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About Cecilia

I am a Life & Clutter Coach and IST Practitioner. I LOVE helping writers, creatives and entrepreneurs just like YOU, make their homes and lives into supportive containers for their creative AND personal lives.  

Cecilia's sharp, crystalline insight has kept me on track in my creative life, my business life, and my emotional life for the past six years: she's a triple threat!

 - Sarah Selecky, author of Giller Prize nominated This Cake is for the Party

Tuesday
Jan312012

Podcast! Radio show!

Here are two interviews I did this fall for your listening pleasure!

Mandyland Radio with Mandy Richardson

Family Matters Radio in Guelph with Wendy McDonnell 

Monday
Jan302012

Other People's Clutter, Oh My!

Ask and you shall receive.  Last week I asked you, my lovely readers, for questions and I got a good one from Sarah in Toronto.  It's about OTHER PEOPLE'S STUFF and more specifically, what to do when people you love have clutter. 

Happy year of the dragon, Cecilia! LOVE to see your newsletter in my inbox again. You are SO good at it! Sheesh.  I have a question. I write this from the Buffalo airport, on my way to visit my mom... who I am not staying with, because her clutter is so upsetting to me. 

 
So: Any advice for people on how to deal with their loved ones' clutter? Is there anything I can do or say (to her, or to myself) to help?  I am afraid of what will happen as my mother gets older... ack.
 
LOVE,
Sarah

Dear Sarah,
Thank you for your questions about your Mom's clutter.  Great topic!  Dealing with other people's anything is challenging but clutter is especially difficult, because it's all on the surface.  You can't pretend that it's not there, because it is, right there, staring you in the face.  

It's tricky trying to help our loved ones' let go of their stuff.  The main issue is that we're often attached to them getting rid of their clutter, and unfortunately whenever anyone in the clutter clearing process is attached (whether it's to the clutter itself, or to somebody else letting go of it) it makes it much stickier all around.  You might even say it gets emotionally cluttered.

The first thing you can do is ask some questions of yourself: 
  • Why does my mother's clutter bother me so much?  Does it remind me of my own clutter?
  • Does it say something about her?  Does it say something about me?
  • Does it remind me of a pattern growing up? 
  • Why is it so important to me that she let go?
Then you'll want to ask yourself some questions about her:
  • Has Mom expressed an interested in letting go of her clutter or frustration about her clutter? 
  • Has she asked for help?   
If your Mom has expressed some frustration about her clutter or interest in letting go, GREAT, that means you're halfway there.  There is a big difference between someone who acknowledges that their clutter is an issue and someone who thinks that everything is "just fine!". 

One of the best things that you can do for her, and for yourself, is to see if you can gain some understanding around why the clutter is there.  This is helpful for both of you, because one of most important ingredients in the clutter clearing process is compassion.  You could ask her if she has a sense of what's behind the clutter, what it's sitting on, what she's getting out of it etc...? 

I find that understanding why something is happening can be very helpful.  There is already so much guilt and shame around clutter and the last thing we need is somebody reminding us how we've failed.  However if our clutter is met with compassion and understanding, suddenly it's so much easier to let go.  You're not saying that I'm bad for having clutter, you're saying that you understand and that you want to help me let go to make space for wonderful things to come into my life.  Can you see how different that feels?

In order to be able to help her, you need to get yourself to a place that is as neutral as possible.  It can't matter to you whether or not she throws out mildewed newspaper clippings.  If it does, it becomes about her letting go to please you and not about her letting go to empower herself.  This why it's often WAY easier to have a non-judgmental outsider (such as myself) come in to help spouses, children or parents let go.  It doesn't matter to me whether or not your mom gets rid of her 20 year old collection of TV guides, but to you it means so much more...

I understand your fears around your mother growing older and clutter is a very real concern for people who have aging parents.  All I can say is that the sooner you can open up the lines of communication around clutter, the better.  Let her know that you're here to help whenever she's ready.

Bottom line:
  • Have compassion for the part of your mom (and yourself!) that finds it difficult to let go.
  • Support the part of her (and you!) that wants to move forward. 
  • Offer to help if you think you can be neutral enough to be supportive and if not offer to help find somebody who can.
  • Ask questions, there's power in understanding.
Good luck Sarah and let me know how it goes and thank you again for your juicy questions!
ox
Cecilia
~~~~~~~~~
Other people's clutter is a BIG topic.  I could probably facilitate an entire weekend workshop on other people's stuff!  Please keep the questions coming, I really want my newsletter/blog to be as interactive as possible.  Also, feel free to send this along to a friend, or you mom.  You never know, it just might help... 

Take care,
Cecilia Moorcroft

Tuesday
Jan242012

Beautiful Honest Blog Post

I want to bring your attention to a lovlely and very honest blog post by Mandy Richardson.  I did a supersonic clutter coaching session with her back in the fall and was very touched to read her account of our work together.  She was dealing with a doozy of a category in her basement and she got through it all in 5 days just by dealing with it one item at a time.

Tuesday
Jan242012

Categorical Clutter - When it helps and when it hurts

Basements are fascinating bastions of clutter, so many things end up down there because we just don't know what to do with them.  They're too old, too ugly, too boring, too guilt inducing, too small, too big, too confusing or too emotionally charged to have in the spaces we use every day. 

What's great about basements, when it comes to clearing clutter, is that it's often very easy to see categories of stuff.  (This is true for most storage areas of your home so if you don't have a basement, look in your closets.)  For example:  Video Cassettes!  Audio Cassettes!  Vinyl!  8-tracks!  Reel to Reel!
  Sorry I got carried off on a wave of old technology, but that is just the sort of thing that you'll find "down there". 

All of the above are clear categories that can significantly simplify clearing clutter.  For example you can categorically say "I don't keep Video Cassettes!  Why?  Because, A - I no longer own a VCR and B, even if I did would I watch wobbly episodes of David Letterman from 1992?"  Wow, you've just made your life 17 swillion times easier!  (If you're not sure how many a swillion is, it's a lot.)  Instead of having to contemplate each and every Video Cassette you run across all you have to do is check your list of items that are categorically clutter and you're good to throw. 

Here are some things that make for good categorical clutter:

  • Clothes that are too big
  • Clothes that are too small
  • Socks or underwear with holes in them
  • Magazines more than 3 months old
  • National Geographic
  • Old media or ways to experience old media (tape player, VCR, tapes, video cassettes etc...)
  • Equipment connected to old sports of activities you no longer participate in
  • Etc...etc...etc...


Here are some things that do not make for good categorical clutter:

  • Items that belong to a relative who has passed away
  • Anything sentimental or emotionally charged


When we look at emotionally charged clutter categorically, it becomes almost impossible to deal with.  Trying to sort through items you've inherited from a parent who has passed away is hard enough without feeling like you have to make a decision on the whole lot.  It is imperative that you start dealing with these items individually.  You may find categories once you get started that will make things easier, just remember, "Mom's video cassettes" is a category but "Mom's treasures" is not. 

Have fun playing with categories and let me know how it goes.

Monday
Sep122011

Clearing Clutter - One Corner at a Time

When people find out that I’m a Clutter Coach, they often assume that I live in a minimalist heaven, with nothing more than a straw mat to lie on, a buckwheat pillow to rest my head upon, a simple cushion to sit on and one bowl to eat out of (with my bare hands of course).  Perhaps there’s one small decoration, such as a single orchid, rising like a ballerina out of its mossy bed.  I don’t mean to shatter any illusions, but this is not my reality and if you want to follow a clutter-free life, don’t worry, it doesn’t have to be yours either. 

 

Clearing clutter is not about having nothing. Living clutter free is about surrounding yourself with things that you love and bringing a level of consciousness to the sleepy corners of your home and life.  I invite you to do a little exercise right now.  Close your eyes and mentally take a tour of your house or apartment.  Imagine you are walking through every room, looking in every closet and visiting every dark corner.  As you do this, are there areas that feel more present than others?  Which areas feel forgotten, cluttered or blank?  You can even do this exercise by walking through your space. You’ll notice the parts of your home that feel good, that feel warm, that feel like you and the parts that you gloss over, that leave you feeling tired or are forgotten as soon as you look away.  It’s almost as if there’s a mental whiteout when it comes to certain closets and corners in your home. 

 

It’s these blank, cluttered and sleepy areas that you really want to focus on when you engage the process of clearing clutter.  How can you bring a sense of YOU to the quiet corners of your home?  The first step, of course, is to clear your clutter.  Now listen very carefully, it’s important that you start this process with a small space, not your whole house.  Your perfectionist gremlin will try to convince you that it’s not worth starting if you can’t do it all (perfectly, right now), but I assure you it’s well worth starting small.  In fact, for most of us, it’s the only way it will happen.  I recommend choosing a specific area on which to work.  For example, I recently decided to just focus on the corner where my bedside table lives, which consists of one small surface, two small drawers and a floor space that’s 3 feet by 3 feet. 

 

When clearing clutter, the three most important questions to ask yourself are:

 

  1. Do I love it?
  2. Do I use it?
  3. How does it make me feel?

 

Once your chosen area is clear of clutter, it’s time to show it a little love.  There’s something quite magical that can happen when you really take the time to clean a space that is usually forgotten.  First of all, get your trusty vacuum cleaner and get rid of the dust bunnies and dead flies.  Vacuuming is not just a chore when you really bring yourself along for the ride. Instead of blanking out, grumbling or thinking about what you’re going to do this weekend, see if you can really be present as you vacuum.  Before you start, close your eyes and take a few slow, deep breaths.  Feel your heart and feel your belly.  As you vacuum, imagine you’re sucking up all the sleepy, stale energy along with the toenail clippings and dog hair.  The vacuum cleaner is not just for floors: you can also use it to vacuum your bed, the curtains, the walls and pets.  (OK, maybe just some pets, vacuuming your pet mouse or baby hedgehog is not recommended.)  If you’ve never tried it before, it’s easier to start with just one small corner rather than doing the whole house.  As beautiful as it is, it’s often difficult to stay present for extended periods of time.

 

After you’ve vacuumed, it’s time to bust out the bucket and rag.  Note that I said rag, not mop.  Although it’s possible to presence a space while mopping, it’s much more powerful if you get down on your knees and tackle it with your hands.  Fill your bucket with warm water.  If the corner you’re working on is especially dirty, you can add a small amount of natural cleanser to the water, but, if not, just plain water is fine.  If you do use cleanser be sure to rinse it with plain water when you’re done.  Whereas the vacuuming was to clear out old sticky energy, cleaning the space with water is a way of really bringing a loving sense of self to your space.  As you wipe the floor/wall/bookcase, feel your heart and love your space.  Do it slowly and deliberately, really paying attention to the nooks and crannies, loving every floorboard and every book.

 

Now that your space is clean, it’s time to spice it up. But, before you do, there’s one more exercise for you to try.  As you’ll remember, clearing your clutter is not about living in an empty space.  However, you might like to try leaving the space clear and clean for a little while, just to see how it feels.  Does it make you feel uncomfortable?  Do you feel the impulse to dump something, anything there, just so it doesn’t feel empty?  As you sit with the space, rather than follow the instinct to either fill it up right away or become unconscious to the feelings it brings up, ask yourself what would feel good there.  There’s a real opportunity to consciously decide what will live here and what will make the space feel most like you.

 

When you put items back in the space, once again ask yourself how they make you feel.  You can consciously place items that not only make you feel warm and alive, but also items that represent the things that you want to cultivate in your life.  Perhaps you would really enjoy spending more time in nature.  Why not place something in your corner that reminds of the feeling you get when you’re standing in the middle of a forest?  Your space can become a touchstone for the life you want to live, so have fun with it.  And remember, you don’t have to do it all at once, just start one corner at a time.

 

If you would like to learn more about how to clear clutter and truly make your house a home, I invite you to attend a very special workshop that I will be facilitating on Sunday, October 16th at Queen Street Yoga in Kitchener.  It’s called Home is Where the Heart Is and, for more information, you can visit queenstreetyoga.com and go to the workshops page. 

This article was originally written for the Healing Path Centre newsletter.  To download the issue, visit their website here: http://healingpathcentre.com/resources-newsletter-articles.php