A little over ten years ago when I was a newly minted stay-at-home mom with the world's hungriest and most determined baby, I read a book that changed my life. It was a life raft for me and it changed my perspective on how I was living day to day. Maybe you've heard of it: Living a Beautiful Life: 500 Ways to Add Elegance, Order, Beauty and Joy to Every Day of Your Life by the prolific and sophisticated lifestyle author Alexandra Stoddard.
In some ways, it was kind of funny that I loved it so much because on the surface, Ms. Stoddard's advice to buy the finest you can afford and to pay attention to the minute detail of daily life was sort of laughable for me. I was living in a Lilliputian, let's say, "shabby chic" house with the tiniest of budgets. My attention to detail rarely went beyond whether or not I had remembered to brush my teeth that day. It was All Baby, All the Time. I was not in a place to buy 800-thread-count sheets or use a fountain pen to write my grocery list. I was in survival mode.
But that book seeped in to my consciousness and helped form the person I am today.
As Ms. Stoddard suggested, I slowly started creating routines and rituals for my daily life. I became more mindful of my purchases and gave more consideration to how I was treating myself and my family. That gave me the framework to keep growing.
I started paying attention to upgrading my belongings, one by one, and I stopped buying cheap things simply for the thrill of buying something new. Clutter left my life, one bag at a time. Life starting looking and feeling more beautiful and joyful each day.
Admittedly, I have always been a pretty organized person but it wasn't until I had kids that I really had to up my game. And this wasn't some 1950s housewife revival either, rather it was becoming clearer to me that how I lived my daily life had a big impact on how successful and happy I felt my life was in general. And the more I paid attention to the details, the lovelier life became for me.
Fast forward more than a decade and I live those principles and I teach them to my clients. These ideas can seem superficial, but I assure you, they have the deepest roots. What we pay attention to grows and blossoms. Life is happening each day so instead of whizzing through it, waiting for the "good stuff" (the relationship, the car, the vacation, the job) to appear, why not elevate the way we live each day instead?
So the lesson here is this: if you want a beautiful life, go ahead and cultivate one. Start by letting go of anything that doesn't light you up and make you feel happy.
Decluttering, even 15 minutes a day, makes a massive difference in the energy of a room. Clutter has heavy, sticky energy that acts like a magnet for more clutter. Haven't you noticed that when you drop a few things on a flat surface that the next time you turn around there's a pile of stuff? Nothing happy and beautiful about that, right?
And really, all those piles around the house are just deferred decisions.
Those "I'll do that later" piles.
I'll do it later is an invitation for clutter, overwhelm and chaos. It's hard to feel happy and free when you have piles of indecisions weighing you down.
So begin feeling successful at home by doing these three things:
1. Look at the things in your home that are unnecessarily hard. Like getting dressed in the morning when you have clothes everywhere and you can't find what you need. By removing the excess stuff that you really never wear, it suddenly becomes a pleasure to get dressed in the morning instead of a frantic and frustrating experience.
2. Declutter your space a little or a lot, just start making decisions and taking action. Rethink the space itself, the furniture and then the smaller stuff. Does it make you happy? Does it light you up? Do you have a negative association with it? If you start getting overwhelmed, ask for help from an objective friend or hire a professional organizer to help you. It's incredibly motivating to work with someone else and the fresh perspective is wonderful. Don't beat yourself up for where you are today. We all have areas in life that are more overwhelming than others. Nobody is perfect. Be kind to yourself and just begin.
3. Use the do it now principle. Avoid deferred decisions like the plague. If it will take you less than two minutes, save yourself the headache later by dealing with it now. Be kind to your future self.
Even though it might feel fruitless, give it a try. Like all things in life, it takes persistence and time to create new habits. Little by little, you will start feeling a lightness in your life that wasn't there before. Removing clutter and dealing with life's little messes start to open up a space in your life that was stagnant and stuck before. The best part is that you can start changing your life right now.