Tag Archives: clearing


I’ve just spent ten days pushing myself to keep going and finally realised that I knew better – I needed to let myself have a day off. That made me reconsider what a day off really means.

In this case, I was feeling somewhat under the weather – just not well. I made some allowance for it, cutting down on my expectations of myself, but I wasn’t willing to ‘give in’ to it. The consequence was that I didn’t even meet the expectations I did have of myself, so got cross with myself, or did and felt unreasonably exhausted. And of course, my health didn’t improve at all.

So eventually I remembered that the answer is to remove all the expectations, even those we aren’t usually conscious of, like getting washed and dressed or answering the phone. I spent two days doing what I felt like when I felt like it, with no list of must do’s at all, and I feel so much better for it!

It’s the removal of expectations that makes it a real day off, because that frees you up to genuinely follow your own body and heart preferences. It doesn’t mean doing nothing – unless that is what you feel like – nor taking some of the tasks off the list. It means giving yourself free rein for a day.

Usually we fill our days with expectations of ourselves, which come from us, from our culture and from others, so can be quite a collection! We assess how successful our day was by measuring ourselves against these expectations – and frequently fail to come up to the mark!

If we do allow ourselves a bit of space, because we’re feeling a bit ‘off’ in some way, or sometimes because we think we’ve earned it, that usually means that we take a few of the expectations off the list for the day. ‘I’ll leave the washing till tomorrow, or make that phone call later in the week, or finish that task another day.’ So we load our next few days a bit more, and still have the rest of our expectations of ourselves in the day we have alleviated.

I have known for a long time that a day without any expectations of myself at all, except to do just what I feel like doing, is as good as a holiday. It allows my mind and body to reset and refresh themselves. And yet I realise that, although I am kinder to myself than many, I rarely give myself permission to really take time out from the demands of everyday life.

So I won’t be waiting next time till I’m desperate for that relief. I’m going to write some days off into my diary, and teat them as a priority for my mental and physical health.

So what about you? Do you let yourself have real days off? And if you don’t, can you plan one in and experiment with it?


I’m in the midst of one of my periodic clear-outs. I find it both satisfying and interesting to go through all my ‘stuff’ and get rid of things I no longer want.

It’s satisfying because it means cupboards, wardrobes, drawers etc. get cleaned and tidied and decluttered – and I find some of those things that get lost or buried – you know what I mean: the other earring, sock, the cheese knife, the favourite pen!

The interesting aspect is seeing what I can part with this time. Of course, there are some things we keep because they’re just useful: the vacuum cleaner, the washing up bowl, the tools we have to help us with our everyday tasks. However, most of us have a lot of stuff that doesn’t fit into that category. And years ago I realised that logic doesn’t help me to de-clutter everything else. Throwing things out because I haven’t used them for a year doesn’t work for me. What does work is a simple question: ‘does it still make my heart sing?’

In the first place, this question helped me to get rid of heaps of stuff that didn’t fit with my story any more. I let go of those things we have because someone gave them to us, and the things that were part of my past rather than my present, and the things I had because people like me are supposed to have them.

Nowadays, the answer to: ‘Does it still make my heart sing?’ shows me how my story is changing, what I’ve grown out of, so to speak. The process helps me to clarify who I am now, and at the same time ensures that the stuff I have makes me happy, makes me smile, reflects me back to myself.

And much of what I get rid of can go to the charity shop, and find another home, be in someone else’s story for a while. I also use freecycle, where you email in what you have on offer, and if someone wants it, they can contact you and you give it to them. I love finding someone who really wants those odd things you’d prefer not to just throw away!

If you haven’t looked through your stuff for a while, why not give it a go? Just do a bit of a check: does it make your heart sing? And if it doesn’t, let it go to a new home. And if it does make your heart sing, appreciate it, enjoy it fully.


Whilst on holiday I was reminded of how significant the spirit of a place really is. There are some ancient buildings that just feel good to be in, and others that you don’t want to linger in. there are streets that feel tranquil, others feel vibrant, and some that just provide a passageway to something else, or even feel hostile.

We don’t usually take the time to notice these differences consciously, yet we are all affected by them to some extent. And it is the human imprint that makes these differences: the activity, general mood, attitude, of those who have been there over time. Each one of us leaves a little of ourselves in wherever we visit.

A clear example of this is a church or temple. Many of them (although not all) have a feeling of tranquillity, of calm, and have a quietening effect on us. We sit for a little while, and add our own moment of stillness to their atmosphere, as people have done since they were built, even if we are not religious.

And this made me think about how we imprint our own homes. All the perfect décor and beautiful objects you can buy don’t make a home. It becomes a home when we express our individuality, our history, our attitude, in some of the things we choose to have round us. And then its spirit grows from the imprint of us and how we live there`; how much love, how much laughter, how much warmth, how much calm, how much care – OK, I know you’ve got what I’m saying now!

Now sometimes I’m frustrated, fed up, irritable, upset, in my home. That taints its spirit for a while. So from now on, I intend to burn a little sage or incense, or open up all the windows and doors, to ‘freshen it up’ more quickly. I know the general spirit of my place is lovey, warm and welcoming – and I can make it even better, by paying it more attention.

What about you??


It is common for us to get caught up in our lives, swept along from one thing to another. We don’t stop to consider, we just take the next step, do the next task, follow the routine.

It makes a significant difference if we take stock now and then.

On a daily basis, taking 5 minutes halfway thrugh our day, and then towards the end of the day to just ask ourselves, ‘Where am I up to?’, gives us a chance to assess our energy levels, what would be good use of our time next, what our priorities are, what really matters.

Then, on a monthly basis, we can take stock at a higher level: what have we done well or achieved, or made progress in; how well have we taken care of ourselves. And then we can look at what adjustments we would make for the next month, see what it is important for us to consider or make allowances for, and look at how we can make our next month easier and more enjoyable for ourselves.

And I also like to do a 3-monthly ‘review’. (I’ve always thought that the once a year version that produces New Year resolutions was too long – if I’ve gone off track, I want to catch it sooner, so I don’t have so much ground to recover!)

So at three months, I ask the bigger version of where am I up to:

In what ways is life going how I want it to?

Am I heading in the right direction?

Am I making it work for how I am now?

Is there anything I could do with increasing or decreasing in my life?

The answers to these sorts of questions then lead to a broad plan for the next three months: what I want to maintain, build on, leave behind, introduce, have more or less of.

None of this is hard work – in fact it’s best done gently, allowing answers to pop up intuitively, rather than doing it like an exam that you have to get right. What it gives you is the guidelines for those daily and monthly stock-takes, and a gentle reminder that as we continue to evolve in our lives, some of the priorities and concerns may change.

So where are you up to in your day right now? And in your life?


Do you have any of those thoughts that spiral round and round in your head? You know the ones I mean: the ones that make us feel bad about ourselves. ‘I’m looking awful these days’, or ‘I always get that wrong,’ or ‘I’m not very good at…’ they can be like a stuck record, only worse, because they don’t just keep repeating, they seem to collect extra debris on the way, and add to their weight and criticism or fearfulness! So ‘I always get that wrong’ collects things like, ‘and I get this wrong as well, and oh this too..’ and after a while, we begin to believe we don’t get anything right. What’s more, we think that ‘everyone’ must think we’re an idiot!

It’s like having a computer virus in your head, gradually infecting your thinking until it seems to have taken over.

Well, the good news is that it is easier to tackle than a computer virus, because it isn’t really infecting anything. It would be more useful to view it as a vacuum cleaner. It’s collecting some of the crap you’ve got lying around in your thoughts, and if you were to empty the dust bag, you could get rid of some of the thoughts that are no longer useful to you, and have more space to notice the other, more useful thoughts that have been hidden by that carp!

So next time you notice that you’ve got one of those spirals going on in your head, empty the dust bag and clear them out! Write them on a scarp of paper and put them in the waste bin (not the recycling!). And remember, you’ve probably got quite a few similar bits of crap floating around somewhere in your mind – we collect a lot over our lifetime – so you may need to repeat the process. And each time you do, your mind has a little more space to put useful thoughts in. so remind yourself of some of your lovely qualities, and store something more useful in those spaces!



It’s a new year! I love the fact that every year, we get the chance to start over. It’s never starting from scratch: we have experience, learning, to bring with us. Yet it also gives us an opportunity to leave some things behind us: thoughts, behaviours, feelings, that we no longer want to take with us.

We can stop for a moment and review the previous year, and what we have accumulated in our metaphorical backpack over that year. This is the stuff we carry around with us all the time and it can get weighty rather than useful! As in a literal cleaning out of a bag full of stuff we’ve accumulated, we discover that we’ve held on to some things we no longer want to carry around: another pile of out-of-date receipts; some old used tissues; a few dubious-looking sweets! In our ‘backpack’ these may be a pile of anxieties ad doubts that haven’t materialised into fact, some habits that no longer serve us well, some things we thought we liked but no longer enjoy.

These we can list, note, throw away. I mean that literally: write them down, and throw away the paper or burn it. Remember, rituals are very powerful for conveying to our minds what we want to say to ourselves.

There will also be some treasures in that backpack: some old, long-held-onto ones, some new ones collected last year. These might be memories, experiences we love still, habits and routines we love and enjoy. What are yours? What are the lovely things you have in there to carry with you, both from previous life experience and from last year? We often don’t truly recognise them until we stop and look in the backpack properly: that wonderful concert, that first walk in warm sand with bare feet, that moment with a child or friend that still makes you smile. Again, write them down, savour them, and save this list somewhere safe – and put them back in your backpack they will be useful in the year ahead.

Since we have taken some stuff out of our backpacks, we have some empty space in there. Now we all know that an empty space is always filled up again! This year, let’s be a bit more deliberate about how we fill it, and accumulate less of the old tissues and receipts! Stop and think about what you would like to put in your backpack this year: some more good experiences, a bigger collection of the useful habits and behaviours; an increase in joyous moments. And again, write down for yourself a list of the types of things you want to accumulate this year to fill your backpack with things that are even more helpful in enabling you to live your life easily and joyously. Keep this list safe, with your previous treasures list, and imagine yourself putting your wish list in your backpack front pocket – your ‘shopping list’ for the year.

It doesn’t take long to do this review and it’s fun to discover what’s in the bag, what you can throw away, and what you’d like in there. It’s a great way to start your year! Happy 2016 everyone!


My mum used to always do a spring clean of the house. She emptied and cleaned cupboards and drawers, re-arranged things, threw stuff away that was no longer serviceable or needed, cleaned behind and under furniture which was not usually moved, and generally had a good clear-out and re-sort. We would all be pressed into service, helping her, and deciding on which toys etc. could now be thrown or given away.

It was a good tradition that she was following, which gave us a new start each time, and she did it with gusto, obviously pleased by the effect. So what was that tradition really about?

It is a great way to sort, not just your external environment, but also your internal ‘clutter’. You see, the environment we create around us is an external reflection of who we are, and that is something which is constantly developing. If we don’t have regular clear-outs, it’s a bit like gradually collecting a fridge full of left-overs: we are being reminded to be who we used to be, rather than who we are now and who we want to be. It’s not that we need to throw away all our past – some of those leftovers are still useful and integral to us – but we do benefit from consciously choosing what still fits with who we are now. And as we make those choices, we also choose to lessen our attachment to old, no longer useful, habits of thinking and behaving.

For example, have you still got the folders of stuff you studied? What do they create in your thoughts when you look at them? If it’s a sense of achievement, keep a symbolic piece of it, and put it somewhere you’ll see it often. If you genuinely use any of it for reference and reminders, put those parts somewhere you can easily access it. But if those folders make you feel that you still haven’t ‘got’ whatever it was you studied, or that you really ‘should’ look at them again, or keep them, put them in the recycling – you’ve got whatever you could from it at the time, and your future learning will be from a different source. And if they’re no longer relevant to you as you are now, what are they there for?!

A simplified version of this checking that I use all the time now is just to look at each item and ask myself: ‘Does this make my heart sing?’ If it doesn’t, then I assume that it no longer fits with who I have become and it’s time for it to go. This works with clothes, ornaments, furnishings, books, cd’s, all the paraphernalia of everyday life. I want my environment to encourage me to be happy and feel good, don’t you!

Nowadays it’s even easier than it was in my mum’s time. If she had something she no longer really wanted, but that was in good condition, she tended to keep it, because it was wasteful to throw it away. We have hundreds of charity shops, recycling of plastic and paper, and free-cycle or E-bay (if you don’t know of free-cycle, look it up. It’s a locally based way of offering things you don’t want to someone who does).

Now, I prefaced all this with the idea of spring-cleaning as a tradition. It is no longer something that most people do – and it is daunting to tackle a whole houseful of stuff. So make it easy – do a little bit at a time. Just set yourself to clear one cupboard, shelf, drawer, corner of a room, preferably starting with those you see most often, as they have the most impact on your mood and attitude. This is a great project for winter, each week clearing a little bit more out. You’ll be surprised how quickly the areas you’ve done mount up.

And notice how it makes you feel: pleased with yourself, clearer internally as well as externally, freed in some way.

And you may decide to replace some stuff with things that are more ‘you’, the you you are now: a new piece of clothing, a new cushion cover, a new photo in the frame – anything which makes your heart sing, that reflects who you are now, or who you want to be.

Be warned: this can become an addictive activity! I’ve come to love clearing out and sorting out. Every time I do a bit more, I feel as if I am allowing myself to be me a little bit more as well, and freeing myself from past stories that no longer serve me. We are influenced unconsciously by what we have around us, so let’s make that a positive, and useful influence – we have that choice in our homes and personal possessions.

The steps to clearing out

  1. Identify a small space to start your clearing out – one which you spend a lot of your time in.
  2. Pick up each thing in that space and ask yourself if it makes your heart sing.
  3. If it does, keep it. If it doesn’t recycle it or throw it away.
  4. Give the space a good clean.
  5. Re-arrange the space with just those things you have kept.
  6. If you feel you want to, get something new which really fits with who you are now, or who you want to be, to put in that space.