Pushing Past the Clutter and Moving Forward

August 20, 2014


As a follow-up to last week’s post re: the other ways I’m decluttering my life and mind, I need to tell you how this whole process of “embracing minimalism” has evolved over the past two months…

When I started this journey in July, I will admit, I was 100% focused on the physical objects in my life. I spent a few weeks decluttering every last inch of my home and removing a total of 43% of my belongings from it. Nearly one month later, I am happy (and somewhat surprised) to say I haven’t missed a single item that I removed. But beyond that – and beyond the few changes I’ve made to my electronics/online life – what I’m most surprised by is how removing a little (ok, a lot of) clutter ended up helping me find some focus in other areas of my life.

It all started with just the slightest shift in my thought processes. For some reason, I finally started tackling all the small tasks I used to procrastinate over. For example, rather than letting dishes pile up in the sink like I used to, I started rinsing them and putting them in the dishwasher right away. Then, instead of avoiding the dishwasher full of clean dishes, and slowly pulling things out to use as I needed them, I put everything away once they were dry.

Eventually, this end-to-procrastination took over everything, from the two three dry cycles my clothes used to need when I ignored that they were done, to the random objects I left in my car for weeks because “my hands were full” the first time I should’ve brought them in. Those habits probably sound like they should be easy to change, but it took me finally paying attention to how they made me feel (annoyed) to make the switch. I don’t want to be annoyed, so why do I do things that annoy me!? (I love these aha! moments.)

Even though I still have another 50 or so items to remove from my home, in order to reach my goal, I feel like that’ll come with time (mostly, as I read books and donate them to the library). For now, I want to completely shift my focus from trying to remove any physical clutter from my life, to paying more and more attention to how things make me feel and what areas I want to grow in. To move forward in this journey towards living a more meaningful life, I want to:

  1. Practice yoga/meditate: I’m not aiming to do handstands, or really any poses that require a crazy amount of strength, but I have slowly been incorporating a few yoga poses into my daily routine that either stretch/strengthen the areas where I was injured in the accident (pigeon pose is my saviour) or just help me feel a little more grounded. Some nights, I literally just do child’s pose and shavasana before bed; both help me relax, so I can fall asleep a little easier. And meditating is still foreign to me, but so far I can say: there’s a reason people have been doing it for thousands of years.
  2. Nurture my relationships: One thing I’ve been paying attention to a lot lately is how I feel after I interact with people – and it’s not always good. Over dinner this week, Daisy and I started talking about what our greatest strengths were, and she told me that mine is how well I connect with people. I consider that both a compliment and a badge of honour. But it also makes me want to re-evaluate some of my relationships, so I nurture the ones I care most about and put less energy into ones that drain me.
  3. Pursue my passion/contribute more: There’s a project I dreamt up more than two years ago, which I almost immediately put on the back burner and later convinced myself I could never make come to life. It includes everything I’m passionate about + my background in Communications + all my career goals, and would be the most natural extension of this blog. It’s also huge, and overwhelmingly so. But it would allow me to give back in the best way I know how. It’s taken a handful of conversations and a lot of support, but I finally decided to share the idea with the one person I knew I wanted to work on it with (Daisy), and her reaction was better than I could’ve imagined. We’ll have more to share in a couple months, but for now I can say that there’s no word to describe how fired up I feel about this.

To help jumpstart all of this, I’ve slowly started to add a few new things to my daily routine, including starting each day by expressing gratitude to at least one person (you may have seen a few tweets that resemble this) and writing in my journal. Sometimes I can’t muster up more than a few sentences, but it feels good to reflect on how I’m feeling at any given moment or just write down more ideas.

I still can’t explain how simply decluttering my life of some physical belongings stirred up so many positive thoughts/changes in me… but I’m sure we’ll have the answer, by the time my 30th birthday rolls around.

Do I sound like a crazy person yet? ;)

Flickr: ualucky

  • Travis @Debtchronicles August 20, 2014 at 5:12 am

    I like that you start your day by expressing gratitude to someone. I like to end my day by thinking of something I am thankful for from what happened during the day. Happy people are not thankful…..thankful people are happy. :)

    • Cait Flanders August 21, 2014 at 7:11 am

      I love that quote. Thanks for sharing it, friend!

  • J. Money August 20, 2014 at 5:43 am

    Love it, friend! You’re doing so good!!! :)

    • Cait Flanders August 21, 2014 at 7:11 am

      Thanks, friend!

  • Kate@GoodnightDebt August 20, 2014 at 5:55 am

    Its so cool to see all the benefits you are experiencing from your de-clutter. Yoga and mindfulness are two of my favorites. I often get caught up in the day and all the crap going on that I forget to take a moment to appreciate what I have. Thanks for the reminder!

    and no! You don’t sound crazy!

    • Cait Flanders August 22, 2014 at 8:14 am

      Phew! Happy I don’t sound crazy, hehe. I feel like you need to practice being mindful at first, but eventually it just becomes part of the way you think. I’m almost there. :)

  • Kassandra @ More Than Just Money August 20, 2014 at 6:33 am

    No you’re not crazy as I experienced a huge shift in my mindset once I started to live with less. Living consciously is something that permeates every aspect of your life, a little at a time. Your project in the making sounds exciting :)

    • Cait Flanders August 22, 2014 at 8:15 am

      Thanks, Kassandra! I can’t wait to share more details, as we map it out.

  • EJ August 20, 2014 at 7:12 am

    This is awesome and contains a lot of the stuff I am working on in my life and later implement. I am currently on the decluttering of the physical attributes. 30 is in 2 months for me so I am hoping to have my version of the 3 listed above started.

    • Cait Flanders August 22, 2014 at 8:15 am

      I hope you do too, EJ!

  • Nadia August 20, 2014 at 8:45 am

    No you’re not crazy! We don’t think about it but when we make a change in one area of our lives it tends to impact others.

    I talked to my boss a couple of weeks ago (before she went on vacation) about getting put on the company’s benefits plan like she said to after I’d been there three months. We had that discussion and she mentioned that I’d probably get a small raise. Fast forwards to yesterday when I saw her for the first time since said vacation. Not only do I have my papers for my benefits but I’m getting a $1 an hour raise! I wasn’t expecting that much and it made me super excited because HELLO more money for debt repayment!

    • Cait Flanders August 22, 2014 at 8:20 am

      That’s amazing, Nadia! I’m sometimes scared to ask for what I want, but like to remind myself that: if you don’t ask, the answer is always no. Congrats :)

  • debs (@debtdebs) August 20, 2014 at 10:03 am

    Very encouraging as I am embarking on this journey. I can envision it, now I just need to find the time to do it. I know people say just do one thing a day etc. But that’s not how I work. I agree though, once you get to an environment you like and appreciate, its much easier to keep up the good habits you have mentioned.

    • Cait Flanders August 22, 2014 at 8:21 am

      I had to seriously push through the declutter/purge process – could not have done that “one day at a time”. Maybe that’ll help push you forward? Good luck, Debs!

  • Rebecca @ Stapler Confessions August 20, 2014 at 11:13 am

    No, you don’t sound crazy at all! Getting rid of physical clutter feels so good because it helps clear up mental clutter too. Well done :)

    • Cait Flanders August 22, 2014 at 8:21 am

      Thanks, Rebecca!

  • Kimberrleigh August 20, 2014 at 11:33 am

    I’ve been trying to declutter my life ever since I got inspired by the Tiny House movement, but this post inspires me even more. I’m totally guilty of the sink full of dishes, leaving the clean ones in the dishwasher and pulling them out as needed. I’ve also forgotten about laundry in the washer and dryer more times than an “adult” should.

    I definitely can feel the stress level rising when things aren’t in order – even just a suitcase out of place makes me anxious because I know I should put it away but I don’t.. and the cycle of procrastination continues!

    • Cait Flanders August 22, 2014 at 8:24 am

      Oh yea, I can relate to the suitcase one too. I’m happy this post inspired you, Kimberrleigh!

  • Cari August 20, 2014 at 11:42 am

    No, you are not sounding crazy.

    You and I are on very similar journey’s, though I’m a “bit” older than you…almost ten years! I wish I’d made these changes earlier but better late then never right? ;-)

    You’re inspiring, keep it up!

    • Cait Flanders August 22, 2014 at 8:25 am

      Definitely better late than never. Thanks, Cari!

  • Liz August 20, 2014 at 1:46 pm

    Hi Cait,

    This is my first time leaving a comment, but I’ve been following your blog and getting so much inspiration from it for over a year. I’ve been loving this series on decluttering your life, and I’m so grateful that you’ve shared your thoughts on the wonderful and unexpected ripple effect that it’s had.

    Keep up the great work :)

    • Cait Flanders August 22, 2014 at 8:26 am

      Thanks, Liz! It’s nice to hear what readers enjoy / can relate to. :)

  • Steve August 20, 2014 at 3:38 pm

    I’m excited to know what the project is, being a fellow Vancouverite and all!

    • Cait Flanders August 22, 2014 at 8:28 am

      And we’re excited to share more details about it! Soon soon…

  • B. August 20, 2014 at 4:33 pm

    I think it’s awesome that you’re seeing benefits above and beyond the ‘getting rid of stuff’ stage! Keep up the good work!

    • Cait Flanders August 22, 2014 at 8:28 am

      Thanks, B!

  • Michelle August 20, 2014 at 5:16 pm

    No, you don’t sound crazy! I read a wonderful personal coaching book this year. In the book it described the energy drains that affect your daily life. One of the things you’re supposed to do is to write a list and work through the things draining your energy. I have been doing that and it is AMAZING how good I feel and I’ve had a huge increase in my energy. It was draining dealing some of my daily/weekly/monthly routines that allowed bad habits or not helpful habits to fester and grow. I wish I’d discovered that book a couple of years ago.

    • Dayle August 21, 2014 at 3:54 am

      What’s the name of the book, Michelle?

    • Cait Flanders August 22, 2014 at 8:28 am

      Yes, which book is it? :)

  • Daisy August 20, 2014 at 9:05 pm

    The pigeon pose is the bomb diggity. I have this weird thing that happens with my glute when I am walking for an extended period of time on hard, flat surfaces (ie in the airport, sidewalks when travelling) where it starts to seize up and the pigeon is the ONLY thing that helps.

    I’m so guilty of leaving crap in the car for sometimes weeks at a time, and just leaving stuff out to clutter the house and I don’t think I’ve always been like this. Maybe I need to refocus myself like you clearly have.

    I LOVE our little get togethers. They are the best!

    • Cait Flanders August 22, 2014 at 8:29 am

      THE BEST!

  • Dayle August 21, 2014 at 7:50 am

    I was talking to my mom last night and asked her what I should do with all the knick knack type things I have from my childhood… not the right person to ask, because she is a pack rat and saves SO.MUCH.STUFF. because of its sentimental value. I sent her a pic of a shelf of things I will likely get rid of and one thing caught her eye (a piggy bank) and she said she’d kill me if I got rid of it, as my now-deceased Grandma had bought it for me as a baby gift. So I will keep that… but in general, what if you don’t want to keep things, how do you get over the guilt of that? I have a lot of things that fit into this category. My mom even gave me crap for giving a massive bag of books to Half Price Books (I got $10) rather than give them to family/cousins/friends/etc. I just wanted to get rid of the stuff. I was also explaining to her in detail what I have and how I don’t want most of it, and I just got a ton of push back. Interested to hear others’ thoughts on this.

    And Cait, you truly are an inspiration, not at all crazy, I am loving following your journey. Looking forward to seeing you next week!

    • Cait Flanders August 22, 2014 at 8:39 am

      Hmm… that’s a tough question to answer, because I’m not overly sentimental and neither are my parents. I know my parents have 1 box for each of us, with a little school work, notes we passed back and forth with friends that they found (hilarious!), a few favourite items, etc. but that’s about it.

      Is it possible to just not share your decluttering process with your mom? I didn’t go into the nitty gritty of what I tossed, with my parents. There was nothing to hide, but there was also no point telling them exactly what I was getting rid of either.

      Also, the next time she suggests that you should just give your things away to other family members, tell her that you don’t want to add more clutter to anyone else’s life! Most people don’t accept things they actually *need* – they just end up storing it.

      I don’t know if that helps at all. I had little pangs of guilt here and there, but then reminded myself that I was never going to use the item, it served no purpose and would forever live in a box. There’s no point keeping too many things like that.

      • Dayle August 24, 2014 at 3:19 am

        Thanks for the ideas :)

  • Kim August 21, 2014 at 6:33 pm

    I bookmarked your blog and read it from time to time. I have been trying to declutter, again, but I feel like I will never get to where I want to be with it, or my finances. I am married with a 12 year old son and the stuff is all consuming and the lack of money management is depressing. I am going to move this bookmark to the top of my list so I can be inspired by you more often! Thank you – your blog is great!

    • Cait Flanders August 22, 2014 at 8:55 am

      Sorry to hear you don’t feel like you’re getting anywhere with your stuff, Kim. Hopefully you can find some inspiration here and on other blogs.

  • Lisa E. @ Lisa vs. the Loans August 22, 2014 at 10:58 am

    This is amazing. I keep thinking that I need to “one day” get rid of some stuff. I need to make this “one day” happen soon! It makes sense how when you get rid of stuff, you have more time to focus on other things. Less stuff = less stress!

    • Cait Flanders August 25, 2014 at 10:41 pm

      Amen to that!