Updated on May 18th, 2019

Maybe your in-tray at work is overflowing. Your home is crammed full of stuff you never get ’round to sort through. Or perhaps you’ve had a big experience you’ve not digested yet. When life (or we ourselves) deal us more than we can process, it’s time to stop and catch up. Do the sorting, cleaning and clearing. Create a clean slate, and then start afresh. Read on to find out why, and why you only have to gain from it!

Live and clear, and live and clear

Every now and then, I get to a place where I feel very strongly that I want to clear or clean some area of my life:

My office, for example, when heaps of papers, documents and books start piling up. Drawers and cupboards, when they’re beginning to overflow, or their contents get too jumbled up for me to find what I need. Jobs on an endless, rolling To Do List, waiting to get done. Wishes on a bucket list, that seem to have settled there permanently. Or small stuff that’s broken and that I’ve wanted to fix for months, but never got ’round to.

I get to a point where I want to stop and sort things out, before I do anything further, or start anything new.

Do you find that?

It’s like the very act of living creates stuff that wants to be processed – worked through, sorted, filed, cleared, cleaned, or put away. It’s like life is this endless cycle of living and cleaning and clearing. Living and cleaning and clearing. And living and cleaning and clearing. 🙂

Sometimes, I manage to process things as I go along, literally the minute they arise:

File that bank statement as it pops in with the post. Wash that tea cup immediately after I finish my tea. Confirm that appointment as the request comes in. I have even learned to immediately release petty stresses, taking deep out-breaths and letting them go, reminding myself that, in the grand scheme of things, they don’t matter enough to get worked up about it.

Each of these things only takes a minute – and I’ve learnt from happiness expert Gretchen Rubin’s One Minute Rule that doing things that take a minute or less straight away is a “simple and effective way to get my life under control”.

But at other times, the balance of what comes at us and what we can process gets out of kilter and…

We can get congested

When life deals us more than we can process, for example. Which, in our fast-paced, modern Western life, seems to happen pretty often.

It’s a capacity thing.

Like the interminable queues of vehicles that form in front of the St Gotthard tunnel through the Swiss Alps, at the beginning and the end of school holidays, when more people want to travel than can safely be allowed into the tunnel at any one time.

Only that in our case, the bottleneck is our own processing time, and not a two-lane tunnel.

When we get or take on more stuff than we can feasibly process in our waking time, or when we get a lot of stuff that takes more than just a minute to sort, all at the same time, we can get swamped and overwhelmed. Stuff piles up in our in-tray, and our Living-and-Clearing system gets congested, as we get more and more behind on the clearing part of the equation.

Mind you – that’s not quite the end of what happens, because:

Stuff is not just physical stuff

When I say ‘stuff’ I mean not just jobs, tasks, or physical objects. I also mean experiences, thoughts, emotions, energies – anything that comes onto or into you, stimulates your interest and attention, and engages you at physical, mental, emotional or spiritual level.

This can come from outside, like when you meet someone significant for you; when you have a new, perhaps slightly scary experience; when you are confronted with something that affects you that you don’t understand; when you’re battling with an issue; or when you’re coming to terms with a loss.

It can also be something coming from inside you, like when you’re body loses a function; when you’re struggling with strong feelings such as uncontainable anger or grief; when you feel your soul wanting to transform ,yet you don’t know where the journey is going; or when your energy seems to be drained, weighed down or stuck.

All of this stuff needs to be looked at and processed too: Acknowledged, allowed to sink in, named, understood, categorised, responded to, challenged, or let go of…

And although this is mostly an invisible, internal processing, this stuff will still accumulate and clog up your psychological and emotional ‘in-tray’ if it’s not processed.

So what?


When the congestion, inner or outer, gets too much, then things, inner or outer, start becoming ineffective and can even come to a complete standstill.

You can feel the different stages of this:

When you feel overwhelmed. When your energy or mood is low. When you feel stuck. When you long for a break, endless sleep, or wish you could just do nothing for a while. When you feel you might get ill. When you do get ill. When you feel you might burn out. When you do burn out.

Yet, with a little self-awareness, there is no need to go the full circle to burn-out.

Just notice the signals above. And do something about them. Soon.

In other words:

Do the processing. Create a clean slate. And start afresh!

Whether it’s your external or internal in-tray you need to clear. Whether it’s your office or your energy you need to clean. Whether it’s those stashes of papers you need to file away, or your over-spilling anger about life or people.

Do the processing. Before you get ill or burn out.

Once you get started tackling whatever you need to tackle, you might find it quite satisfying. I do! In fact, when I’ve got too much going on and stuff is piling up, I get a real urge to clean and clear.

And what’s more – there’s many rather wonderful payoffs to processing, cleaning and clearing:

  • You get the satisfaction and relief of knowing that stuff is sorted, resolved, completed, done, gone. Off your chest and off your back.
  • You can breathe more easily.
  • You get your energy back and start feeling great again.
  • You are thinking more clearly.
  • You are more intuitively connected with what is right for you.
  • You know better what to do next.
  • You get to enjoy the space and the possibilities of a clean slate.
  • You get to enjoy the excitement and hopefulness of a fresh start.
  • You lay the foundation for insight, change and new things to come into your life.

Never mind that you might also avoid getting ill or burning out, if you’re on that route… (Although some good can come of that, too, when illness or burn-out force us to stop and do the clearing and cleaning to help us get well again.)

We don’t seem to get as many opportunities for clean slate and a fresh start as we get older… So why not see the signs of inner and outer congestion as our cue to create one for ourselves?

And here’s my article on how exactly to do that: How to create a clean slate – my 7 tried and tested ways !


Over to you

What do you think of living and cleaning and clearing?

What are your experiences with getting congested and creating a clean slate?

And what do you do when stuff starts piling up in your life?

I’d love to read your views! Why don’t you share them in the comments box below? 



Photos: Pixabay