The Clutter of my Life
(written for the Coaching Corner; Glebe Report)
The other day I hovered in the doorway of my kitchen and looked around. It was a mess. The countertops were cluttered with dirty dishes, sticky pots and random egg shells. Â Embarrassingly, some of the plates and cutlery had been sitting there for two days. The problem was I had guests arriving for dinner in several hours. I felt overwhelmed. Before I could create a meal, I would have to roll up my sleeves and tackle the pile. As I did, I vowed to never again leave dirty dishes unattended. Â As someone who loves to cook, the kitchen is my sanctuary, a place where I go to relax and create. I knew that committing to cleaning up as I went along would help me become more effective in the kitchen.
I don’t imagine I am the only one with a clutter issue. Ironically, as a coach, I have worked with several clients on the same issue. Take the case of “Robert”. Robert didn’t come to see me about clutter. He came to see me because he felt he had reached an impasse in his life. An architect who worked from his home office, he felt stuck and discouraged because his creative juices had seemingly dried up. He was afraid that clients would stop calling and money would eventually stop flowing in.
Throughout our five-month coaching program together, I worked with Robert to help unlock what was underneath that feeling of being “stuck”. We worked slowly, chipping away at the “stuckness”, each coaching conversation building upon the last.
Early in our program together, Robert and I had a close look at his daily working habits. We started by focussing on the physical setup of his home office, a place where he had slowly accumulated a lot of papers not related to his work. It had become a holding room of sorts. Figuratively speaking, it had become a storage space for everything other than his creativity. I asked him how he felt going into his office every day and he replied, “It is so depressing that I have resorted to working on the dining room table. At least I have a clean surface to work on there”. At the end of the day though, he had to remove all his papers so that his partner could set the table for dinner.
In addition to not having a well-organized office for his work and his thoughts, Robert had also let go of good working habits such as starting work at a specific time, regular time to network, and creating time slots for reading and responding to e-mails.
Without going into the “guts” of the coaching program, let me just say that Robert slowly began to see that his days were actually random happenings that held him back from creating precious blocks of time to think, explore and create.
Together, we worked on the building blocks Robert would need to help find his creative juices once again, starting with reclaiming his office. This he did by cleaning up the space incrementally – devoting 15 minutes a day to the task. I asked him to sit in a chair in the middle of the room and place at his feet four boxes marked “File”, “Bills to pay”, “Upcoming appointments” and “Garbage”. The process was slow and deliberate but when he finished he felt light and refreshed.
Through a combination of coaching conversations and specific practices, Robert found renewed energy, outlook and purpose for his profession. I heard from him before the holidays. And I was delighted to hear that his creativity is soaring, the money is flowing in and he is feeling positive about what the future holds.
Every day I want to speak with you. And every day
something more important
calls for my attention – the drugstore, the beauty
products, the luggage
I need to buy for the trip.
Even now I can hardly sit here
among the falling piles of paper and clothing, the garbage
already screeching and banging.
The mystics say you are as close as my own breath.
Why do I flee from you?
My days and nights pour through me like complaints
and become a story I forgot to tell.
Help me. Even as I write these words I am planning
to rise from the chair as soon as I finish this sentence.
~ Marie Howe
(reprinted with the permission of Marie Howe, Prayer appears in The Kingdom of Ordinary Time; W.W. Norton & Company Inc., 2008)
Batia Winer is a meditation teacher and a certified Integral Master Coach™. 613-327-7522; firstname.lastname@example.org