Steen mug shot


“Clutter is not just physical stuff.

It’s old ideas, toxic relationships and bad habits.

Clutter is anything that does not support your better self.”

— Eleanor Brownn

Vision is my focus this year.

Satisfaction is what I’m seeking in my life. 

Clutter stands between where I am and where I want to be.

It took me most of December to finally get around to pulling out the ornaments to put on the tree. It was just that kind of month — busy. But as I look at the corner, I’ve filled with the items that now can be put away until next December, I’m realizing that part of what holds me back from decorating is the over-abundance of decorations in the storage tubs. 

When we just had a few items, I couldn’t wait to pull them after the Thanksgiving pumpkin pie, but after collecting so much, it’s less stressful to just pick a few items or none at all. Brownn’s words, though, help me see that it isn’t just the stuff, it’s ideas, relationships and habits that do not support my (and your) better self, which might need to be reconsidered.

In discussing my vision for my life with a friend recently, I commented that I want to feel satisfied with my life. I don’t want to always be chasing some experience that I think will be the magic moment to complete my life, and I don’t want to go into debt to have nicer items, behaving as if these things will add quality to my obituary one day. 

I don’t need to have the highest level in the company or the most friends at the party to feel satisfied.

I also don’t want to come to the end of my day or the end of my life realizing that I just plodded along with no real vision of what I wanted to achieve. I want to have a vision of how I see my life progressing and the ways I can work toward a more satisfying life. 

Do a little research, and you, too, might discover that having less creates more space in your life. Less stuff, less activities, less people we don’t enjoy. Maybe as we lessen the activities, things, people, and habits that are too much, we’ll discover our satisfaction with life grows.

I don’t think I can have too many books, too many fountain pens or too much stationery. Aside from those, I’m willing to entertain the possibility that having less might mean being closer to a more satisfied life. Less cookware = more space in the kitchen; fewer clothes = an easier time choosing an outfit; and less in the “piles” department = more easy breathing in my life. 


Step One. Define what will constitute your satisfied life.

For me, a satisfied life means

  • I could walk into my home and not feel overwhelmed by ‘stuff’
  • I could sit down to write (a book, a letter, a post) and not have notifications popping up that people need help with their issues

I could easily access tools and ingredients for recipes. A satisfied life, for me, means having time to enjoy the people I care about and not feeling that commitments are keeping me from enjoying my family and friends.

For me, satisfaction would mean feeling that I have accomplished my goals, have loved people well, have written a few books, and have captured beautiful moments for people to treasure for generations to come. What is the definition for you?

Step Two. Recognize what “clutter” is preventing your satisfied life.

For me, the clutter is:

  • items in my home because I have loved people and have a hard time parting with things that were special to them
  • papers I am afraid to throw away because I might need them
  • not turning off technology at regular intervals
  • aspirations to do things that aren’t reasonable for me (know your limits)
  • allowing other people’s clutter to become my own

Step Three. Claim some satisfaction.

For me, I realize it’s important to remove what’s in the way to feel a little satisfaction now:

  • give away actual things that clutter the path
  • turning off notifications when I want to read a book or write a book or letter
  • say not today to people who don’t really need me, so I’ll have more time for my mother, husband, children, and closest friends
  • say not today to everyone so I say yes to time by myself
  • spend time putting the tools and ingredients and recipes I want to use where I can easily access them

Less is More. Less worry about what people are thinking of you means more pleasure of life. Less time spent looking at other people’s photos of life means making photos and memories of your own life. Less time spent floundering means more time organizing and enjoying life.

Satisfied: pleased or content with what has been experienced or received

I think each of us finds ourselves in a world full of bright, shiny objects that clamor for our attention and space in our homes, as well as comfortable but non-supportive habits and people occupying space in our lives. This is not something most of us want to talk about (because it might mean change), but if it’s even remotely possible that less is more, shouldn’t we entertain the idea? 

One of the first ideas I’ll reconsider is that a pretty home for the holidays (or any day) means filling every corner with more. I’m looking to keep the treasures and remove the rest. Support your better self, seek to be satisfied, focus on your vision.

Susan Black Steen is a writer and photographer, a native Tennessean and a graduate of Austin Peay State University. With a firm belief that words matter, she writes and speaks to bring joy, comfort and understanding into each life. Always, she writes from her heart in hopes of speaking to the hearts of others. 

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