“As within, so without.” Our external world is a reflection of our internal world. If your external world is peaceful and ordered, then your inner life is peaceful and ordered. If your inner life is chaotic, your external world is likely to be a mess.
An Experiment In Decluttering
A number of years ago, I devised an experiment. In an effort to remove clutter and begin living an orderly life, I decided to get rid of — toss, give away, or recycle — two items every day. And for 60 days, that’s what I did.
I kept a record of what I cleared out, which I still have on my computer. Analyzing it, I see that about 40 percent of the items – 47 – went to Goodwill and 41 items were tossed in the garbage. The rest were recycled. The most items I discarded were books (22) and clothes (19). Other items were memorabilia of various sorts, old medications, and just plain trash – broken things, old receipts, outdated product manuals, and some papers I could no longer identify.
So what were the results of my experiment? At the beginning, I wasn’t sure how long I would continue it . . . a year? a month? 100 days? In the end, I removed two items each day for 60 days straight, then intermittently for another month. All together, I tossed, recycled or gave away 136 items. I cleaned out an entire bureau drawer plus decluttered my desk and a couple of closets. And even though I don’t pursue it as actively, this decluttering experiment was the impetus to continue to pare down my possessions as time goes by.
As Within, So Without
As my surroundings became more orderly, I noticed something else. When my external environment became less chaotic, so did my internal environment. My thoughts became clearer and more centered and my creative energy increased.
“In my study of happiness,” Gretchen Rubin says in her book Outer Order, Inner Calm, “I’ve realized that for most of us, outer order contributes to inner calm. More than it should.” [Rubin]
Brian Tracy, author, speaker, and personal development master, calls this “The Law Of Correspondence. As within, so without.” [Meah] Our outer world is a mirror, reflecting what is happening inside us. Look around you and you see the manifestation of your thinking — clear and orderly or messy, confused and cluttered.
This law works both ways. Clean up the inside and the outside gets neater. Or declutter the outside and see the inside become calmer. And, as in most things, it is easier to act your way to new thinking than to think your way to new actions.
Order Brings Confidence And Creativity
In his book, Infinite Self, Stewart Wilde says: “Messy surroundings and an untidy life reflect a weakened metaphysical and psychological state. Mess is the external manifestation of the ego’s disquiet and laziness. Through mess, the ego exercises control over you. . . Order helps you feel confident.” [Wilde]
In the framework of the Excelerated Life™, being clutter free and well-enough organized are included as “Maintenance” – the ongoing care of your most valuable asset. Decluttering and organizing are typically things you repeatedly do because life happens and things pile up. It isn’t a “one and done” activity. However, this could be a worthwhile exercise at the beginning of a new venture as many people experience a burst of energy and creativity after decluttering their surroundings.
Beginning An Orderly Life
Whether you are just starting to live the Excelerated Life™ , need a boost to reignite your enthusiasm, or simply want to be able to find what you need when you need it, here are some steps to move you forward.
Select one area.
If you feel overwhelmed by the mess, select one area and begin. If clearing one room feels overwhelming, pick a closet. If straightening the entire closet is too much, start with one shelf. Then, once you have the shelf or closet or room organized, commit to keeping it clutter-free.
Clear your calendar.
Keep all your appointments, meetings, and scheduled tasks on your calendar and out of your head. At the same time, delete any old entries that are no longer relevant. Keep one calendar for everything so you can see your schedule at a glance. If you need to share with family members or colleagues, use an electronic calendar that everyone can access.
Sixty percent of the items I got rid of during my decluttering experiment were either recycled or trashed outright. A quick step to start your decluttering is to get rid of the things that are obviously garbage. Purge your paper files. Purge your electronic files. But don’t stop there. Consider other areas. Are there organizations, groups or clubs you belong to but that you are no longer interested in? Purge them. Hobbies or past-times that you are tired of? Purge them. Do you do chores or routine tasks that no longer need to be done? Purge them.
Do A Digital Detox
In his book, Digital Minimalism, Cal Newport, a Professor at Georgetown and best-selling author, recommends going on a 30-day digital detox, something he calls “The Digital Declutter”. In this process, you survey the role of digital technology in your life and identify those things that are optional. Some are not. If your child texts you when she needs to be picked up, texting is not optional. If you sometimes get important e-mails from your boss, e-mail is not optional. Newport suggests that, for most of us, it is social media, streaming media, and video games that take up most of our time and attention and which we can do without. The 30 day digital detox is designed to give you a chance to reacquaint yourself with activities you enjoy outside the digital realm, aka “the real world”. [Newport]
Maintenance For Life
So take a look around. What do your surroundings say about your inner world? Is some tidying up in order? Maybe you’d like to experiment with removing two items per day for a week or a month or a period you decide on. Maybe you simply want to start with a corner of your desk, organizing and straightening up and then working to keep that corner in order. Later you can move to another corner. Whatever works for you. The point is to get started and to realize that this is an ongoing process — maintenance that you’ll do from now on.
As within, so without. Keep your outer world in order to promote order in your inner world. That is embracing the Excelerated Life™ !
Excelerated organization — being clutter-free and well-enough organized — able to find what you need when you need it — is one step in creating your Excelerated Life™ , a life of flourishing, of well-being, meaning, and purpose.
Newport, Cal. Digital Minimalism: Choosing A Focused Life In A Noisy World. New York: Portfolio/Penguin, 2019.
Rubin, Gretchin. Outer Order, Inner Calm. New York: Crown Publishers, 2019
Meah, Asad. “Seven Mental Laws Of Success From Brian Tracy.” Awaken The Greatness Within. AwakenTheGreatnessWithin,,. Web. 02/26/2019
Wilde, Stewart. Infinite Self: 33 Steps to Reclaiming Your Inner Power. New York: Hay House, 1996
“A good clutter-clearing makes me feel more energetic, more creative, and more in command of myself. And I know where my keys are!”
~ Gretchin Rubin