen that attachment by seeing the possibilities in openness and letting go? Can we explore a different path, with curiosity and gratitude?

Imagine you have a box full of items from your grandpa. So beautiful! But it’s taking space, and perhaps you can let go of attachment to these items you’ll never use, but hold the essence, the memories of your grandpa? Snap some pics, and create a ritual where you remember your grandpa every few months, looking at the photos, reminiscing about the influence he had on your life. And you explore that possibility, letting go and creating space for new memories.

The Space That Opens Up

When you start letting go of objects, your cluttered life starts to develop some space. Your desk becomes clear, your counters clear up, your bedroom floor is no longer littered with items, your living room becomes less crowded.

What good is this space? Doesn’t it start to feel empty and boring?

In my experience, the space creates openness. It feels freer and less stressful, because clutter brings with it the burden of ownership and maintenance, and the stress of unfinished business.

The space creates possibility: now that you’ve let go of 50 books and made a nice place in your living room to read, you can spend time each morning and evening in this clutter-free zone (even if your garage is still full!) and actually focus on reading the 10 books that remain on your shelf. By letting go of the clutter, we open space for what really matters.

By letting go, we are saying yes to freedom and joy.

Create space to make art. Create space to get active. Create space to reflect and journal. Create space to meditate, to contemplate, to be.

Join My Challenge

I’d love it if you joined me in this challenge by signing up for my Sea Change Program, where I’ve issued the Declutter Your Space Challenge.

In Sea Change, we will:

  1. Commit to this challenge to each other, and report on it each Monday.
  2. Have a live video webinar on my simple clutter method (Sat. July 7), where you can ask me questions.
  3. Give you 3-4 articles (written by me) to support your decluttering challenge.
  4. Celebrate our wins together!

Join Sea Change today and get in on the challenge!



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