Choose from the heart: Clutter free and feeling fine

Today we welcome Danielle LaPorte, author of the blog White Hot Truth, as a guest on Unclutterer. She is a consultant who helps entrepreneurs rock their careers, is a former think tank exec, and author of the bestselling book, Style Statement: Live By Your Own Design.

Clutter is the result of choices. That may sound obvious, but until you start to actually examine your choices, a clutter-free life will elude you. Peace of mind is often buried in the choices you didn’t make. The “default” choices to let stuff into your life that doesn’t really match your true self.

Your bookshelf, your dinner plates, your nicky nacs. Shoes! (Shoes are a whole psychology unto themselves. I’m sure if Freud lived longer he would have studied the mental underpinnings of footwear choices.) Your sofa. Your in-box. Your pantry contents – all are the result of your choices. You’re the gatekeeper to your home. And nothing gets past you without your conscious or unconscious approval. So what makes it in…and why?

Do a quick visual scan in your head right now – room by room. How did what’s in there get there? Because it was on sale? Because it came with your ex-boyfriend but didn’t leave when he did? Because you positively love the design. Because it makes your heart sing?

I used to keep a ton of books in my living room because I thought it made me look smarter. Big ego choice. Now, I let books pass through my mind and my hands. And the books that I do keep, are well, the keepers – absolutely precious texts that I refer to for regular facts or inspiration.

Ego choices can be deadly. I know someone who chose a Mercedes she couldn’t afford because she wanted to drive up to her high school reunion in it. I had another client with a closet full of vampy, slutty clothes – when what she felt best in was a crisp white shirt and straight jeans. She kept choosing trashy clothes in rebellion against her mother, who for years, told her what was proper to wear.

TOP 4 BY-DEFAULT CLUTTER CHOICES

  1. My [insert name of well-meaning relative] gave it to me and I just can’t throw it out.
    This is tricky. But it gets down to this: life’s short and it’s your place. Objects carry memories and attitudes with them. If you want your home to be your temple or your chill-zone, then making choices based on obligation are only going to weigh you down.
  2. I really hate this [insert home item or piece of clothing] but I’m waiting to have the money to buy a new one.
    Something amazing happens when you get the stuff you don’t like out of your life – stuff that you do like has the room to show up. So chuck the old futon chair from university days, even if it means you sit on the floor for a while. You’ll be raising the vibe, shedding unwanted pounds and sending the universe a clear signal that you’re ready for quality…right now, not later.
  3. I got it for free, so I may as well keep it.
    Gasp. This is the ultimate gotchya-sucker default choice. ‘Cause ain’t nothing for free, baby! (Well, true love is free, but that’s about it.) If it’s taking up physical or mental space – it’s costing you. Everything has an environmental cost to manufacture, ship and dispose of. And when I think of all the “free” crap that I lugged around from apartment to apartment in moving vans – I could have saved enough to buy stuff I really loved.
  4. But what if I need it someday?
    Trust that if you ever need it, you’ll have what you need to get it. If you haven’t worn it for a year and half – give it away. If you’re waiting to lose the ten pounds, forget it. Just love yourself now. A happy life is an as-is life. And junk drawers are called junk drawers for a reason.

Simplicity demands ruthlessness. Consistent, conscious choices create momentum in your life, vitality, sweet satisfaction. You are what you eat. You are the friends you keep. And you are the stuff you choose. So choose from the heart every time – it always knows what’s best for you – and your living room.

30 Comments for “Choose from the heart: Clutter free and feeling fine”

  1. posted by jdb on

    “You’ll be raising the vibe, shedding unwanted pounds and sending the universe a clear signal that you’re ready for quality…right now, not later.”

    Are you kidding me?

  2. posted by Scarlett De Bease on

    Thank you Ms LaPorte! These are the same tips I give my clients when editing their closets to create flattering outfits with the clothes they already own. A woman can actually create more outfits with fewer clothes, when they only have in their closets and drawers the items that fit and flatter them the most.

  3. posted by Amanda on

    Awesome post! I love “your clutter is a result of your choices.” Choose to live have you want to.

  4. posted by Clutter is a choice at Sparkleize the way you live on

    [...] really like the candor of Danielle LaPorte’s post on Unclutterer today, which gives the Top 4 By-Default Clutter Choices. These are choices we make, [...]

  5. posted by All About Food on

    Thank you for starting my day with inspiration. I love “A happy life is an as-is life.” Celebrate each day.
    Now, I’m off to clean out my book shelves!

  6. posted by Tabitha (From Single to Married) on

    great info – I think I’m guilty of all four of those thoughts! You’ve given me something to think about, thank you.

  7. posted by crunchycon on

    “your clutter is a result of your choices.” This was the real light-bulb moment for me; I intend to be more conscious of the choices I make.

  8. posted by Org Junkie on

    I think #1 is the hardest for sure. I finally was able to let go of the china my mom gave me 14 years ago that I’ve never liked. It was hard and I’m an organizer but definitely freeing!

  9. posted by Erik on

    I’m with Jdb on the absurdity of “sending the universe a clear signal that you’re ready for quality”.

    Should I just wait around for a new TV to magically appear or will “the universe” pay my credit card bill for the new plasma TV? What kind of interest rate does “the universe” offer, anyway?

  10. posted by Adam on

    @jdb and Erik

    Just a quick thought, I think there’s an easier way to look at this. The whole sending a signal to the universe law of attraction thing can cloud the issue. The way I’d look at it is this:

    The current furniture or whatever it is, if you want to get rid of it, is still there taking up space. That means that in order to replace it there are two steps to take. 1) get rid of it, and 2) replace the item.

    If you’ve already taken care of 1 then it’s less to do when it comes time to replace it.

    Erik, in your TV example, perhaps look at it like this. You really hate your old 13″ rabbit ear TV, but you’re paying for cable and the like and it’s serving the base purpose. You then keep saying that you’re going to get a nicer TV. If that’s really that important to you, then perhaps you get rid of the old TV, cancel your cable, and put all the money that would go into that into a savings account to save for your new TV. As long as the old TV is still there, it’s still taking up space, in your house, mind and wallet.

    Another way to look at it is motivation. If you’re TRULY serious about replacing something now, seeing the empty space to put it is more motivating (to me at least) to actually go out and get it than the other way around.

  11. posted by clutter free and feeling fine | White Hot Truth: because self-realization rocks. on

    [...] READ THE FULL ARTICLE ON UNCLUTTERER. [...]

  12. posted by Kristine on

    Ms. LaPorte makes several good points. However she doesn’t take into account those of us with families, particularly children. Yes, it’s true we are the gate keeper of our homes, however we may be only 1 of 2, 3, 4, etc.

  13. posted by Danielle LaPorte on

    @ Kristine:
    this is a great point. my husband and I have duked it out over “stuff” he brings home from the fire hall, the charity event, his buddy’s garage. but eventually, we come to some agreements about what “simple” living really means. and I lighten up and he steers clear of the so called free stuff. and when it comes to our kid, we’re very intentionally teaching him about choosing things that might actually last and recycling his toys to friends and charities. bottom line: I know that I’ve got the power to choose stuff intentionally, and as mama and wife, I’ve got some positive sway.

  14. posted by chaotic kitten on

    I am slowly, slowly learning ruthlessness. Thank you for this insightful and inspiring post :)

  15. posted by Danielle LaPorte on

    ruthless is the word – take no pity on the stuff that’s in the way.

  16. posted by Suzanne on

    I really enjoyed this post, Danielle! As this topic is near and dear, I like how you detailed the psychology of clutter, aka mental clutter that we attach to physical clutter.

    Also, #2 “Keeping what we hate/don’t like just because it’s something” is an area of my life that I have recently opened my eyes to and have been working through it internally. I would have evicted that clutter long ago, but don’t have what I need to replace it. However, I am finally to the point where I am ready to get rid of it all and just live with bare walls, bare floor, whatever, rather than to keep living with the clutter. Hopefully, the universe (or maybe just a thoughtful friend or relative), will help me obtain what I will love, use and want!

  17. posted by Dorothy on

    LaPorte is the Dr. Laura of clutter and makes many good points.

    However I take exception to: “The “default” choices to let stuff into your life that doesn’t really match your true self.” [Which, now that I read it, isn't even a sentence, but I digress.]

    My point is that, alas, a cluttered life, mind, heart and home is, in fact, many, many people’s true self.

  18. posted by Moxie on

    Love it!

    These are great tips. Truly simple enough to follow, and also inspirational. Thank you!

  19. posted by Marina on

    Thank you for a great post! It was very simply written but powerfully motivating.

  20. posted by When I Grow Up - The Blog » Blog Archive » Freakin’ (Great Links) Friday: Installment 11 on

    [...] Top 10 Rules for Decluttering. Worth reading the comments, too. Also loved the Unclutter’s guest post from Danielle (of Carrie + Danielle & White Hot Truth), as it’s the only one I’ve read that gets [...]

  21. posted by Phil on

    “Peace of mind is often buried in the choices you didn’t make.”

    That’s a very interesting way of looking at things.

    For some of use it goes way back…back to age two. Being corrected for saying “no!” or “mine!” If you can’t say those two words, it’s always going to be tough to deal with clutter.

  22. posted by Danielle LaPorte on

    @ Phil – brilliant.

  23. posted by Shawn Tuttle on

    @ Dorothy I see the chronic cluttered-ness of many people to be the result of living outside their true self, not a reflection of it.

    I appreciate the awareness Danielle brings to the justifications people use to keep the stuff that doesn’t serve them. One thing to add is that in order to choose in alignment with my heart, I need to be able to hear what my heart is drawn to. Not everyone is in touch with that, hence, surrounding ones self with things that they get or keep for the wrong reasons.

  24. posted by Sabrina on

    A Swedish saying for thought: “An empty life, one often fills with things.” – Stig Johannson

    Some other fun sayings for thought:

    - “Own your stuff, don’t let it own you.”
    - “Enjoy your stuff, don’t identify with it.”
    - “Do the Tao now.”
    :)

  25. posted by Alex Fayle | Someday Syndrome on

    Choice! Yay! Far too many people make unconscious decisions and so end up with a whole heck load of clutter that then costs twice as much (at least) in mental and emotional energy (and sometimes money if you use a Professional Organizer) to clear it out.

    Think and act in the moment and the cluttered life doesn’t happen.

    As for clutter being built-in, I tend to be pretty chaotic about my stuff, but by making conscious decisions and making myself aware of what I’m bringing into the house or holding onto, I’ve learned to be clutter-free. So much so that I became an organizer!

  26. posted by Becky on

    I appreciate the desire to be a better person, but too many of us believe that “And you are the stuff you choose”.

    We are not equal to what we own.

    What we own may reflect our values, but I disagree with the idea that we are = our stuff.

    Too many people respond to commercials on tv like this–we will be sexy if we have a sexy car, we will be popular if we have a nice handbag, by having a quality chair, we are quality, be being slim and in shape, we will be a lovely person. This is really not true. Let’s not fall for that thinking.

    That’s not to say that I don’t agree with the need to get rid of stuff. I’m working on it. Of course, when hubby doesn’t feel the same, things are a bit more complicated….

  27. posted by Adele on

    One of the best tips I’ve ever seen involves unwanted kitchen presents, which we all have. Next time you’re asked to bring a dish, use this one, and then forget to take it home. Obviously this works better with large parties. You don’t have to feel guilty about throwing out a present, but it’s off your hands. Also, whoever ends up with it may love it.

  28. posted by burning questions with the queen of uncluttering, erin doland | White Hot Truth: because self-realization rocks. on

    [...] reading, moi, on Unclutterer: Choose from the heart: Clutter free and feeling fine Ruthless Simplicity: How to ward off doing more and burning out Possibly Related [...]

  29. posted by Cats and Dogs Naturally on

    Great post on uncluttering. You are right about ego choices holding us back. What other people think has nothing to do with what we value. To be true to the truth in ourselves is the best choice.

  30. Avatar of

    posted by Laetitia in Australia on

    Phil – hear, hear on the not being allowed to say “No!” – it applies to so many things worse than clutter too (e.g. being coerced into sex/illegal drugs/alcohol abuse/foul language/over eating…). We need to let children say “no” and accept their “no” in certain areas that won’t harm them.

    I can see how this has played out in my own life vs my husband’s life. In my parents house we weren’t allowed to leave the table until we had finished what was on our plates; in my parents’-in-law place if you didn’t eat what was served that was fine but you didn’t get anything else until you learnt to cook.

    These days I have to remember that (1) just because someone has decided that a certain amount is a good serving portion, doesn’t mean I have to eat it all; (2) if I serve myself and end up realising I have too much I don’t have to eat it all simply because it is on my plate; and (3) I’m not obliged to “help” my husband finish his dinner to avoid “wasting food”. Fortunately my genetics have saved me from being overweight.

    Adele – don’t you think that you’ll have inflicted a time-waste on your host? They’ll spend how long? trying to find the owner to return it. Unless you explain to them early on that you don’t want it and if you “forget” it to not return it to you.

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