Getting Rid of Stuff

Ok, so here is the deal: All this cheesy law of attraction stuff actually works—at least when you do it in a non-cheesy way, which I’ve been trying to learn and teach my whole life.

The big thing I’ve been trying to create for the past little while is to purchase a property that borders a national forest where I can live closer to nature and do the kind of coaching I love best. As recently as a year ago, this looked utterly impossible to me and to everyone who knew me well. But I just kept slapping together vision boards and otherwise assuming it would happen, and now it’s happening. Part of me is completely unsurprised, and another part of me keeps gasping, “WTF just happened?”

As part of creating a simpler way of living, I have found myself feeling a massive urge to de-clutter, to get rid of all this stuff that seems to arrive in my house of its own free will. I’ve noticed that many of my Team mates are feeling the same urge. So I recently began using an awesome coaching tool for de-cluttering. I encourage you to use it.

As I teach my coaches, our living spaces are basically three-dimensional portraits of our inner lives. You can’t de-clutter your living space without de-cluttering your inner life and vice versa. This is why it can be easy to throw away the clutter in a friend’s house, but feel overwhelminging to do the same in your home.

So we will start this exercise with something called a Pray Rain Journal. I got the idea from Master Coach Jeannette Maw. A Pray Rain Journal is basically a written vision board in the form of a small journal. Get yourself a very small empty notebook. Each day, write a page as if you were living your ideal life and are journaling about it. Use present tense and write about all the wonderful things that are happening and the ramifications of every event.

When I began doing this, I found myself encountering resistance—resistance I hadn’t even known was there. I had mental knee-jerk reactions like, “That can’t happen!” or “And then something bad will happen.” As you reread your Pray Rain Journal, make a mental note of any negative blurbs that pop into your mind. This is the clutter you must clear away. I attacked my negative clutter by focusing on a single thought at a time—for example, “That can’t happen.” Then I forced myself to think of 50 reasons why the things I want actually can happen. I knew my resistance was softening when I could read my Pray Rain Journal without any inner constriction or resistance. That’s when I suddenly began de-cluttering my physical space. My house wasn’t a mess to begin with, but clutter had begun creeping into shelves and drawers.

Don’t try to de-clutter everything at once. Choose ONE drawer or ONE shelf or ONE flat surface in your home. Clear everything out or off of it. If you are a natural-born de-clutterer, you’ll find yourself throwing away or donating items you don’t use. If, on the other hand, you are more a natural-born hoarder type, you might feel clutching anxiety when you try to let go of an outmoded object. This reflects an unwillingness to let go of outmoded beliefs as well. As you do the thought work, your anxiety and resistance will ease up.

In the meantime, create what I call a Limbo Carton. Limbo, as you may know, is where some religions believe God puts souls before deciding if they will go to heaven or to hell. Give your Limbo Carton to a loved one who is not afraid to de-clutter. Together, choose a date six months in the future. If you have not asked for anything in the carton during those six months, your loved one will then take everything to the donation center without even mentioning it to you. Nobody ever said you had to do this alone!

All this lightening of stuff feels to me like part of the miracle that brought me my new place to live. An old survival saying is, “The more you know, the less you need.” As your own dreams materialize, I suspect you will come to know that you don’t need much. Just your tribe, your inner guidance, and the evidence that tells you that you really can create a magnificent life.

46 replies
  1. Marcia
    Marcia says:

    It is really funny that I read this today. Yesterday, I started going through all my resources that I keep for myself and my job. I found a book on program development that is over 25 years old. After some review and ambivalence it ended-up in the keep pile. Reading, “when you try to let go of an outmoded object. This reflects an unwillingness to let go of outmoded beliefs as well. As you do the thought work, your anxiety and resistance will ease up,” brought on an ah ha moment.” I will do the work to figure out what outmoded belief is that I am hanging onto. I know it has something to do with my never getting that awesome paying position that I interviewed seven times for – always the same answer from human resources, we are giong in a different direction. lol, maybe time I went in a different direction.

    • Martha L. Chase
      Martha L. Chase says:

      Martha — For years I have used the following method to declutter (in addition to what you have suggested). Whenever I have an area of many things that need to be put away I just use my PICK THREE THINGS – picking random items. Then I go from room to room putting them away. It doesn’t matter if I have already been to that room. I consider it as exercise!!! Then I return to the area and pick three more until everything is put away. It works every time.

    • Marcia
      Marcia says:

      To myself lol. I wrote the above comment two years ago. While reading this artical I thought why haven’t I read this before? Then I got to the end and here is my comment. I am going down to my basement find that manual and toss it into the limbo pile. Being suddenly unemployed writing in a pray rain journal can and will work. I don’t what stopped me from proceeding, nothing in my way now.

  2. Madeline
    Madeline says:

    Amazing that I saw this today, I have been thinking about this all day. The last house my husband + 2 kids lived in was 3200 square feet, where land was cheap and houses were cheap. Now we live where land is expensive and our rental house is 1800 square feet. We’re trying to buy a house, and almost made an offer today on a 1700 square foot house – but didn’t because it was “too small”. All day, I have been asking myself why 1700 square feet is too small for 4 people. I don’t think it is. We just need less stuff.

    • Sarah
      Sarah says:

      I raised my 2 kids with my husband in a 1200 square foot house. When the kids were young I longed for a 3200 square foot house. Now that they are sucessfully grown and have flown away with all their stuff, oh how we love our little house!!

  3. Margaret
    Margaret says:

    Thank you so much for all your wonderful insights. Like Kristin, I keep thinking how great it will be to meet you someday 🙂

  4. Michelle
    Michelle says:

    I have spent the last two and half weeks on a “Shed the Shame Vacation” – thanks for the ‘naming’ Lianne – Coach Extraordinaire – when I was talking with her about what I wanted to do on this vacation, go to yoga, eat right, have lots of time outside, read a few books, rest – and unpack my boxes (having moved) four months ago – and we got to talking about getting rid of clutter – she said that it has been said that the state of my home is likely a reflection of the state of me/my body/my soul…it was startling. Now that I’ve been juicing for almost two weeks, going to a few yoga classes, having had a few long hikes, read 5 books, and have taken 11 carloads full of donations behind me, I finally have a home that is not only tidy and clean, but with everything in a ‘spot’ AND I feel Clean with an oddly interesting sense of Freedom! Thanks for this Great next step Martha – this journally idea is perfect!

  5. Lissa @ lafcustomdesigns
    Lissa @ lafcustomdesigns says:

    I found you through Susannah Conway in her Something for the Weekend post. I just love your de-clutter post here. Just what I’m needing now and been contemplating for years!!

  6. Elaine Gleeson
    Elaine Gleeson says:

    That’s really weird . For the last few weeks I’ve had the urge to clear out and minimalise my life and just stop having so much stuff.

    I feel a need to be mentally unfettered and clear to receive more into my life on a spiritual experience and learning level rather than material . Great Post

    Thanks Martha
    From a fellow anxious ADDer and Coach

  7. Tisha Morris
    Tisha Morris says:

    Great article Martha! I love when the urge to purge comes over me. It feels like a primal urge when it shows up. As I clean out clothes from my closet and drawers, a vibrational shift takes place. It can be such transformational work and it’s right under our nose. Thanks for the reminder!

  8. Lesley
    Lesley says:

    Go Team! I hope you read your own comments, Martha, because I really want you to see some photos of a white impala I saw in the Kruger Park this month. I think you are the one person who would most understand how amazing it was to see such a mythical creature!

  9. M
    M says:

    Thank you for the uplifting thoughts and the idea to change your life! I needed this tonight. I see the hope for the future.

  10. Zoe
    Zoe says:

    Getting Rid of Stuff..
    Awesome advise! And, like the previous readers I too, had been thinking about de-cluttering and getting rid of stuff when I came across this article.

    I love Martha’s advise, always right on! I wish she had more of her books on audio CD format.

    • Ginny
      Ginny says:

      De-cluttering is a wonderful experience. Sometimes I think I pre-clutter simply for having stuff to de-clutter later. There is nothing like the satisfaction of a de-cluttered closet or drawer or….basement…or garage…or email address list.

      • Kelly
        Kelly says:

        OMG….I think I do the same thing Ginny…I didn’t realize I was doing it…but I let my computer space get completely cluttered..and I am a NEAT freak with cans all face forward in my cupboards…I have the same exact hangars for all my closets…I could go on and on…thank you for enlightening me to the fact that I purposely (subconsciously) clutter certain spaces…only to declutter them later;-)

  11. liz
    liz says:

    Dear Martha,
    I’m a mother of an almost 2 yr old with DS and am reading your book, “Expecting Adam” and cannot understand how you can use the “R” word or include it in your vocabulary? You refer to your son as a “R”, worry about him wearing “R” clothes, etc. I am absolutely astounded by this. I’m sure you are aware of how degrading, dehumanizing, hateful and hurtful this word is. Yet, you use it. A lot. I’m always shocked by the ignorance of people who use this word but am even more stunned and sickened by your use of it – a mother of a child with DS.
    My criticism isn’t about being “PC.”. The use of the R word is demeaning. It’s an adjective used in a demeaning way and you use it repeatedly in your book. I just don’t understand this and feel like vomiting every time I read it in your book. Sadly, I feel as though it takes away from your story.


    • Melissa
      Melissa says:

      This word is NOT demeaning unless you are making the choice to take offense. It is an adjective to describe a person’s mental physical or social development.

      • MAUREEN
        MAUREEN says:

        Look at the date “Expecting Adam” was written. This word was perfectly acceptable at the time. We have to read things being aware of when they were written.

  12. Ginny
    Ginny says:

    Martha, I’ve always liked the idea of “random gifts,” but this is my experience: My pal Linda and I decided to drop little gifts and the occasional bit of money. We had great fun finding appropriate things to drop, and sometimes we even wrote little notes saying “If you found this, it is a gift to you.” Well!!! What happened is that people TOOK THE THINGS TO “LOST AND FOUND” departments or, in some cases, we’d find them rain-soaked and sodden exactly where we left them. So we quit doing it. Once we wrapped a little packet of quarters and even THEY were turned in to “lost and found.” Go figure….

  13. Shauna
    Shauna says:

    Martha. I am moving in 7 days from a 3000 sq. foot house to a 1500 sq. foot house. My husband passed away 5 yrs. ago and I am going to set myself up in a little house so that my son does not have to worry about me. My husband said that he would send me signs from heaven and the buyers of the house have the same name as we do. My husband loved his stuff so I am donating all of it to Habitat for Humanity and Big brothers and Big Sisters. I figure that he can”t be mad at me for donating his things to charity. Time for new beliefs and a new life. Thank you for all of your wonderful insights. Love Shauna

  14. Nancy Darling
    Nancy Darling says:

    Hi Martha,
    I love you dearly and I wish your posts were not written in almost invisible ink and 8 point type. To read your posts I have to enlarge the type on my computer or cop and paste into Word. But of course they are SO worth reading and I do this. Please consider black 11 point type. I know it’s not as stylish but…just sayin

  15. Susan
    Susan says:

    Any ideas on how to achieve the decluttering freedom of a single person with full reign to create their space when you live with 3 teenagers and a husband who holds onto everything!! 🙂 We all know what it is like to get teenagers to keep their rooms tidy!

  16. Ursula
    Ursula says:

    Holy Crap. Talk about synchronicity. I just started reading your book last night. (BTW, I am absolutely 1000% sure that I am on The Team.)

    Anyway, I just went to look up your site and came upon this post. And lo and behold, it’s about clearing away all sorts of clutter. And GUESS what I spent this entire past week doing? Getting rid of STUFF.

    Amazeballs. I love you. Can’t wait to read more. And clear more.

    Big hugs,

  17. kristine
    kristine says:

    I love getting up early, lighting the candles and watching the morning come to life. It is quiet, still and uncluttered. The morning holds endless possibility while wrapped in the stillness of last nights sleep and dreams. It is my favorite time of the day. As always, your thoughts and inspirations are such a gift. Thank you dear one.

  18. Leslie
    Leslie says:

    Martha–I LOVE your columns. They are so practical, lyrical, and funny. The turkey entrainment one makes me smile every single day. Right now, I am exactly dealing with this decluttering problem. My dreams are indicating that it’s time. In my dreams, I am somehow always in my grandparent’s home (not a pleasant place to be) and my task is to clean up all the detritus, including, usually, toys and kids’ stuff. The more I clean, the more stuff appears and there’s always an intense deadline like Mom’s in the hospital but I can’t get there until I get through this stuff, and of course I’ve lost my phone. I’ve always lost my phone. So. I’m going to do the Pray Rain Journal. Oh, and I sent the column on how to survive holidays with dysfunctional families to someone in my life who had a doozy of a situation. I’m thinking she’ll love using the bingo game. Thank you so much! –Me here in Montana

  19. Kelly
    Kelly says:

    OMG! I am so doing this!!!! Three boys worth of stuff!!! They took such great care of their things that I have been saving for nieces, nephews and (eventually) grandchildren…Problem is….all of it is keeping me from starting my picture framing business in my filled to the gills garage!

  20. Diana
    Diana says:

    This is a brilliant commentary and so true. In the last 2 months I have sold my home, and 98% of my things to pursue a lifelong dream to travel the world. I love your idea of the limbo carton. We had 3 weeks to leave our condo, but had 3 more weeks with our garage. We separated things into our rental garage that we would keep, and left the stuff in our garage we wanted to sell. I was overwhelmed with what to keep from my old things which were mostly printed photographs and slides from long ago travels and adventures. My strategy was to take it one day at a time, little by little and I found it was easier to release attachments if I let it go for a day or two. My partner and I whittled it down to a Subaru legacy fully loaded with stuff for two people – not bad! We depart the country on the 13th of October. And for believing in the universe: I told my partner that I was departing the country this fall in July, and there was no back up plan as I had the winter previous. We had an offer on our condo within the week.

  21. Zarogina
    Zarogina says:

    This is such a timely article.
    My decluttering process is taking years….. until few days ago I was frustrated by that fact, but I decided to make peace with that fact that what take years to build might take an equal amount of time, not necessarily because I don’t want to let things go, but I seem to be quickly at filling the free space again, so it is a circle or clutter-declutter- buying again- clutter and declutter……
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the subject.

  22. Bronwyn
    Bronwyn says:

    How did you know that on the day you posted this, I’d be moving 13 years worth of stuff out of a house by myself!? For God’s sake – reduce, reduce, reduce, people! This experience has taught me that one’s goal in life should be to die with only 2 suitcases. That alone will be enough to get you through anything you would ever need. Martha, you’re so wise… I only wish I had begun listening to you sooner. Thank you!

  23. Candra
    Candra says:

    While it is great to unclutter or declutter, I am working on not cluttering in the first place. As a lover of Nature I ask myself a few questions when I shop. One is “okay, I like it, but do I NEED it, really?” If the answer is no I pass. The second question is “can I get it used”? This way I’m not paying to have all these unnecessary things made in the first place, most of which pollute the earth. If I can get it used, then I am keeping it from going into landfills as well, and even if I don’t NEED it, I feel okay about it. the third is “who and what am I supporting with my purchase?” Even if it’s new and not necessary, if I’m supporting someone’s wonderful, artsy home business and they are using good materials I splurge on occasion. Just thought i’d share.

  24. Gina
    Gina says:

    I LOVE the idea of the Limbo Carton! I have a family member who finds decluttering very stressful that I'm going to suggest that to. Thanks Martha!

  25. Viv
    Viv says:

    In the midst of inner turmoil over the summer I found myself decluttering like a pro and in the process I found my inner life calming. And as I let the material stuff go I then found it easier to let the other stuff go like my church which was no longer working for me. The only snag is that in making all this room I finally got a teaching job I love teaching and could have done with not giving away all my kids' outgrown phonics and numeracy things! Should have had a limbo box for them! I so agree that out outer space reflects us. I found going through my wardrobe interesting. I hate heels and the smart office look, so why did I have 3 pairs of shiny black heels? Because that's an image I felt I needed to have. Same with the bkack pencil skirt i've not worn in the 4 years since I bought it! Getting rid of the clothes I owned because they were what I felt I should be, rather that who I really am, was liberating. Whenever I feel overwhelmed, unsure or unsettled decluttering is one of the tools I use. Love your idea for a pray rain journal….. found an empty little notebook yesterday. It's a sign!!


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

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