“The physical clutter in your living and working spaces is impacting your energy; the calm AF approach to decluttering is an act of self love.”
Calm AF Decluttering Series: Physical Clutter
Hello, Gorgeous Soul.
Let’s do a little refresher on WHY we are talking about decluttering in a podcast teaching people how to calm the fuck down.
Let’s remember that Calm AF isn’t a feeling state, it’s an energy.
It’s a regulated state of being. Calm AF is parasympathetic AF…it’s a gorgeous nervous system that is not overreacting or staying in an over reactionary state.
And in order to get to and stay in that calm af energy, we have to be tending to ALL the things that influence our energy: the calm AF system: the mind, the body, and the bubble.
The bubble being the energetic space AROUND the mind and the body. So the people around you, their words, their thoughts, their moods. The things you are listening to, the words you are reading, the sounds you are consuming AND the things that are surrounding you.
And all those things that come into and onto your energetic bubble are themselves energy and energy is, to put it super simply, either making you feel good, feel nothing, or feel like shit.
Everything that comes into your energetic space, into your bubble will lie somewhere on the spectrum between supporting you or draining you.
ALL of it.
Whether you are paying attention to it or not, it is all impacting your energy.
Like background noise. You might not pay attention to background noise, but it’s still NOISE.
THIS is what’s happening in your energy bubble.
SO much background noise that you aren’t paying attention to, whether it’s because it’s just not important OR because you’re avoiding paying attention to it.
I don’t care HOW much you work on your thoughts or set boundaries, if a whole lot of draining energy is stuck to your bubble, I mean….that doesn’t really feel calm af, does it?
In order to become calm AF, we need to be tending to the mind, the body AND the bubble and the BUBBLE is so very often gunked up with shit that pulls us down.
So we’re gonna start HERE in the declutter series…in the bubble, specifically tending to your STUFF.
Because this is the place most people think of when we think about clutter.
The emphasis has ALWAYS been about the STUFF, getting RID of extraneous stuff, having LESS stuff.
And while that likely IS what will happen as you move through your space using the calm af decluttering method because a calm AF life DOES have space and room to breathe, the entire approach is going to be different.
Think about how it NORMALLY goes when you’re ready to declutter.
OMG this house is a freaking disaster. There’s stuff EVERYWHERE. Why can’t I freaking get my shit together? Why can’t these people get THEIR shit together? Why is everything always on ME? Why is this so hard for me? How did I end up with all this stuff AGAIN?
And so you start taking action from THAT energy. This desperate “there’s something wrong with me” feeling. This urgent “omg I can’t do anything else until this entire house is decluttered” frantic feeling.
You declare “THIS WEEKEND I’m going to get this house decluttered and KEEP it that way”
And here’s why that NEVER EVER works.
It’s the same reason why punishing yourself to try and LOVE yourself never works.
The calm AF approach to decluttering is an act of self love.
It’s a thing you do FOR yourself because of how it makes you feel, because you deserve to feel SUPPORTED, because the state of your house has NOTHING to do with your worthiness…but it sure feels good to have a nice space to relax in.
If you want to make lasting, lifelong changes in your life, punishing yourself to get there is NOT gonna KEEP you there.
So the calm af approach to decluttering is made up of 3 parts:
If you follow this approach you WILL curate spaces that are SUPPORTIVE of the life you want to live and how you want that life to feel.
Calm AF Life – my lifetime program – is online now! Tap here to join.
So let’s dive in.
I am going to say that, in my opinion, the PREWORK is by far the most important step AND the one that is almost NEVER done.
The pre-work might take a few hours or more to complete.
And while that DOES mean your clutter project might have to be delayed a day or two and I KNOW you just wanna get to the good part, I promise PROMISE you as a person who can say this is true…it will save you THOUSANDS of hours in your life.
I spent several days diving into the pre-work more than a decade ago and I have NEVER re-accumulated clutter again.
At least not in the way that I did before. My house is far from a clutter free, sterile place, but there’s just NOT much clutter. For more than 10 years.
So let’s dive into the pre-work step.
In this step, you’re simply going to get really curious.
What are your stories about clutter? What makes something clutter versus not clutter? What was your family’s story about clutter? Did you have a super cluttered house and made it your life’s mission to never be that again? Did you live in a house where no clutter was ever allowed?
You want to also be looking for the thoughts you have about YOUR relationship with clutter? What do you think makes it hard? What is the way you’ve approached decluttering in the past? Because listen, no offense but if you recollect every single time, your approach isn’t working and while you don’t have to beat yourself up about it, you MIGHT want to look at that as an example of what DOESN’T work.
I used to attack it all at once. Like one torturous weekend…send the kids to grandmas for the weekend, everyone leave me alone and don’t interrupt me.
Seems like it would’ve worked but I ALWAYS ended up getting less done than I wanted and then feeling bad about myself for it. Like I wasted all that time.
I would get stuck on where to start.
I would often get stuck on what to do with things. Like do I throw this away? Do I donate it? Do I keep it?
After hours of doing the work, I would get overwhelmed and just quit the project. Like I would get so far and then lose steam OR I wouldn’t fully finish it Like everything would be in donation bags and then the bags would stay there forever.
So all of this pre-work really helped me get clear on how to do the next step: the actual WORK.
Now, the pre-work is going to help YOU decide what’s going to work best for YOU. There’s NO one way. Please remember this. I remember watching everyone go bananas for Marie Kondo and thinking “Man, I would’ve been obsessed with this before” but because of the pre-work I knew that approach would NOT work for me.
In fact, it doesn’t work for most people, if I can be so bold. Short term? Sure. But without the pre-work it’s coming right back ALONG with all the thoughts about how you failed once again.
Also, did you hear she just recently came out and said “Ope my bad. I had a couple of kids and maybe this approach isn’t as perfect as it seemed.”
Beware of prescriptive THIS IS HOW YOU DO IT approaches, whether it’s decluttering, parenting, marriage, goal setting.
YOU are an individual and what works for ONE person works for them.
Anyway, once you know what NOT to do from the pre-work, you can come up with a PLAN.
A very very VERY simple plan.
For the most part, the calm AF approach encourages slow and steady progress. Not the weekend attack UNLESS that is what is going to work best for you.
Like anything else we do, though, the slow and steady approach takes us out of that instant gratification quick win energy and into a sustainable “I can do this forever” energy.
YOu want to make this as EASY as possible, with as many decisions made ahead of time as possible.
So the decisions you make before you dive in:
What ONE spot get my focus today?
How will I sort the things? So you’re mostly going to be keeping, donating, tossing.
Get a box for donations. Get a garbage bag for tossing. Have a container for things you’ll keep. ALSO? I suggest a container for things that you’re not sure of.
ALSO have a plan for the donation box. I was a person who would have 30 donation bags in the back of my car for months. So I started scheduling a donation pickup place that would come straight to my house and I scheduled them to come every week or two. Not only did that keep me moving through my stuff but also completed the project.
So, where will you focus? How will I sort my things AND the third decision to make ahead of time….
And how long will I focus there?
I highly suggest you decide between 5, 10, or 15 minutes.
If you have a longer stretch OK, but if you are a person that tends to get overwhelmed by your decluttering attempts, I PROMISE you these short bursts are going to save you in the long term.
I always share my basement story. Honest to GOd my basement was filled floor to ceiling with CLUTTER mixed in with NOT clutter. I spent 10 minutes a day down there and decluttered it within months.
Which I KNOW you want to do it faster, but remember….this is the way so you never re-accumulate again.
I also suggest that if you have a LOT of big scary decluttering projects that you START with a simple and easy spot. Every day that you have a little win, you are building your confidence that you are capable of decluttering without getting stuck.
So those are the decisions you make ahead of time. Where and how long.
Then the actual process of deciding on what to do with everything.
You get curious about it.
You put on your curiosity glasses with the lenses being your Future Self.
Everything you handle, is asking yourself a set of questions so you know what to do.
Some of the things you will handle you won’t need to stop and ask…like I just recently did my makeup drawer and there were like 3 empty containers. Obviously I don’t have to stop and think “Do I love this? DO I use this?” I just toss it in the garbage.
But if you pick something up and you’re not sure if it’s clutter, if you should keep it, if you should toss it, or donate it or what, you just ask yourself more questions.
So I always start with the BIG 3 questions….this is straight from Amanda Gibby Peters, who’s a Feng shui expert, energy master, founder of Simple Shui
She says to ask yourself these 3 questions:
Do I love it?
Do I use it?
Would I buy it again?
Every time you get stuck or feel a little uncertain, ask yourself those three questions and see what the answer is. If your answer to any or all of them is no…it’s clutter to be removed.
And here’s what you need to know about clutter.
Clutter does NOT feel like love. Clutter feels heavy. Clutter is the result of procrastination, fear, uncertainty.
So back to the Calm AF energy bubble….THAT is what is sticking to your bubble when you have a lot of clutter in your space. Clutter carries a story that you don’t trust yourself to make decisions or that you’re afraid of letting things go or whatever your story is.
I think it’s important to note here that another reason the pre-work is so important is because you will have a better idea about what you think clutter is. I had a client who had a BIN full of lipstick. Like a decent sized bin, maybe hundreds of tubes. And she was like torturing herself around this because she KNEW it was clutter, but she loved it so much. It reminded her of time spent with her aunt who kind of saved her from her mom and treated her so kindly and they would go to the drugstore and buy makeup. And I was like, well then, that’s not clutter. Not to you. TO someone else, maybe? But YOU get to decide.
So you ask yourself those questions
Also, here are some more questions I often ask:
What does my Future Self think of this?
How does this make me FEEL?
Does the thoughts I have around this support the life I want or drain me?
So as you’re going through your stuff, and you get stuck, THIS is why you have the container for things you’re not sure about.
IF you’re TORN on whether or not to keep all your 7th grade science notebooks, put them aside and on another day your WHERE SHOULD I DECLUTTER TODAY answer can be I’ll spend 5 minutes on the not sure box.
So that’s the actual work.
That’s the ongoing daily habit you will take on, 5-15 minutes a day depending on how much time you have.
And here’s the AFTER step.
Because you are cleaning your energy bubble daily you will NATURALLY start being more discerning about what comes INTO your space. Once you have decluttered spots, and you decluttered them from a place of LOVE, not punishment, those spaces will carry a different energetic vibe.
They will feel GOOD, supportive, LOVING.
Feelings…Nothing More Than Feelings…
When I look back at the transformations I’ve achieved in my life, I know they happened because I was willing to feel something instead of run away.
My relationship with money changed when I stopped being afraid to feel fear.
My relationship with my body changed when I stopped being afraid to feel imperfect.
My neurodiverse marriage change when I stopped being afraid of feeling judged.
My whole life changed when I stopped being afraid of the feeling I would feel if people around me were feeling their own non-preferred feelings.
This is the key. This is what I teach my clients. But when I tell someone that, “Hey, the key to changing your life? You’re gonna have to feel like shit a whole bunch,” most people are like, “Yeah, no thanks. I already feel like shit a whole bunch, Kristen, that’s what I’m trying to fix.”
To which I say, “Exactly! That’s just it.”
The reason you’re feeling like shit is because you are spending all of your life trying not to feel negative, even though life is a constant cycle of positive and negative. Ups and downs, struggle and flow. Things going well and things not going well, then going well, then not going well, and on and on and on.
There is No Peace Without Emotional Ownership and Resilience.
When you don’t have emotional resilience, you spend time worrying, anxious, or unsettled about both the ups and the downs. When shit is hitting the fan, you’re freaking out because it’s a flood of non-preferred feelings. And when things are working in your favor, you’re freaking out because it’s only a matter of time before the shit hits the fan again.
There is no peace without emotional ownership and resilience.
There is no being present without emotional ownership and resilience.
There is no true inner strength without emotional ownership and resilience.
And Now, the How.
How do you start shifting from fearing your feelings to feeling empowered and resilient in your feelings?
First, just give yourself a little grace. Maybe you don’t have much in the way of emotional ownership and resilience, but definitely it is not your fault. As kids, and even as adults, we simply aren’t taught to own our emotions. Oddly, however — and against all reason — we are taught that we are responsible for other people’s emotions. Mom is happy when I do this. Dad is mad when I do that. Teacher seems pleased when I do this. Friends reject me when I do that.
Seriously, what…the fuck?? It’s insanity. We all learn, society as a whole, to pass our feelings off as someone else’s responsibility while claiming rights to everyone else’s feelings. Why?? We don’t feel ownership over the appearance of a neighbor’s lawn or the winter storage options for a friend’s sailboat. We don’t hack into our boss’s social media accounts to adjust her privacy and contact settings to our liking, or run around the grocery store parking lot, rounding up all the stray carts and performing light maintenance on the ones with squeaky tires. Wouldn’t even think of doing it, because we aren’t insane. We know where the line is, and we have no desire to cross it. That is, until it comes to feelings. So cut yourself some slack and give yourself some time. This is not an overnight transformation. I’ve been heavily focused on emotional ownership and resilience for years and I still struggle pretty regularly. But, just like with weightlifting or learning a new language, the gains come from the periods of struggle. So keep going, but do so mindfully.
Second, in order to not be afraid of feelings, you’ve got to learn how to calm your nervous system down. This is how we get out of the reactionary action and into calm AF intentional action. And the great news, here, is that this is a physiological process — which means you can actually go out and buy some gadgets that will show you quantifiable results of the practice.
There are a lot of different ways to calm your nervous system and I find that the best approach really depends on each person and how the energy is showing up in your body. In other words, whether your nervous system defaults to fighting, fleeing, freezing, or fixing.
Ask yourself, What do I need right now? Do I need to bring this big energy down? Do I need stillness? Do I need deep breaths? Do I need to ground my energy by walking outside barefoot or getting on the yoga mat? Do I need to bring this energy out? Do I need to release energy? Do I need to shake my body, stomp my feet, dance like a wild woman, run, scream, punch a bag or a pillow?
This is where emotional intelligence meets physical embodiment; you need to include your body in the effort to regulate your nervous system. And you need to be able to calm your nervous system so that you can access your feelings and let them fulfill their purpose. Most often, that purpose is being the GPS that informs your behavioral path.
After all, the purpose of feelings isn’t to torture you or to make you feel good. The purpose of feelings is to teach you, to guide you in your decisions and behaviors.
Put another way, there is no greater guide in your life right now than your own internal GPS system: your feelings.
So, now that you’ve calmed that nervous system (see #2 above), you are ready to allow and acquaint yourself with your feelings. Not just some of them, not just the greatest hits or the shiniest apples, but all of them. The good, the bad and the ugly.
“The purpose of feelings isn’t to torture you or to make you feel good. The purpose of feelings is to teach you, to guide you in your decisions and behaviors. There is no greater guide in your life right now than your own internal GPS system: your feelings.”
“If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.” – Yogi Berra
Now, we’re getting into the real shit. If this were a scary movie, we’ve pulled up to the abandoned grain mill, it’s after midnight, it’s raining, and we’re about to squeeze in through a broken window. That’s what it’s like to start saying “yes” to feelings.
My advice at this stage? Have a plan.
You don’t squeeze through a broken window at a haunted mill on a rainy night without a plan.
Plans and processes make complicated things simple. Anytime we’re challenged to do something kinda scary, the brain likes to know there’s some sort of plan to refer to. Like, when people go skydiving, before they step out of the plane, every cell in their body related to self-preservation screams, “DON’T DO IT DUMMY YOU’RE GOING TO DIE.” The reason you step out of that plane is because you have a plan. You packed a parachute, you’ve been taught how to jump safely, you know what to do if the parachute fails. And so even though your body is like fffffuck that shit, you can move through it and jump.
Now, for many of us, jumping out of a plane sounds far more appealing than processing a crappy emotion. As a result, I help my clients to develop their own plans that, as their coach, I know will work for them. Often, my clients use four-step, emotional access framework that I’ve created called The Feelings Room. In this framework, my clients learn first to set intentions for how they will feel. This immediately puts them in a position of power and intentionality, rather than one of victimhood and reactivity. From there, I spend hours upon hours coaching them on how to handle any feeling that shows up, so they can own it rather than be owned by it. It’s a process and you need a guide to help you navigate it.
If you have a coach or similar professional whom you’re working with, ask them to help you develop a plan or a method for processing non-preferred feelings. And if you don’t have a life coach, this is reason number umpty-ump why you should get one.
Anyway, the other reason you need a plan is because once you start doing the scary thing of relating to your emotions on your terms, you’ll need a way to tell what’s bullshit and what’s real. Because your brain, I hate to break it to you, has convinced you of a humongous lie: it has convinced you that your feelings equate to real danger. It has convinced you that welcoming your feelings is welcoming an existential threat. And how do we react to dangerous threats? By fighting, fleeing, numbing out, or fixing.
But here is the truth:
Anxiety does not constitute an emergency. Grief does not constitute an emergency. Jonesing for a cigarette or a bowl of ice cream does not constitute an actual emergency. Guilt does not constitute an actual emergency.
So, as I teach my group clients in great depth, first you calm your nervous system and then you work your plan.
Emotional Ownership and Resilience: Two Things That Change Everything
As you practice emotional ownership, you begin to see that it affects almost every aspect of your emotional intelligence. You don’t get good at setting and following through on boundaries, for example, if you can’t handle the feeling of guilt. You don’t stop energy managing, walking on eggshells, if you aren’t willing to feel anxiety. You don’t stop overeating/overdrinking/over-indulging if you doggedly avoid that feeling of agitation.
Nothing changes in your life — and I mean, nothing — not your relationships, not your body, not your career, not your house, not your level of happiness — if you aren’t willing to feel uncomfortable AF — for at least a little, temporary, totally nonpermanent while.
As one of my clients asked, after I taught her The Feelings Room,: “Why would I want to do this???”
It was a legit question, and there’s an equally legit answer. Because here’s what happens when you build emotional resilience and you know you are completely capable of feeling any feeling that shows up:
First, you don’t need to people-please. You don’t need to energy-manage. You know you can handle the feelings when someone around you is upset. Also, bonus: you learn that the best thing for the people around you is to let them build their own emotional resilience.
If you are always fixing shit for people, they will always be dependent on you or others, and things will never get easier for anyone involved.
Second, speaking of easier, sometimes people like to tell me it’s just easier to stay the energy manager. They have this false story that their life is just easier as they continue to shoulder the burden of someone else’s feelings.
It’s fucking not.
Take it from someone who was an energy manager and is now very much not one.
The amount of time and energy I spent in my life thinking about who I needed to be and what I needed to say, and what I needed to do in order to keep everyone else in my life OK…it was always at the expense of me being OK.
If I wanted to feel peace and joy and connection and abundance in my life I needed to get okay with feeling guilt and shame and fear and scarcity, too. I had to learn how to allow those feelings to be in my body…how to sit in the feeling of guilt without having to fix it in order to break the patterns that were keeping my life small unsatisfying.
I had to learn to think differently about feelings, learn that none of my feelings were bad. I had to learn that non-preferred feelings like fear and anxiety were not necessarily indicators that I was doing something wrong.
Now I know that when I can experience my feelings in a calm AF mindset instead of running away or resisting, I will use them as guides, the ultimate GPS, to navigate through whatever it is that’s causing them.
Which leads me to the third reason why someone would want to build resilience through emotional intelligence. Clarity and certainty live inside the feelings. When you intentionally go into the feeling, you discover things. “I’m just feeling guilt because of that old story that my role in my life is to be the manager of everyone else’s energy and moods. I’m feeling guilty because I’m thinking that I could prevent that person from being upset by fixing it for them. But that story isn’t true. That’s not my job. I can just allow the guilt, free of reaction.”
“Going into the feelings room” is only scary at first. I’m not gonna lie, fun is not the word I would use to describe it. But it’s always, always, always productive.
A Great Place to Start
As you begin to look at how you can build resilience and strengthen emotional ownership through emotional intelligence, I want you to ask yourself this question: What is the feeling that is keeping you from what you want?
For example, if you want to leave a toxic relationship, what is the feeling you’re gonna have to get comfortable feeling?
If you want to stop binge eating chocolate chips in the pantry, what is the feeling you’re going to have to sit with instead of trying to cover up? Is it boredom? Is it resentment? Is it shame?
If you want to feel more alive while you’re alive, what needs to change? And what feeling rooms are you gonna have to walk right into and learn to handle?
Once you have confidence that you can handle any feelings, even non-preferred ones…there’s nothing you can’t create.
We’re spending a ton of time on this in my Calm AF class for energy managers and people pleasers. Why? Because this is the #1 skill you need to learn in order to take your power back, get your sparkle back.
I highly suggest that if you struggle with energy managing and people pleasing, you’ll want to be in this class. If you had a toxic childhood and have some of these controlling behaviors as a result, then my love, this is for you. If you are in a neurodiverse relationship (or think you might be), this is for you. If you had to be the adult when you were a child, this is for you.
There is a community element to this class, in that you will be with other people who are unlearning their energy-managing, people-pleasing ways But it’s not the intimate feel of my Rewired AF retreat groups. I encourage you to come to the calls live, but you will get the replays if you can’t make it. I will teach you how to get the most out of the program whether you are showing up and getting coaching every chance you get or taking a more DIY approach.
It starts the week of May 23rd. Call times are TBD right now. As people join, we are looking for the time/day that works best for the majority of the group. Plan on 16 weeks of classes. I will be bringing in teachers and experts and past clients and people that I know will support your journey in rehabbing your energy-manager ways.
It’s going to be full and robust but I will teach you how to not be overwhelmed by it all, so that this isn’t just something you try for 16 weeks and move onto the next thing. This is something that gives you your life and energy back.
Click here to get all the rest of the details and the link to join. If you do it today, by the end of the day on May 4th, you’ll get a present in the mail! A swag bag with Calm AF merch and other goodies I feel like adding.
Join me, Energy Managers. This is like getting your doctorate in emotional resilience.
Go out there and feel all your feels, Gorgeous Soul.
It’s the key to feeling peace and presence and manifesting the life you want.
Love you so much.
– AND –
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And if you want to dig deeper and work with a coach who’s GOT YOU, contact me to set up a free consult or to apply for my exclusive coaching program, Calm AF Life. I love working with people who are hard on themselves, the over-thinkers, people pleasers, perfectionists, and overachievers. Any of this ringing your bell? I’d love to hear from you!