Chattering Mind

Chattering Mind

How to Spiritually Upgrade Your Closet or Basement, Part III

I’ve written two semi-humorous posts on basement and closet de-cluttering in the last week. Some of you took my tone seriously, others knew I was kidding somewhat.

A lot has been written on this subject. And yet, many of our cluttered messes are as vexing as they’ve ever been. Lord, how we all spin our wheels and procrastinate! That’s how I got to thinking about writing some “spiritual satire.” I was thinking, “How can we all have more fun with this dead serious task?”


So now, it’s day three. I hope to actually help you today. For this is the day to see your clutter for what it is!

1. Take a meditation cushion to your messy place. Sit on it and gaze at your things–try not to fret about what you need to do next. You may notice a neglected holiday decoration, a bag of clothes you meant to give away, a chair you wanted to paint, a box with a bizarre mix of letters, recipes, and books you’ll never read.

2. Take a big breath, and fill yourself with love and compassion for all these nutty things, for yourself, for your messy life, for the world and its squabbly people arguing over parking spaces. See your body next to the mess, then see yourself and your mess in an aerial picture from your roof, then from the trees, then from above your neighborhood, pulling focus farther and farther out until you are high above your city now, a city that encompasses many people surrounded by their own troubled closets and basements. From above the earth, you can’t see your mess any longer. Stay there for awhile. Just breathe.


3. Then with the intention of neither making your life perfect, nor ignoring what bothers you about it, stand up and put your hands on the nearest piece of your closet/basement chaos: it could be an old sweater that would look swell with new buttons, or a piece of sporting equipment given to a family member years ago.

4. Decide: Is this bundle of molecules, this bit of matter, nourishing me, or should I release it into another’s loving arms, or to the garbage and the earth?

5. Repeat step four, repeat step four, repeat step four.

There’s much less to laugh about at this point, which is why I thought I’d “fun up” my earlier posts. I find the task of not attaching myself to mislaid, odd belongings exceedingly difficult, so hard in fact, that messy basements and closets have tormented me all of my life. I make my situation even more complex by being a frustrated “junque” dealer, pulling in bits of sweetness and sentiment at flea markets which I then can’t organize. At present, I’ve actually got my chaos limited to a ten-foot-square area of our basement. Everything else in our house is in pretty good shape. But it’s taken about three years of decluttering to get it down to this stage. And the last hours of work seem hardest.


Holding on, feeling shackled by the chattering thoughts that clutter allows, is a spiritual problem–an agony for me–one we all must tackle with a regular decluttering practice. I like websites like, that teach people how to sensibly declutter with a regular habit of clearing out and filing for just a few minutes every day.

The thing is to start, and to stay on it. Let the past go, let some unrealistic hopes vanish with it. You can find the boxes, you can hire helpers, you can tear out magazines photos of closets and basements you like. But until you say, “I can move mountains, I am at peace with needing less, I am entitled to the freedom uncluttered space brings,” only then will you really get steamed, and launch your decluttering practice. Only then will you walk away from the resentment of things not being the way you want them to be. Only then will you step into the daylight unfettered, breathing free.


So today, realize that the scarf you wanted to knit with the yarn you’ve been saving may never come together, and forgive yourself for that. The universe will find a place for the yarn. Say goodbye to that coat you bought that never worked. In passing it on, you’ll find another coat to keep you warm.

Occasionally, you may find in your pile of junk things like these–the note I wrote the dean of undergraduate studies, asking for his permission to drop the Buddhist Thought course I was failing, as well as my oldest son’s cartoon history of Christianity (“Jesue loves me!” says Emperor Constantine.)

And then you’ll be reminded, as I was, why you didn’t burn your whole junky heap! You are careful. You are good to yourself. You know what is of value.

Thanks for listening to all this! Do you have anything to add?

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posted August 28, 2006 at 10:06 pm

This post could not have come at a better time. We are preparing for a yard sale in two weeks and I want to clean out all the clutter and junk in my basement and prepare to live a life that is free from clutter, or as close as I can get. It’s not easy, but it’s necessary. I liked the suggestions. THank you! My closets aren’t so bad, but our basement is awful. I’m ready for it to be peaceful and not draining when i walk down there!>

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Laurie Sue

posted August 29, 2006 at 2:18 pm

So funny … I didn’t even realize you were spoofing … I have been reading and thinking… gee, I hadn’t heard about this in Feng Shui training but wow, Amy’s got some good stuff here! For months I have been feeling the pull to play loud music from my old record albums as I clean the basement!I felt so validated. :-)>

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Jodi Crawford

posted August 29, 2006 at 3:01 pm

Thank you for the clean up suggestions. Please keep them coming. I looked at my closet and thought about the gong,crystal and music–with this encouragement I will do it.>

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posted August 29, 2006 at 4:23 pm

Amy, let’s make this de-clutter post a daily prayer or atleast weekly. Who doesn’t need these kind of loving reminders in our life. I have hanging files in my drawers, smaller more accessible files under my desk. I have files all over and my desk is filled with my daily thoughts and notes in paper form. 3/4 of my ‘stunning outfits’ are hanging in my sister-in-law’s basement and she softly reminds me that I’m never going to wear the size 2 again. It’s just not healthy to be so skinny at my age. We all forget sometimes that when we ‘get rid’ of something old that we are not using, we make room for something new and delicious in our lives!>

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posted August 29, 2006 at 5:35 pm

Again, I thank you for your serio/comic approach. It’s just what my little seriously OCD mind needed. My focus these days seems to be about “lightening up” and letting go with humor. Choosing appropriate music (found a GREAT schlocky Christian tape for my Dad’s books), letting my head connect to my wind chimes (clangety clang as I was painting the outside of my house a rosy pink and lovely green) and taking my family’s old large cowbell and walking around the house clanging it loudly was just plain fun! I also brought out my cedar incense and smudged the corners. The first thing to go? The old, dried petals from the roses that my ex-husband gave me ten years ago–the only time he gave me flowers. Wow! Now that was a purge–and as I spread them on my garden, I did so with a prayer that his new marriage will be fulfilling and joyous for both of them, and a blessing to those around them. I released many old dreams with those petals, and many of the things surrounding that container began to take on new significance. You may have started this process tongue-in-cheek, but I actually think you’re on to something. Keep using your funny bone. It seems to contain great wisdom. Namaste. Laurie>

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posted August 29, 2006 at 7:09 pm

It’s wonderful. I can’t seem to figure out how if I don’t have any time how did I get so much stuff!>

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posted August 29, 2006 at 11:13 pm

thank you for the kick in the ass,head,,,all this stuff,junk, l’ve been holding on to is also cluttering up my mind…it goes NOW !! i’ve had enouf,allways had too much,and the part of thinking i need to keep this or that because i may need or use it is a lie,i am tired of lying to myself,tired of looking at all this junk,let someone esle have it.aloha>

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posted August 30, 2006 at 1:36 am

What a wonderful piece. I lost my father-in-law, husband and both parents in 3 years time. you want to talk clutter,and its not all mine. How do I part with their lives. So much good stuff. What to keep, what to sell, what to donate. Every room in my home is part of all of them. Im trying to get the guts to part with it. Im hoping your articles can help me accomplish that or at least get started. Joke or truth keep them up, a lot of us need help. God bless you.>

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jo linder

posted August 30, 2006 at 7:31 pm

This column no.3 DEFINITELY is going to help a “messy” like me make a dent. I truly hope that it will not be the last column on this subject.Since I look forward to the “angel of the day”…today’s 8/30 angel happens to be Angel of Forgiveness. I’m going to forgive myself for letting my stuff grow into a mountain. I will sort thru and donate, decide to throw out what I didn’t even miss in the past 6 mos. Good luck to everyone., bi jo linda>

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posted September 2, 2006 at 12:12 pm

Great piece, for truly it is a spiritual journey to come to a place of not holding on to things that have passed their usefulhess in our lives. It is very difficult to receive the new if we are bogged down with the old. Even if it is a new thought about where we are and where we want to be. Clutter free! mentally, emotionally and yes physically.>

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posted September 2, 2006 at 1:01 pm

Okay, God’s universe has been tapping and slapping me lately, and this article is the most recent nudge! After the epiphany of realizing I am not in a place I want to be at forty (with the exception of being married to a wonderful guy and having wonderful kids, neither of which I’d ever change), I came to grips with my lack of personal funds and overabundance of material stuff. The “clutter in the corners” has left little space for growth in my life, and it’s time to purge! Thanks to Spirit for leading me to read this article today!>

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posted September 2, 2006 at 4:00 pm

Thank you for showing me a spiritual way to look at all the material things in my space. My husband and I have become increasingly convinced that many things we have in our closets that we hang on to, for sentimental reasons or the fear that we may need them, might best be put to use by someone else who needs them more. Various organizations call us for donations, they pick them up, and every so often we take clothes down from hangers or pack a set of sheets and pillowcases for a United Way agency to provide for others who have less. It makes us feel that we are managing the space we have been given plus providing, not something that’s “ours” but something that was on loan to us to the next user. I appreciate your gentle reminder that things just sitting, piling up with dust, are not in use and thus not doing what they were intended to do.>

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Lady Amazon

posted September 2, 2006 at 4:25 pm

If you are having trouble with parting with a piece or pieces of your Clutter . Ask yourself if this item is an authentic piece of your future self?If it is place it in a spot of appreciation….Just like yourself….. Lady Amazon>

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posted September 2, 2006 at 7:07 pm

Dear Chatteing Mind: Reading the part about asking yourself if a personal item was truly nourishing you…yes or no (then let it gently go if it wasn’t…)helped me to breathe a deep liberating sigh of relief…It is good to know that others have the same difficulty of wanting to honor our past and not forgetting important things and thus having troubles letting things go…and seeing that it is OK to do so. Thanks for my new mantra…REPEAT STEP FOUR! Blessings to you, Kathy>

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posted September 3, 2006 at 1:16 am

I am sitting here on a dreary day in the wake of Ernesto… and almost started the purge of closets but, stopped when I felt the compulsion to carry things up to the attic storage area, I decided today is not the day to do this because if I carry it up there I am only going to be making a big mistake I really need to just get rid of it, but not today. I do not have the will power maybe when the sun returns and I am in a smiley mood I will I know I can I will do this I will just do it !! Declutter and downsize we do not need sooo much. Thanks for number 4 !! Peace Jennifer>

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posted September 3, 2006 at 2:46 am

I am in great need of being able to tackle the clutter that I have held onto for decades. I ask for prayerful guidance and the energy to go to it.>

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Eva Feld

posted September 3, 2006 at 4:21 am

As we Jews are approaching the New Year, glorified by the Day of Atonment this article verbalized perhaps in metaphoric humor the importance of at least annually clean our our spiritual closet that is exactly what the Holydays of Awe are all about.>

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posted September 3, 2006 at 9:06 pm

Its funny, and not funny at the same time, because it is so true. Its the only way to clean up your past for me. Both in a emotional way and practical way. I was married for 24 years, met this guy and fell in love. Broke up because ” my house” is not clean. He does not understand, which made me wonder if he is the one after all. Now I’m trying to clean my house but its so hard, because I miss him so much. Pray for me?>

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posted September 4, 2006 at 7:54 am

I printed this out because I too have things that I will never wear, things still in the original packages, double of things and plus I have 3 kids in a 2 bedroom house. So I definetly need to get rid of clutter before we move to our bigger house. I know there are clothes that need to be given to churches or other organizations. The same with coats, shoes, toys my kids have outgrown, clothes they have outgrown. I think it has to do with one plain laziness on my part because I think I need to get it done in one day and also emotional reasons. But tomorrow, I am going to start. Actually, I will start by printing out this article so I can read my motivation in the morning. P.S. I love this site.>

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posted September 4, 2006 at 10:19 am

I struggle with clutter thanks for writing this article. I join the group willl try to get control of it. I am tired of it controlling me. It could not of come at a better time. I live in a really same house there no room for anything. Thank you>

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posted September 4, 2006 at 8:14 pm

As an extremely busy Whole-istic Well-ness Consultant & Energetic Transformation Specialist, I can’t thank you enough for writing these articles. So often we overlook our immediate environment(s) in tending to our Whole-istic Health & Well Be-ing & your article is a great resource for the “do it yourself-ers” & veterans alike. Packed with great tips, ideas & new thoughts to put into our mix/life & ultimately EMPOWER ourselves! Empowerment. It’s only a closet or basement away! *HB* Have you had your Whole-istic Well-ness check-up lately?>

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posted July 25, 2011 at 9:06 am

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