In Part 2 of our conversation with author and teacher Stephanie Bennett Vogt, she addresses ways to persevere through any obstacles you might face while practicing the Spacious Way. For a more in-depth study, read her book Your Spacious Self: Clear the Clutter and Discover Who You Are, which has been updated for its 10th anniversary.
Are there any potential challenging consequences to keep in mind when clearing the Spacious Way? If so, how do you recommend preparing for those or managing them when they arise?
This is a great question. It is at the heart of my whole philosophy and method, which I address in all of my books and online courses.
You see, no matter how minuscule your clearing efforts and goals may seem, it’s important to remember that clearing, even just one toothpick or one hairball — with awareness — can kick up what I affectionately call “weather.” This weather is the natural release of some very old, stuck patterns, habits and behaviors that are finally coming into the light. Or as I like to say, stuck energy getting unstuck.
This weather doesn’t always feel very good and can present differently from person to person. I may experience foggy-headedness, sweaty palms and aching feet while clearing out boxes of sentimental attachments (as I often did back in the day), whereas you may experience dry heaves and want to cry your eyes out at the mere sight of your piles.
To the degree that we can observe and allow the discomfort to move through us — like a passing weather system coming and going — without resisting or identifying with it as some major flaw or sign of weakness, that is when change happens. For good!
Still, having seen how challenging it can be to clear at a deeper, conscious level, to clear when we are feeling lost, stuck in the fog, and unable to see past our nose, I came up with four useful guideposts that can help mitigate some of the painful side effects.
They are there to remind you that shift is happening; that things are changing for the better, especially when you can’t see progress (yet) and things are not turning out as expected (yet).
Think of them as little signposts to carry with you on the road to clarity:
- Feelings come up — allow them.
- Shift happens — embrace it.
- Outcomes change — accept them.
- Clarity comes into focus — trust it.
Is there anything you would recommend people not do when clearing their homes?
Yes. Don’t overdo it. The minute you feel even a twinge of overwhelm, stop!
Overwhelm, with its accompanying gremlin fears and self-sabotaging thoughts and behaviors – I can’t do this…This is too much…What was I thinking… It’s a disaster… I’m a disaster — is a sign that fight-or-flight has kicked in.
The problem with fight-or-flight triggers in the brain is that they create a biochemical reaction that floods the body with stress hormones. The more stressful we feel, the less likely we are to keep going. This is why clearing projects stall or stop altogether. And why getting back on the horse can feel monumental.
My advice: Avoid clearing tasks that are too much to handle. Break them down into smaller bites. Instead of the whole desk, pick a drawer. And if that’s too much, pick a section or even a single paperclip. Adopt the rule of one: one thing, one pile, one area, one minute, once a day, one week. That’s it.
The minute you feel tired, frustrated or overwhelmed, stop! Be gentle with yourself. Drink lots of water (clearing is very dehydrating). And, most of all, keep breathing. It’s amazing how shallow our breathing becomes when we feel stressed.
What do you find is the biggest obstacle for most people when clearing their space or maintaining a decluttered home? How can they overcome this obstacle?
Basically, what I said earlier: overwhelm.
After years of teaching and field-testing my methods, I realized that the biggest bugaboo is overwhelm. The good news is that we can overcome it by following five simple steps: slow down, simplify, sense, surrender and self-care. When applied together on a daily basis, these five steps to spaciousness will address any problem area or issue — big or small — and help you grow new habits that lead to lasting change.
If someone needs your guidance, where can they turn?
Let me offer four places to turn:
- For general info: The best place to go for all things spacious is my website at www.spaceclear.com. In it, you’ll find my books and online courses, read testimonials and discover plenty of supportive resources.
- For a good overview: My first book — Your Spacious Self: Clear the Clutter and Discover Who You Are (now in its newly revised and updated 10th Anniversary edition) — will walk you through the various forms of clutter and offers simple ways to release it using the methods I’ve described. With guidelines and sample discussion topics in the back of the book, it is also an excellent handbook for those who would like to start a “clearing circle” with their friends or book group, via Zoom or in person. You can learn more here: https://www.spaceclear.com/books/your-spacious-self/
- For a deeper dive and/or reduce stress and overwhelm: If you’re willing to go the distance, make a commitment to yourself and play a much bigger game with clearing in your life, I have outlined a self-guided program that you can follow here: https://www.spaceclear.com/the-spacious-way/self-study-program/. This page will take you on a journey of slowing down, simplifying, sensing, surrendering and self-care and is particularly helpful for anyone feeling stuck, stressed and overwhelmed.
- For additional inspiration: I invite you to subscribe to “The Journey Home” on Substack: https://stephaniebennettvogt.substack.com and/or follow me @spaciousway on Instagram here: https://www.instagram.com/spaciousway. This is where you are more likely to find me these days and see how I apply these methods to clearing in my own life.
Thank you to Stephanie for sharing her wisdom with us. Tag #MyClosetMaid in your decluttering projects, especially ones you’ve done using the Spacious Way method.Start your clearing journey