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Clear Away the Excess

I’m writing this on a Saturday afternoon in the full bloom of spring. But you could read this any day of the year and it would be no less true. Sometimes, self-care isn’t about doing more.

Sometimes, self-care is about clearing away the excess so that we can see and appreciate what remains.

There is value and beauty in simplicity.

This is not to say that the “treat yo’self” model of self-care isn’t great. I’m just saying that self-care isn’t always about adding. Sometimes, it’s about subtraction. It can be best when it strips away rather than complicates matters.

Spring cleaning in my house looks like this:

At this time of year, we pause, deliberately, before buying. We discern and then clear what obviously does not belong. We get scrappy about where something is serving us, or whether it’s just hanging around. We discard more.

Only then do we deep clean. Scrub.

In some ways, this is enough to make new.

Other times, we have a definitive sense of what’s missing, and we can add that – mindfully.

The spring cleaning model is one that can be applied all year.

Whenever we notice that things are accumulating, we can take a pause. Step back. Evaluate. And shed as needed.

Maybe your rhythms are different and your time to clear out is in the fall before you nestle in for winter.

(Maybe you’re in a different hemisphere! Hey, Aussies!)

Needless to say, this doesn’t only apply to our stuff.

This same methodology of shedding what doesn’t belong can apply to so many areas of life. It’s a common experience to begin by clearing out our belongings – and then feeling disappointed or frustrated. Sometimes, our stuff isn’t the problem (or it’s only the beginning).

Some other areas of life that may need clearing out:

  • Thought patterns
  • Relationships (or at least a refresh is needed)
  • Schedules
  • Ways of thinking
  • Our everyday scenery
  • Spending tendencies
  • Eating and movement habits
  • Our inner narratives
  • Attitudes or relationship with work
  • Our work entirely!
  • Even our self-care practice

The fact is, we all get stagnant.

A few times a year, it’s a good opportunity to look at what’s working and what isn’t. What’s serving us and what’s dead weight?

However you’re feeling, you have the chance to change it.

We can all get stuck sometimes, in our patterns, our habits. We fall into ruts in our relationships – and who we are in those relationships – not just romantically, but in our professional, social, political, and family roles.

This isn’t a bad thing, necessarily, but it is an opportunity for self-knowledge. When we’re aware of this, we can continue to grow into our leadership and our best selves. Or we can change course and shift what isn’t working for us.

Without this self-awareness, we stay in that stuck spot.

(Psst: if you feel stuck, try this.)

If you want to de-overwhelm your life, don’t start with more.

I see a tendency to try to tame the overwhelm with more systems, more organizers… more.


Slow down.

Take a breath.

If you really want to get yourself out of that place of overwhelm, it’s not about getting new systems or stuff. It’s about scraping away what isn’t serving you anymore.

It’s about starting to say no, and being more discerning about the invitations you receive. It’s about saying no to what doesn’t light you up. It’s about the end of multi-tasking and embracing the pause between breaths and thoughts and tasks.

It’s how you find the gems.

Underneath the overwhelm, I believe are some real gems hidden in our lives. Because overwhelm didn’t start as overwhelm. It started with passion. It originated in our dear hearts, wanting to meet the needs of our loved ones. We wanted to create, to explore, to make the world a better place.

Our passion turned into overwhelm.

But our overwhelm started with grace and goodness.

So let’s get back to that. What’s truly important? Keep that. Hold onto that.

The rest of it? Maybe you can start to let it go. If it feels like a drag, maybe release it. Let someone else enjoy it or take it on. Whether it’s a role in your community or a sweater that doesn’t quite fit as well as it used to, you can clear it out.

When you do, you might find those hidden gems.

P.S. Looking for more self-care resources? Find my full resource guide here!

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