Updated on October 30th, 2018
When your life starts looking and feeling like an out-of control Einsteinian equation, and you’re running ’round in circles trying to sort stuff out and make things better, you might find yourself longing to just drop everything. Create a clean slate. And start afresh. Easier said than done… Read my experience from a year of doing that and learn how to create a clean slate in your life. So that the New, the Next and the Fresh may come in!
If I reflect on the past year, I see that much of what I’ve been doing has been about
- struggling with unexpected challenges,
- working through endings and…
- creating a clean slate.
I love the idea of a clean slate:
Wiping out all that’s happened and brought us to where we are today – like wiping from a blackboard a huge mathematical equation that’s become way too complex, confused and cumbersome, and that we haven’t been able to solve.
Wiping out all of it, no ifs or buts. Just like that.
Letting things be whatever they were, drawing a line underneath. No more labelling, futile explanations or justifications, no more trying to work it out. No more worrying and no more puzzling.
And with that, shedding the weight of the struggle we’ve had. Dropping the thoughts that were going ’round in circles trying to find an ever-elusive and perhaps non-existent solution. Forgetting about the logic we’ve built around things, and about what we’ve been telling ourselves. No more trying the same, unsuccessful ways – letting go what hasn’t worked. Stopping the (over-) thinking. Perhaps even calmly accepting defeat on a particular topic. And leaving our cynicism or bitterness about it in the chalk dust we’ve wiped away.
Once the slate is clean:
Imagine the relief and the spaciousness of it! The sense of being able to try again, in a new and different way, or trying something different, totally unencumbered by whatever happened so far.
A fresh start, a next chance, a new beginning.
But our real life might be even more complex than the figurative Einsteinian equation I’ve used in my methaphor above… It’s hard to imagine how we would just wipe it out entirely with a sponge, like scribbles on a blackboard!
Therefore, the question is:
How do we create a clean slate in real life?
You can clear the entire slate in one go, of course.
As in ending your relationship, quitting your job, selling your home and all your possessions, and getting on a plane to some far-away urban, rural or even wild area, with the intention to start your whole life afresh.
My parents were emigrants from Italy to Switzerland – I imagine their journey felt like starting again on a pretty clean slate! So did my journey, when I left Switzerland to live in London, many years ago.
But you might not want – or even need – to be quite as radical: You can go more slowly, cleaning your slate bit by bit, or only partly.
As in clearing one area of your life, such as love, work, finances, home… Or clearing a single issue you’ve been grappling with, such as your dealings with a difficult colleague, a cluttered house, a poor diet, a slow business…
You can even clean a bit of the slate that seemingly has nothing to do with what you really want to resolve.
As in sorting out your chaotic photo database when, really, you’re longing to start afresh in your job. Because you might just find that the energy you get from sorting out one thing will carry you on to addressing the other, too.
In one way or another, cleaning your slate is about undoing the knots that keep you stuck, overwhelmed, exhausted, or going ’round in circles. It’s about shedding the weight of what’s too complex, unresolved, or plain wrong. And dropping the heavy stuff we carry with us unnecessarily. It’s about creating space from what clogs up our living space, our life, or even our thinking and emotional energy.
So that the New, the Next and the Fresh may come in. So you may, as per the Buddhist teaching, start again with a beginner’s mind. And so you can move forward, or move on in your life.
Therefore: Let me share my experience of cleaning my slate over the past year…
7 ways to create a clean slate
Yes, I’ve done – and still do, occasionally – all of them! 🙂
1 End what needs to end
This sounds dramatic, I know. Yet it’s something many of us don’t like to do.
And so we carry stuff with us that we know in our head or in our heart has ended, just going through the motions to keep it alive, but not really loving it or being fully engaged with it anymore.
We might do this for ourselves, or in order not to hurt or disappoint others.
Perhaps it’s a longstanding tradition you’ve been upholding, but not really ‘feeling’ anymore. A role you’ve played for someone that isn’t needed anymore: the confidante, the supporter, or the surrogate mother. A job or other regular commitment that you’ve outgrown. Even a relationship that has become meaningless or stale and is beyond resuscitating.
If you know it’s time for it to end, end it. By all means do it gently. Compassionately. Kindly. But end it.
Or, even better: If you see that it wants to end by itself – just let it.
2 Give away what you don’t need anymore
This is definitely about shedding weight and simplifying your life and circumstances. Because everything we own, particularly if it’s stashed away and unused, weighs on us energetically and adds complexity to what we think, feel or do.
Like when you buy new books, but your shelves are full, and you’re now wondering where to put the new ones, and they end up just lying about everywhere.
It’s like hiking the Pacific Crest Trail with an oversized backpack that drags you down and nearly buries you underneath it. (If you haven’t read Cheryl Strayed’s account of that, in her remarkable book Wild – please do! You’ll see what I mean.)
So it’s good to give away what you don’t need anymore. Because – you actually don’t need it! 🙂
You could give away books. CDs or DVDs. Pots and pans. Clothes. Shoes. Accessories. Manuals. Plants. Furniture. Sport kits. Training and course materials. And whatever else you’ve outgrown, outused or lost interest in.
I do this regularly, for various things. For books, for example, I purposely only have one shelf that runs along my hall. That is one single line of books, across the top of my hall. No more. And when that is getting full, I know I need to start giving some books away before buying any other ones.
And you know what? As I was doing this, last year, I found myself thinking that I wouldn’t mind if I gave all books currently on my shelf away! In fact, it would be totally freeing. In the end, I stopped at about half of them – just so the hall wouldn’t look quite so bare… 🙂
But giving away the books I didn’t need anymore wasn’t just about the empty space: It was as if, by giving away certain books, I was also drawing a line under a phase of my life I was ready to move beyond. Kind of like a rite of passage, of sorts!
3 Fix what’s broken (or throw it out)
I’m not great at fixing things when they break. Yet I also don’t like it when broken stuff lies about, well – broken. Someohow I feel that it adds unnecessary subliminal complications onto the slate of my life that I could do without:
It keeps me thinking Must fix this. And when I don’t get ’round to it, it ends up clogging up my To Do list, forever shuffled from one version to the next. It brings me a pang of annoyance each time, and saps my energy!
Whereas if I manage to fix what’s broken, it raises the energy around me and frees up some brain space, so I can think more clearly.
That’s the reason why last year, I decided to finally fix all that was broken or not working in my flat. I replaced that kitchen light that had been lying dead for ages. Fixed the kitchen counter. Re-hung a picture that had come down. Replaced the cracked glass in a photo frame. And the wheels on my otherwise still perfectly functional suitcase. (I’m particularly proud of that last one! 🙂 )
Small stuff, I know. But it was hugely satisfying to find so many little niggles finally off my slate and gone!
(Mind you – this point could also apply to bigger and non-material stuff, such as a relationship. Think about it: Rather than letting it keep you dissatisfied, worried, or angry – fix it. Or end it – in which case go back to point 1. That’s, of course, a bigger undertaking.)
4 Catch up what needs to be caught up
You know the burgeoning jungle of files and photos on your computer, that you’ve wanted to go through and sort, yet never got ’round to it? The emails you’ve wanted to catch up on, yet always postponed? The friends you’ve wanted to stay in touch with, and never have? The overflowing work in-tray you’ve wanted to clear, and never managed to? That pile of books or newspapers you’ve set aside to read, yet never had the time for?
It’s easy to say I’ll do it later. It’s easy to prioritise these things down, when we’ve got so many other, more urgent things to take care of first. It’s easy to ignore them, get on with the pressing stuff instead, and think that it doesn’t really matter.
But it does.
They’re unrestful, these things we never manage to catch up with, because they’re giving us a subliminal sense that there’s always more coming into our life than we can ever effectively deal with. They make us feel rushed, as we see that there’s never enough time to sort them out. And they give us anxiety when we concede that we’ll never manage to be fully caught up with things.
Me, I cleared some time in my diary this year, regularly, to catch up on this stuff at my own pace, without stress.
I simplified and slimmed down the file structure on my computer, deleting everything I no longer wanted. I started operating an email system where I have never more emails in my inbox than fit on one screen – everything else gets filed away, sorted or deleted. I try and sort admin tasks as they arise – or at least make sure I clear my admin tray once a month. I’ve taken to staying in touch with friends more often, but with shorter communication (so I don’t get caught out by that long email I wanted to write but never have time for).
I now feel lighter and up to date, and I’m also more efficient, finding what I need more easily and quickly. That alone has made the exercise worth my while!
5 Release and let go
Because we can hold on to things for too long – even when they don’t serve us anymore, or are not good for us in the first place. They’ll tighten us up – physically, mentally and emotionally. And when we’re holding ourselves too tight, our muscles become sore and go into spasm. And equally, our thinking becomes rigid, and we get set in our ways.
Like when we hold grudges, ill feeling, or negative thoughts. Lock in hurt or pain or fear, and all those difficult emotions we daren’t express.
Or like when we keep telling ourselves all the reasons-why-we-can’t-do-something, or why-we’re-no-good, perpetuating ourselves as powerless victims, or thinking of ourselves as failures.
But what if we could just release all of that, and let it go?
Like having a good massage that releases the knots in our muscles. Like opening our hand, and seeing the balloon we’ve been clutching, soaring effortlessly off into the skies. Like opening the door to the cage and watching the little canary that lived inside joyfully step outside into the world.
Releasing is a great slate-cleaning exercise!
As someone who’s been into personal development for a long time, I have released a lot of stuff over the years: physical / muscular tightness, unhelpful thinking and behaviour patterns from early life, old hurts and pain, limiting beliefs and unconfidence, challenging emotions…
Yet it seems to me that the task of releasing is never-ending, as life chucks ever-new stuff at us! :- )
So over the last year, I’ve worked particularly on releasing the effects of what we hold in our energy. And I have to say: It’s a whole new releasing level for me, and a highly effective one, too!
6 Cleanse, clean and clear
Figuratively speaking, this is just like wiping off the smudges off your slate. Or the encrusted food stains you left on it when you tried to solve your equation over dinner. Or the mathematical detritus you accumulated whilst trying to find a solution: pathways you scribbled down that led nowhere, that turned out wrong, or that that you abandoned.
All of these clutter up your slate and make it harder for you to see what needs doing in your life. And lower your energy, motivation and enthusiasm.
So in real life, you could declutter your home – and then clean it regularly. Clear an atmosphere that is thick from a heated discussion or a fight with an apology, or a joke (or literally, by opening a window – seriously!) Dust off the specks on your computer screen. Get a rose quartz crystal to cleanse the air in your office from electro-smog.
A friend of mine recently got in touch with people she’d cut out of her life some years ago – for good reasons – explaining and apologising. That’s a kind of cleansing, too, I guess. Another friend of mine changed her last name, because the one she was given had negative connotations. Another way of cleansing.
Me, I did a good old body detox exercise: Light diet and liver-cleansing foods and herbs for a few weeks. And I started having regular Epsom salt baths to keep my energy clear. I found that both really helped with post-flu tiredness, and also with stress… Looks like I’ll repeat the exercise in the future, then! 🙂
7 Update what’s out of date
Sometimes it’s good to hold on to old stuff.
For example: For years, I held on to an almost archaic operating system on my computer (remember Windows XP?), simply because it worked very well, and I knew that newer versions had been reviewed as cumbersome and just not as good. And because I don’t subscribe to the philosophy that every week, month or year we have to have a new version, gadget, toy – or whatever it is – so that companies can sell us more stuff. (And we inundate our planet with the old stuff we throw away.)
When I finally did update my operating system – and not only that, but also my whole IT system and broadband connection, it felt a bit like a revolution! 🙂
With everything now lighter, more powerful AND interconnected via Cloud, and – see point 4 – my newly slim and slender filing system (am I hearing you go Oooooh ? 🙂 ), my work is now more efficient and better supported in a way that suits my life. And I feel that I have finally arrived in the 21st century… 🙂
The other thing I’ve felt compelled to update was my ‘look’: Colours. Clothes. Shoes. Make up. Hairstyle. I’ve no ambitions to be(come) a style icon, nor am I particularly obsessed with fashion. But I got older, and things in my life and around me have moved on, too. So I felt the need to adjust for that…
And it’s remarkably refreshing, updating your look: A real cleaning of the slate by leaving behind aspects of yourself that are no longer important – along with your old clothes. An opportunity to express who you really are today. And a great act of self-love, and investing in oneself!
Now, for you perhaps it’s other things that need updating: your flat, for example. Or your garden. Your exercise routine. Your brand and company logo. The way you make and keep track of your appointments. Or the way you do your food shopping, or call a taxi, or book your holidays. You tell me – the possibilities are endless.
The thing to remember is:
Some of these are bigger projects, and best done over a stretch of time. Also, you don’t need to update everything all the time. Because if you’re honest with yourself, you’ll certainly know when it’s time for an update…
My Italian mum always likes to be al passo
It means being ‘in step’ with life – up to date, caught up on things. It means you feel there’s a good balance of what’s coming into your life, what gets done, and what’s leaving your life. That you’re on top of what’s going on, and coping well.
I must say, I like being al passo. It’s joyful and restful.
And creating a clean slate is one of the ways I use in order to do that!
Over to you
What kind of clean slate could you use in your life?
Which ones of the ways I suggest here appeal to you? Which don’t?
What are your experiences with creating a clean slate?
I’d love to read your views! Why don’t you share them in the comments box below?