How decluttering can reveal lost passions
By Kelly Nolan and Morgan Baker
Decluttering is all the rage lately. It all seemed to begin with the Marie Kondo’s New York Times best seller, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing.” Even if you haven’t read it, you’re probably familiar with its catch-phrase which can be heard every time someone pauses for more than 3 seconds while holding anything above a trash can: “Does it bring me joy?”
The promise of decluttering spans a wide range of benefits including everything from simply being more efficient to actually
“He died in 2013,” says Paula, as if that was the end of the story not the beginning. The ‘he’ Paula is referring to was Keyonte, an Appaloosa horse, who had been her steadfast companion for over 15 years. “I was lost at first. I didn’t know what to do. So I just started to declutter.” Unlike a lot of people who declutter in order to achieve something, Paula, 64, (who has asked us not to use her last name) didn’t really know why she was doing it. She got rid of everything. Her furniture, her townhome, her job and anything that wouldn’t fit into her car. In the process, she found something she didn’t ever realize was missing: Her passion for art.
Without a job or home to tie her down, Paula rediscovered her passion.
Without a job or home to tie her down, Paula rediscovered her passion. An art enthusiast, Paula had lost her motivation for art as life had become more stressful and everyday tasks got in the way of creating her masterpieces. But without a job or home to tie her down, Paula rediscovered her passion. Refreshed and free, Paula signed up for classes in drawing and pottery. Those classes granted her the opportunity to meet new people, who recommended a new art form: stained glass creation. Now anchor-free, Paula found that nothing but herself could stop her, and eventually moved from Colorado to Rhode Island for art classes.
Paula met people who own stained glass studios all over the world. “I’ve been in contact with places all over. Italy, Spain, England… I’m hoping at least one will offer me an apprenticeship!” she exclaims. “I’d be happy to go… it’s not like anything here is tying me down!”
This idea that decluttering can help unlock forgotten or undiscovered passions is especially important for people who may be at a crossroad in their life and are looking for something to inspire them into action. According to Barbara Reich of Resourceful Consulting in New York city, decluttering is directly tied to finding your passion. She points out that there are a number of studies, including one from UCLA’s Center on Everyday Lives of Families, that show clutter decreases both creativity and productivity by 30 percent. “Your brain has to work harder to get over the fatigue it has when there is clutter around,” says Reich.
If you fall into the clutter category, think about how many times you have to clear out your desk just to get to work on it, or clean the kitchen counter so you can prepare a meal.
Reich says everyone goes through different stages, but she sees a lot of people going through another nesting stage when they are empty nesters by decluttering, and that’s when they find room for their passions either for the first time or once again. Now that their space is cleaned up, there’s nothing holding them down.
She says it’s exciting to see her clients finally get back to their lives, to not be held back by anything. There’s now time for your juices to flow and your creativity to run free.
What she didn’t expect was that decluttering would reveal a passion she didn’t even remember she had.
According to researchers, clutter and worrying about it can add to a person’s, especially a woman’s cortisol level, creating more stress in her life. (Apparently, clutter doesn’t bother men as much.) So whether you want to find your passion or just destress your life, the time has come to empty those bins one way or the other. What she didn’t expect was that decluttering would reveal a passion she didn’t even remember she had.
Dara Brzostozvski, 55, of Roslyn NY used Reich’s services when she realized her house needed some help when she was getting ready to move and she looked around and realized that everyday family living had created a cluttered home.
What she didn’t expect was that, like Paula, decluttering would reveal a passion she didn’t even remember she had — organization and decluttering. The result was not just an epiphany, but the start of a new business which she calls, A Place For Everything. “It’s my passion. I get it. It’s such a rewarding feeling for me,” she says. As a child, she used to love organizing her toys, but that tendency died when she became a busy wife and mom of two. But once her own house was organized she says, she loved the sense of calm that came with her new order.
With her two kids out of the house, she had thought of different possibilities for jobs and even taken some classes, but when she discovered she was good at organizing and she enjoyed it, she just knew. “I love it,” she says. “It’s such a rewarding feeling to see how happy my clients are…It makes me happy. That’s how I knew it was for me.”
What Mendelson found by dehoarding wasn’t tangible. “I didn’t find something physical,” she says, “it was more emotional.”
One method for decluttering is to get on board with the idea of Swedish death cleaning and minimalism. Both concepts share the goal of decluttering before you die so that children or relatives will not be forced to clean a hoard once you pass. Neither process however, focuses on the aftermath and life-changing results when decluttering with years of life left. What Mendelson found by dehoarding wasn’t tangible. “I didn’t find something physical,” she says, “it was more emotional.”
Life coach and owner of passiontocareer.com, Shell Mendelson, reached an “aha” moment when she decided to move from Texas to California. Highly motivated, Shell decided the best way to declutter was to get rid of everything. Unlike Paula, what Mendelson found by dehoarding wasn’t tangible. “I didn’t find something physical,” she says, “it was more emotional.” Mendelson found peace and a new sense of excitement, both of which followed her to California. Completely decluttered, the opportunities in California appeared to be limitless.
Mendelson began to rent out her Texas home, providing her with more income, and brainstorming ideas for what she could do with her new life. Along with a physical sense of declutter, Mendelson also found her mind was less muddled. No longer frazzled, she noticed that she had more time and energy for clients, which eventually led her to create a new business entirely. Although she doesn’t regret what she used to do, she’d rather talk about her new business which is as a life coach for people with ADD helping them find careers and their passions.
Eventually, Mendelson decided to move back to Texas, but she carried with her the tips she had learned when clearing out her first home. To begin, she was excited to move back to be close to family. Once this reason was established, she created a deadline for herself, which was incredibly helpful for her own ADHD. Mendelson then hired some help so she could have someone to do the organizing she was dreading.
Even if you’re not ready to up and move states, there are benefits to decluttering in place. Erica Buist, author of This Party’s Dead and the article “Why Tidying Up Could Change Your Life”, states that she began to declutter once she decided to move. Her father-in-law’s sudden passing also sparked Buist’s inspiration to declutter.
Buist explains, “When I wrote the article, my father-in-law had recently passed away, suddenly and unexpectedly. Clearing his house was a nightmare.” While cleaning her own flat, Buist noticed that she was rediscovering many forgotten books, some she hadn’t read yet and others she was hoping to reread. Not only that, but clearing out allowed her a moment to look through photographs she had since forgotten. Buist found looking at the memories to be so enjoyable, she plans to do it again just because. Looking at the past allowed Erica to understand that she didn’t need a bunch of stuff to live fully in the future—the memories outweighed the need for things.
Whether it be big or small, decluttering provides the mind and home with space that can be filled by new passions and memories. Reich says it’s exciting to see clients finally getting to live their lives; they’re not being held back. What’s under your clutter?
About the Writer
Kelly Nolan, 22, was born in Colorado Springs, CO, where she lived until she turned 21. All her life, she followed a passion of computers and mathematics, until she decided to study abroad and found a new love: writing. After moving to Boston to complete her undergraduate degree, she realized the importance of following one’s dreams. She loves comedy, books, travel, and anything with chocolate in it. She hopes one day to write for comedy television or a travel magazine.
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