The Art of Simplicity: The Big Clear Out

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” Leonardo da Vinci

Every year during the summer holidays I embark on a big clear out at home. In fact, I think many people choose the summer school holidays to sort through their ‘stuff’ and get rid of things.

I find it such a satisfying process! Although it is often both exhausting and frustrating when you are in the midst of it.

I got into the habit of regularly simplifying and clearing out, a number of years ago, when my children were small. For a few reasons we ended up moving house about 4 times in 6 years.

Moving house is a chaotic time but it can also demand much discipline. We had to decide what things we should actually move. Most of the moves we did ourselves and when you have to move stuff yourselves you choose to think more carefully about what you really want to keep.

Each time we moved we would have things stored in attics or cupboards that we had not touched in a couple of years of living in a new house. When you find you have not opened a box in that long, you soon realise that you probably don’t need it after all.

Going through this same process four times taught me the discipline of simplifying and decluttering. Which is something I have continued to put into practice, even though we have finally stayed in one house for 6 years.

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This summer we have been particularly ruthless.

My children are finally learning from ‘clearing out’ with me over the years, that simplicity often makes life easier. They hate tidying their rooms, but are learning the less things you have and the more organised they are, the easier it is to look after them.

We got rid of bags and bags of clutter, rubbish, junk and passed on decent items no longer wanted or outgrown.

Life is easier when you declutter and simplify. It takes time and discipline but it is worth it.

How many times have you lost something amidst the clutter of your home only to rediscover it when you finally get round to clearing out?

Simplicity can provide space for the new. When your life is too full of the old, there is no room left for the new.

We should certainly celebrate the old, hold onto memories and enjoy traditions. But we must find a balance of old and new that creates space in our life.

In the West we love to accumulate ‘things’
… And more things…
….And more things!

In the hope that it will make life better and happier.

And yet ‘things’ can also complicate our lives.

We instead need to discover a balance that works in our life. Reassessing what we actually need and what is just taking up precious space and time.


When your life is too full of the old, there is no room left for the new.


I have learnt that taking the time to consistently organise, sort through and make space, enables us to embrace change more easily and move forward into the future without having to drag too much of the past around with us.

“Resistance to change is universal. It invades all classes and cultures.”- John Maxwell

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The practical discipline of ‘clearing out’ and decluttering is metaphorical of a similar process in our wider lives.

I often choose the start of the new year or the end of a school year to clear out and prepare for the new season ahead.

This summer held more significance for my elder daughter because she is moving on from primary school to High School.

Clearing things out and sorting through them can prepare you mentally as you look through old memorabilia, selectively choose which to hold onto and then make space for the new things you will inevitably acquire (especially when you have children around).

We have to choose what things hold real significance and sentimental value and what we perhaps need to ‘let go’ of because it is simply cluttering up our lives.


Taking the time to consistently organise, sort through and make space, enables us to embrace change more easily.


The wider life discipline of simplifying asks the same question:

What is cluttering up my life?
What do I need to cut back on to make room for the new?
How can I prepare myself for the season ahead?

Our physical reality is often symbolic of other things going on in our life. Physical actions can help us prepare for, face and work through mental and emotional change.

Decluttering and re-organising helps us to:
Celebrate yesterday.
Focus on today.
and
Make space for tomorrow.

I found the process of starting to help my Dad clear his house following my Mums death quite a therapeutic exercise. Of course you want to hold onto many memories and items of significance, but there is also something healthy in saying goodbye, letting go and recognising a new season ahead.

It is not always an easy process, and can take time to face, but is one that can be useful in so many different ways and can help us mentally accept and adapt to change whether it is happily welcomed or tragically enforced.

Time invested today to embrace the process of simplifying is not wasted time. It is preparation for the future. So that we can move forward and welcome change without too much baggage tied around our ankles.

There is a freedom that comes through LETTING GO.

“That’s been one of my mantras – focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple.” – Steve Jobs


How could you make more space, room and time in your life?
Is it time for a big clear out?

Thoughtless words can wound as deeply as any sword

WORDS are sometimes easy to say.
Sometimes they are hard.
They can be too many.
Or too few.
They have the power to WOUND.
And the power to HEAL.

How do you use your words?

Each of us have different strengths and weaknesses when it comes to words.

We can be GOOD with them.
Communicate well.
Inspire, encourage and build others up.

Or we can be BAD with them.
Communicate badly.
Say the wrong thing at the wrong time and hurt people.

Communication isn’t always easy or simple. We ALL get it wrong at times, both intentionally and unintentionally. We can say too much or we can say too little.

It is not always easy to get right and even when we think we have, we can find that someone heard it all wrong anyway.

We know that good communication builds strong relationships and bad communication can tear them apart. But it isn’t always simple to navigate and it certainly takes a lot of wisdom.

Words can sometimes fly too freely from our mouths. It is not until later on that we might realise we didn’t think long or hard enough beforehand about how we communicated them. We gave too little thought to their consequences.

An old proverb says:

Thoughtless words can WOUND as deeply as any sword, but wisely spoken words can heal. (‭Proverbs‬ ‭12‬:‭18.‬ The Bible)

Can you relate to that Proverb?

I know I can.

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I can remember one time during my first or second year at secondary school (age 11/12). I had a friend that I would sit next to in my tutor group. We used to spend quite a bit of time together in and out of school. Then one day another friend told me that on that morning, as I came down the path towards the classroom, someone said “Becky is coming” and this girl had apparently responded, “Oh no, she is so annoying, I can’t believe I have to sit next to her.”

Someone I thought was my friend didn’t like to be with me.

Those words hurt.

They attack your confidence and your trust.

Our words matter.
They are not easily forgotten and cannot be taken back.
Badly spoken words can wreck relationships and hurt others.

We cannot change what we have said in the past. We also cannot change what others have said to or about us. But we can choose to use own our words differently, both today and in the future.

We can turn the tide and use more thoughtful and wise words to HEAL others.

Thoughtless words can wound as deeply as any sword, but wisely spoken words can HEAL. (‭Proverbs‬ ‭12‬:‭18‬. The Bible)

I have been thinking about how wise and thoughtful words can heal and how can we use them more. Here are some of my conclusions.

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KIND WORDS BUILD PEOPLE UP
Using kind words can have more impact than you can imagine. In the same way that we remember words that hurt us. We can also remember significant kind words, especially when they are given during a difficult times.

I can remember times when a short message on a card or a text has meant a lot and held much significance.

Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless. – Mother Teresa

ENCOURAGEMENT COUNTERACTS CRITICISM
We all face negativity and criticism. It seems all too easy for us and others to complain, moan and point out all the faults in what others do. In a world that can often hear a lot more negatives than positives we desperately need people who choose to encourage. Who are thankful and appreciative of others. Who choose to see what is right rather than just what is wrong.

“Encouragement is the oxygen of the soul.” -John Maxwell

BELIEF RESTORES HOPE
Expressing your belief in someone can restore their hope and vision for the future. People find it all too easy to pull one another apart but the words ‘I believe in you and what you are doing’ can be life changing and counteract discouragement and disappointment.

“Worry weighs a person down; an encouraging word cheers a person up.” -The Bible: (Proverbs‬ ‭12‬:‭25‬)

KIND WORDS ARE GENEROUS
We often think about generosity in terms of money or gifts. But we can also be generous with our words. Offering someone a kind word, compliment or encouragement can be a form of generosity because it puts that person first and shows that you are thinking about them. It takes time, effort and humility to reach out to someone with kindness.

One of the best gifts you can anyone is encouragement. If everyone received enough the world would blossom beyond our wildest dreams. – Nicky Gumbel

WRITTEN WORDS CAN BE HELD ON TO
When someone writes thoughtful words down for you, you can re-read them, hold onto them and treasure them. I am sure many of us hold onto particular cards and letters with messages that really spoke to us at that time.

These can be invaluable during difficult times in our lives. They remind us that someone, somewhere does care.

USING KIND WORDS BLESSES US TOO
When we give a gift of kind words to others we find that we get blessed too. Good communication builds strong relationships with others. It encourages others to use similar words back. It helps us to feel good in sharing them. We get the focus off ourselves and think about how we can help another and that always helps us to feel better too.


The Proverb is so true. Thoughtless words DO wound deeply, but thoughtful, wisely spoken words DO heal.

Good words not only build others up but they can also heal the wounds inflicted by other thoughtless words. That is why our words are so powerful. They really can change lives.

Would you rather be a person who wounds or one that heals?

I know who I would rather be!

Be generous with your time and your resources and with giving credit and, especially, with your words. It’s so much easier to be a critic than a celebrator. Always remember there is a human being on the other end of every exchange. – Maria Popova

How do you think words can heal? Do you have any examples from your life?