Decluttering & Creativity

Dr. Purushothaman
October 13, 2013

Intuitively the link between decluttering and creativity makes sense doesn't it? Creativity thrives in the land of new ideas and open thinking, while clutter tends to be characterised by clinging on to old ideas, attitudes, habits and possessions. In order to free yourself up to be fabulously creative, you often need to be prepared to let go of the clutter first. Inspiration is unlikely to emerge unless you've created a space for it.

Clutter generally builds up quietly and imperceptibly over time. The reason for this is that not all clutter starts out its existence as clutter. If you think about the clutter in your life at the moment, you can probably recognise that much of it was originally useful and meaningful. It's the passing of time and the moving on to different phases of your life that convert many of your once-wonderful ideas, items and relationships into life clutter.

You'll probably find that, strangely enough, some of your old clutter consists of items and ideas that were once your creative playground. Many of yesterday's creative sparks evolve into today's clutter. It doesn't mean that they weren't creative at the time or that they had no worth, simply that time has passed and they are no longer current. I like to imagine them as the creative stepping stones that have brought me to where I am now - I couldn't have got here without them, but their value is now in the past and by clinging on to them, I prevent myself from moving forwards.

That's why decluttering has to be a way of life, a state of mind and an ongoing activity. Particularly during the times when you want to produce creative output.

There's an important distinction to be made between clutter and creative messiness, though. A reader of my newsletter wrote to me about her decluttering routine: "I am an artist and always clean my entire studio before beginning a new series of paintings. Sometimes this might take two days! I put everything in the correct place, vacuum, wash windows, rearrange the feng shui, etc. When I am finished, I bless the space and then proceed to totally mess it up with all my creative materials and energy!!!"

The space you declutter may be a physical or a mental one - the important thing is that it's clear, and that's what allows it to be a creative start point. It liberates you to get out all your coloured pencils, all your bright ideas, all your interesting words... to throw them in, mix them around and to make a gloriously creative mess. Then comes that amazing flow experience of being totally absorbed as, from the mess of creative potential, a sense of focus gradually emerges.

Most times, for me, I don't think the focus would come unless I allowed myself the creative messiness first.

In this context, then, clutter is the stuff that blocks you from having the clear space in which to get creatively messy.

It may be environmental clutter - physical things gathering dust and taking up your creative space. That's generally the most obvious kind of clutter to spot and to do something about.

But it may be mental or emotional clutter. For example, the internal voice that says you should be getting on with something more important, or the fear of producing creative output that isn't perfect the first time. These thought patterns and emotions are cluttered too.

To embrace decluttering as a way of life and turn it to your creative advantage, there are three key skills to develop:

= Recognising clutter before it even enters your life and stopping it at the source

= Acknowledging which of your previously useful thoughts, attitudes and items have now turned into clutter

= Being prepared to thank the clutter for its earlier usefulness, then let it go

What life clutter would you like to thank for its usefulness, before letting it go and freeing yourself up for new creative ideas and output?

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