De-cluttering isn’t just for closets and inboxes

De-cluttering isn’t just for closets and inboxes

Today’s guest post is courtesy Elizabeth Cottrell, a “Connection Curator” who can be found at For more on Elizabeth and for information about connecting with her, please see her bio below. 

Spiritual life gets cluttered too

On my best days, I feel clear about my life, confident that I’m leaning into my purpose and secure that I have opened myself to Spirit’s guidance. Hope runs high and possibilities seem endless. Ahhhh, just thinking about it fills me with joy.

But then there are other days…

On those days, my prayer time is frenetic, and my mind bounces all over the place. I’m sure I must seem like a squirming puppy on God’s lap, cute and lovable perhaps, but unwilling to settle down and enjoy a peaceful and meaningful interaction.

I’ve learned an important lesson: this unsettled feeling is one sign I might need some spring cleaning to get rid of spiritual clutter.

Spiritual de-cluttering is clearing out as many distractions as possible to create the sacred space in which we can meet and connect with the divine power in our lives.

It makes perfect sense: if a clean desk contributes to increased productivity in business life, a clean spirit can do the same in spiritual life.

Watch for the signs

Besides the challenge of achieving mental calm during prayer time, there are other signs it might be time to step back, take stock, identify distractions or obstacles, and consider what might need to be swept out of your life.

  • Emotional fragility: When I break out in tears (or want to) without any easily identifiable cause, I know I’m either tired or overcommitted.
  • Unusual anxiety: Anxiety is a normal part of life, but when it escalates with no obvious reason, there’s usually something else going on.
  • Relegating God to a To Do list: Most of us hit the floor running in the morning. I start my day with quiet time, but far too often, I realize I was in “get it done” mode and didn’t seriously engage in meditation or prayer.
  • Restlessness: “Clutter is postponed decisions.” (Barbara Hemphill, organizational expert). If I’m honest with myself, my restlessness may stem from grappling with choices that stir me up until I’ve made a decision.

Take action 

Spiritual de-cluttering must be intentional and, like physical de-cluttering, it has to be repeated from time to time. These tips have helped me

  • Get up earlier, before the day brings too many distractions.
  • Take a walk. Breathe in the natural beauty all around and breathe out your frustrations and worries.
  • Finish what you start and beware of procrastination—it causes stress.
  • Honestly identify worries and hard feelings. Dump them in an imaginary trash can, close the lid down tightly, and resist the urge to take it off.
  • Think about the emotional triggers in your life. Acknowledging them is a step towards diminishing their power over you.
  • Ask yourself if you can change any of the circumstances causing stress or angst.
  • Notice the connection between your inner feelings and your outer surroundings. Would some physical de-cluttering of your home or office help? I’ve written about this: “Find yourself when you remove the clutter.
  • Ask yourself if you are over-committed. I often find delegating or resigning from something can make a huge difference to my inner calm.
  • Are you getting enough sleep? I know I suggested getting up earlier, but perhaps your schedule could include a nap or an earlier bedtime.
  • Are you allowing yourself some down time before you go to bed? If I work at my computer right up until bedtime, I rarely sleep as well.
  • Are you worried about forgetting to do something important? Keep a To Do list or get in the habit of doing a “brain dump” at the end of each day. This enables you to go to sleep without worry.

Lay claim to your sacred space 

You’ve worked hard to clear a sacred space. Now step into it.

Make yourself at home.

In your mind’s eye, feel the fresh air caressing your cheek, the warmth of sunshine streaming through the clean window. Listen to the burble of water in the courtyard fountain, the tinkle of wind chimes. Come with an open and grateful heart, ready to receive the gifts of Spirit.

Start now!  

Don’t slog through your life under the weight of unnecessary spiritual clutter. Lighten your load and let the sunshine in! Let me know what helps you most to create sacred space in your life. We’re all on this journey together.


About Elizabeth H. Cottrell

Elizabeth calls herself a “Connection Curator.” A curator is someone who collects and organizes things to present them in ways that bring meaning and value. She is a passionate student of everything related to life’s essential connections. Elizabeth shares her findings at

Elizabeth is also a freelance blogger and writer ( She works with small business owners to increase their visibility both online and offline, because “Before you sell, you have to connect.”

Connect with Elizabeth on TwitterFacebook, and Google+.

20 Comments on “De-cluttering isn’t just for closets and inboxes

  1. Congratulations on the guest post, Elizabeth, and well said. While I’m not spiritual in nature, I find that life itself could often use decluttering… and I do so to prevent that stress and frustration you mentioned.

    I declutter activities I no longer enjoy – if the guitar lessons are becoming a chore, it’s a signal it’s time to move on.

    I declutter friends that take more than they give – if they’re making me feel guilty or only using me to fill up their holes when they’re bored but never available when I’d like company, out they go!

    I declutter habits that are holding me back – if I haven’t been interested in the past 50 Groupon offers, it’s time to unsubscribe.

    It feels great to get my space back and fill it with better activities I enjoy more!

    • Ah James, my revered writing teacher, what a privilege to have you visit and comment! Thank you for these honest and insightful words. If we were all more honest about our feelings and our need for boundaries, everyone would be better off.

      You’ve hit on something that most people won’t admit: sometimes we need to declutter friends. It’s hard sometimes, to cut a needy person loose, but I believe it can often be the most loving thing to do for them AND for you.

      I’ve just finished THE GIFTS OF IMPERFECTION by Dr. Brenee Brown – amazing book that makes a good case for the theory that we can only be as loving to others as we are to ourselves. That’s a mind-bender.

  2. Love it. Great piece Elizabeth! Esp love this line: “Don’t slog through your life under the weight of unnecessary spiritual clutter. Lighten your load and let the sunshine in!” So true. I create my sacred space by respecting my own artistic needs. I reserve time aside for drawing or painting. As soon as I start, I can feel the distractions falling away. It’s a fantastic space to be in. I emerge a much better person each time – that is enough to keep me coming back for more. 🙂

    • Xin, my Damn Fine Words classmate, thank you for visiting and commenting. It has been clear from your interaction in our class that you already tend to your sacred space. That’s why you’re so giving to others. I can only imagine how wonderful you are in your business of helping clients get unstuck in their business and their life.

  3. I know exactly what you mean when you say your mind is a squirming puppy. Nice tips to relieve that cluttered feeling.

  4. This really came at just the right time, Elizabeth and Cyndi. I realize I have so much cluttering my inbox (and my spiritual space). I need to quit a group, I need to unfollow some useless blogs (even if they are the top 100, they are not doing me any good), get rid of some cluttery-type people. I need more spiritual space. I need positive relationships, not needy, toxic relationships. Elizabeth, you are a gem. Thanks for sharing Elizabeth with us, Cyndi!

    • I feel as though I should be saying “Do as I say, not as I do!” I am working on all these things myself (physical AND spiritual) — I definitely have a way to go in decluttering my inbox. Information overload is a real killer.

      Awareness is the first huge step in breaking free of those toxic relationships. Sounds like you’re well on your way, Karen.

  5. Great post Elizabeth! I’ve been grappling with the physical clutter in my life and never gave thought to the spiritual one.

    “Clutter is postponed decisions.” (Barbara Hemphill, organizational expert). <– This hit a nerve with me. I tend to postpone decision. I never realized postponing them would be adding to stress and clutter in my life.

    Karen – I'm so with you about decluttering online. There are loads of newsletters and blogs I need to unsubscribe from. I spent half my time going through them than actually working.

  6. Samar, thank you for these great comments. As a serious student of all things related to Connection, I am amazed how interconnected the various parts of our life are. When I set up my blog,, I created separate categories for Connect with Self, Connect with Others, Connect with God, and Connect with Nature. Lo and behold, I find the connectedness between these connections is remarkable.

    Yes, I too was hit between the eyes with Barbara Hemphill’s quotation. As I look back on my life, I realized that periods of indecision often coincide with periods of restlessness and stress.

  7. Great post. It is about paying attention, isn’t it? Your simple and insightful points are well timed for me. Thanks for this and thank you Cyndi for choosing such a quality guest. Namaste’

    • Thank you for your nice comments, Kim.

      I think you’ve hit the nail on the head when you say it’s all about paying attention. Most of us are good at paying attention to others, but we forget it’s important to pay attention to ourselves too.

  8. Elizabeth, that quote hit me as well! I easily fall prey to dithering over decisions, and I never connected it to clutter before — but of course all of the “what ifs” can’t help but jam up the works!

    And you’re SO right about the sleep thing. It seems so obvious, almost to the point of oversimplicity, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone for days or weeks wondering what the heck’s wrong only to finally realize it’s because I haven’t been getting enough sleep.

    I’m taking a lot from this post — thanks so much for pointing out the connections!

    • Hi, Lynn – you’re great to visit me here and comment!

      That quote about decisions was thought provoking for me too. It shouldn’t have been, because my father always used to say that he felt a person’s most unhappiest times were when they were either being indecisive or when they had to wait on information before they could act (the results of a biopsy, for instance).

      The lesson about sleep has been huge for me. Recognizing the signs, I can save myself a lot of pain and mental anguish with a good nap! I was pleased to get this confirmed by Dr. Brene Brown in her wonderful book THE GIFTS OF IMPERFECTION. She warns that we’ve got to stop “pushing through” when we’re exhausted. Good advice.

  9. Hi Elizabeth

    Lovely to read this inspiring post. My psyche( self, soul and spirit) often needs decluttering. Just have to do it!

    all the best Carole

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