Clutter is not just physical stuff. It’s old ideas, toxic relationships and bad habits. Clutter is anything that does not support your better self. Clutter can rob you of your peace of mind, make you sick and defeat your purpose before you even begin. -Eleanor Brownn
In my last article, I discussed how I found freedom in my life and built a business creating freedom for others. It wasn’t easy to peel myself away from a life I was so attached to; so convinced I needed to live. I knew I needed to leave my job. I knew I needed to take some time. I knew I needed healing. I had big plans, to pay this healer or that healer, to take yoga classes, meditate, cleanse, juice, or find new places to hike every day. What I found was much simpler.
I did two main activities last summer that brought my spirit back to life. I took daily walks. I was called to the same spot every day, close to my house and close to the bay. I believe the consistency and the simplicity allowed me to feel safe. And the daily ritual of being, I like to call, seen by the sun, was a declaration to myself and to the world that I mattered! “I matter!” I said every day. The second activity was decluttering my home.
I knew the emotional attachment one can have with their stuff, but I didn’t know how much until I started to clear it out. I bought a copy of the beautiful book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing” by Marie Kondo to guide me through the process.
The idea of removing everything from a room, closet, or area and only putting back what brings joy resonated big time. I was ready to majorly purge and had little qualms about letting stuff go. I gave away all of my daughter’s toddler clothes, toys, books, furniture to my neighborhood day care. I donated huge garbage bags full of clothes along with unused appliances and other household items. The “but what if I want to use this someday” lie I told myself went out the window and I got rid of that stuff too.
As more and more stuff left my house, I began to feel excitement and relief. The day I cleaned out my closet I experienced a real shift. How depressing does it feel to go to your closet to pick out an outfit and look through your items and have some of the following thoughts: “Those pants are so cute but so tight around my belly I’m feeling bloated just looking at them.”, “I used to wear that top when I was dating so and so, and that relationship was a disaster.”
So how am I supposed to now start my day when just looking in the closet makes me feel fat and like a loser who is never going to find love? Are you getting the idea of how transforming this process can be? I tore everything off the little plastic hangers I had and dumped it in one huge pile. I hung up only the clothes that I knew I rocked and felt comfortable in my beautiful 40 something mom body.
As items that no longer held use for me left my house, the feeling of freedom washed over me. When I hung up my last piece of clothing I started to breathe deeply; taking these deep breaths as though I had just surfaced from too long under the water, as though something heavy was removed from atop my chest. I looked in my closet and thought yes! This is me! And only me! Not me from my past, not him or her or anyone but just me in the here and the now. They were items from an old life, and as far as I was concerned, they were keeping me trapped in a life that I didn't belong to anymore.
And so yes, tidying up is magic and it is life changing.
The process continues and as summer comes back around I see another decluttering session included. Here are the things I discovered going through this process, and I hope they may help you too.
1. Sometimes the organizer needs an organizer. Don't be afraid to ask for help. Find a professional organizer. And find the right one for you. I went through one or two and spoke to different people but I needed them to see and feel my vision and if they didn't then I knew they weren't right for me. I struggled with finding the right person, so I had to dive in myself. I found the $16.99 I spend on Marie Kondo’s book was all I needed.
2. Prepare Yourself. Keep in mind that this is a daunting project. It can be emotionally draining even getting rid of things that you think have no sentimental value. The struggle of the decision to save it, recycle it, or throw it out and where to, is just as overwhelming as the actual physical removing of all of the stuff. Understand that you will need to take breaks. Life will show up, and you will not be able to spend all of your free time doing this. Take time away from the project to process and breathe and not think about it. Then come back to it when you feel ready.
3. Purge purge purge! I encourage you to get rid of as much stuff as possible. The trade off of the freedom you feel by not having that stuff in your house is so worth it. I always thought I would sell stuff online or have a yard sale. But if getting stuff online or setting up your yard sale will prevent you from beginning the process then that thought process is just as much clutter as the stuff in your home. Anything in decent shape went to charity or was left outside on my curb. If I still felt some attachment to it, I would bag it and keep it in my trunk. If I wasn’t missing it after a couple of weeks, I would stop by the Goodwill and drop it off.
4. Sentimental Items. For items like keepsakes, pictures and old mementos, you don’t have to decide right now. I saved a few boxes for those and stored them for when I am ready to make something meaningful out of them that will honor and celebrate the different milestones in my life.
5. Lastly, dear reader. May I make a gentle suggestion to explore a more personal decluttering? Are you holding on to any resentment? Is there any place in your life where you can soften and let go? Is there someone or some event you’ve meant to forgive? My daily walks helped me clear my head, and healthy eating helped clear my body. There are many ways to declutter your life so you can move forward to bring in your destiny. Be brave and listen to your gut. It will not mislead you.
What do we need when we leave this life? Nothing. Nothing but love that is. Love will be the only thing that will matter. And if stuff is keeping you from that love, I say it needs to go.
Brownn, Eleanor. "The 3 Reasons Why You're Drowning in a Sea of Clutter." Eleanor Brownn. N.p., 20 Nov. 2014. Web. 06 June 2016.
Kondō, Marie. The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. Berkeley: Ten Speed, 2014. Print.
How I Created Freedom in My Life and Built a Business Providing Freedom for Others
Envy would wash over me whenever I met entrepreneurs, business owners, and self-employers. Unfulfilled in my corporate job I would marvel at the strength, guts and brains I imagined it must take to build and sustain a business all on your own. I wanted that. That sense of pride, accomplishment and fulfillment.
But, they would say. It is hard to build a business! It takes a long time! You have to pay for your health insurance, retirement plan, and your own equipment! Yes! I would think. They are right. Never mind that my soul was withering away in a cubicle under fluorescent lights, I have direct deposit! But I could not quiet my entrepreneurial spirit. The job served me well, but I was longing to be free.
I took a leap of faith, and I began a step by step process of creating freedom in my life. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was creating a foundation to build a business providing freedom for others.
I expressed my immense gratitude for my eight years as an executive assistant in consumer tech and let my job go. I took the summer off to rest, be there for my daughter, and reconnect with my true essence. I decluttered and purged my home. This step was key! Do you want freedom in your life? Clean out your closet, get rid of stuff you are tired of looking at, don’t use, don’t need. I guarantee it weighs you down.
I took the time to listen to what my desires were. I wanted freedom. Freedom to create my revenue. Freedom to coach my daughter’s volleyball team. Freedom to work with whom I wanted and, however, many types of clients I wanted. Freedom to pull from my accumulated skills, education, and experience and combine that with my passion for being of service to others.
My skills and expertise lie in the following general categories down to the smallest and mundane details:
Executive Administration & Project Management
Manage Business Systems
Create Copy, Proof, Edit
In the first few months as I launched my business I came across a few common misconceptions about what I do. I went back, reworked few things and thus, Jennifer Cass, Virtual Executive Assistant services was born.
Here are some of the questions I received and explanations as to how I can provide freedom for you and your business, association, or nonprofit.
Q: You’re virtual so would you come to work an event?
A: Yes! Just because I work virtually doesn’t mean I won’t leave my house. I love face to face meetings! Some clients need help arranging an event or taking registrations and sales. Working virtually means I provide all my equipment, and work independently! While you are busy focusing “on” your business I am busy “in” the details of your business, your blog posts are going up, your mail is getting read, and your research is getting done. Freedom!
Q: What are your rates and do you bill hourly?
A: I bill hourly, and I provide convenient packages of 5, 10, and 20 hours and Monthly Subscriptions plans from 4 hours/week to 12 hours/week. That blog post you needed me to do? That took 2-5 minutes. Guess how much more I can get done in that one hour for you? You don’t need a lot of hours to free up your time in a big way.
Q: “I have this one task, but it is so mundane and simple, would you want to do that?”
A: Bring it on! I sink my teeth into something complicated and strategic, and I love problem-solving. But combing through documents to make sure every period is in place, formatting is perfect or deleting those duplicates excites me just as much. Do you know why? Because I am creating freedom for you!
How amazing does it feel to let go of some of the tasks that with your growing business you no longer have the time and patience for? And furthermore, what is that time worth? Were you able to focus on building more revenue, expanding your business, or maybe being there for your family?
Time is a hot commodity and your time is precious. Find your freedom here today.
Jennifer is a Virtual Executive Assistant. She works with executives, entrepreneurs, small businesses, associations, and non-profits to free up their time to focus on their business instead of in their business!