Friday, December 18, 2015

The Declutter Code: 10 Simple Steps to Clarity by Yvette Bowlin

Image result for declutter code

I came across an excerpt from The Declutter Code: 10 Simple Steps to Clarity right before I was getting ready to head off on my retreat at the Abbey of Gethsemani. I liked what author Yvette Bowlin had to say about outside clutter being a sign of inside clutter and discovered her ebook was available on Amazon for 99 cents.

As the only screen I took with me to the monastery was my Kindle, I figured this would be a perfect opportunity to read a little deeper into Ms. Bowlin's steps to clarity. 

No clutter here. The book runs a mere 138 pages but packs in a lot of information. This is not a how-to-clean-your-closets book. You won't find directions for ditching your desk debris or a blueprint for banishing your baking tins.

Ms. Bowlin believes that our environmental clutter is a result of our cluttered minds and that is the mess she intends to clean up. 

In Part One, The Truth About Clutter, she looks at our "overcrowded, overloaded and overwhelmed minds." Too much noise along with too many ToDo lists, phone calls, errands, emails, texts, and endless news alerts. We are constantly frazzled and dazzled. 

It's no wonder our closets are stuffed, our kitchen cabinets are clogged, and we can't find our car keys.

I admit I sort of rushed through Part One as I know what the problem is. I wanted to get on to the solution.

In Part Two, Clearing Clutter, she offers that solution. Ah. Take a deep breath. Feel your mind relaxing and your thoughts clearing...just a bit. Clarity, as she defines it, is "freedom from anxiety and overwhelm. It is freedom from overthinking, overload and overcompensation. A clear mind is a peaceful mind."

Her 10 Steps to Clarity, which she developed from her own experiences in clearing her cluttered life, I found to be practical and easy to follow. She suggests concentrating on each step for one week. Each step builds off the one before. There is no rush.

In each chapter she gives a short explanation of the step, how it clears mental clutter, what it feels like, and a tool or tools for implementing the step. Finally she offers up an experiment - three or four suggestions to try out for yourself and make note of the outcomes.

Since her Step One is Slow, Step Two is Still, and Step Three is Silence, being on retreat allowed me to really immerse myself in all of those. I could feel my mind slowing down and could actually grab hold of a thought or two as they went swirling by. I had nowhere to be and purposely slowed my walking pace and didn't hurry through my meals. There were plenty of opportunities and quiet places to be still and silent at the monastery and I took advantage of them.

But guess what. Now I am back into the Race and Rush of Life. I am no longer on the monastery's time of slow, still, and silence.  I have not read Step Four which is Space. I have not read ahead to the rest of the steps: See, Shift, Simplify, Savor, Sort, and Sleep. (OK, maybe I am already practicing that last one!)

I think it would be helpful for me to go ahead and read through the rest of the steps. To get an idea of the big picture. Then I can start over and implement her suggestions.  I really do want to know what she has to say, so I won't give up.

If you are looking for a little peace and serenity - and who isn't - this well-written book offers some workable suggestions on how to bring some clarity into your life.

Now, breathe...


  1. Sounds like the perfect intersection of book and experience. I often find when I go on a trip of any kind that I come home vowing to slow down and simplify. I am usually able to make some changes, not all of which stick. It's all too easy to let the race of life take over! I love reading books like this, always hoping to glean a little knowledge to make my life smoother and simpler.

    1. Kathy, it is so easy to resolve to slow down when one has already slowed down! And then, like you say, real life takes over. It is a constant struggle for me to try and stay clear and focused. Yoga, meditation, retreats...I can't imagine what I would feel like if I didn't practice!

  2. I loved the book as well. Yvette really has a handle on what drives us to clutter... Better yet she has a grasp on how to help us move on!

    I also finished the book and am now going back to put the steps into motion. She did a great job in explaining how to do this too. Never once did it feel like judgment or fault, and that's really what kept me reading.

    Great review! Glad we are both getting something from The Code!

    1. Hi, Cecil. I did go ahead and read through all the steps and now, like you, am going back and taking the action. Most days I do Slow and Still and Silence pretty well. Thanks for leaving a comment! And good luck with all the steps. I would like to hear how The Code worked for you.

    2. Every day is something new when you get into an extremely interesting book like The Declutter Code.

      For me, meditation has taken on a new look and is no longer just me sitting with my legs crossed/planning my day/thinking about what I want to eat for breakfast.

      I had already started yoga too. So I had a leg up (pun intended?) on that exercise. Truthfully, I have read the ebook and look forward to using the paperback as a handy Declutter Manual for really getting into the steps as a lifestyle... kind of like a pocket book... but until then I have been taking notes from the ebook to post-its and going over them that way.

      This helps me avoid having my phone or ipad in my hands. I look at my phone and other electronics as a form of clutter; they tend to lend to distraction and loss of focus. Almost like an electronic obligation hanging over our heads... I need a change.

      Yvette's notion, "When we step away from "my way" and open ourselves up to "a way," it feels like enlightenment."

      For example: My typical way is to have my phone in my hand wherever I go. I am opening myself up to a NEW way by letting that thing go for a period of time each day. Mainly when I meditate! I do like playing music though. How do you meditate?

    3. OK, so you have become my new guru!

      I have practiced meditation on and off for years but never stuck with it. I began yoga (gentle) maybe five years ago and about a year ago incorporated meditation immediately following my stretches/poses in the morning. I started with five minutes and worked up to 20 but now am at 15 minutes.

      Basically I just let my mind wander...I sometimes come back to my breath but usually the soft ding of the timer sounds and I return from wherever I have been. I don't worry about "doing it right" too much. For me, just the stillness and the consistency are working right now.

      Yes, yes, yes. The clutter of technology! I get really anxious when I have been looking at a screen for too long. Laptop, phone, Kindle, tablet - I have them all. I (over)use my phone as a way of transitioning from one activity to another or as a way to procrastinate from starting a chore or task. Sloth!

      I do have a post-it over my kitchen sink and on the bathroom mirror: Slow. A little reminder. Maybe I need one that suggests: Step Away From the Screen!

      Thanks for your reply!

    4. I am hardly a guru! I enjoy learning new things and opened myself up to the Declutter process. That's new to me. In the past, it would be much easier to run than work or do something about the root of my issues. Everyday is a new day to punch in and get to work!

      Sounds like you're doing well with recognizing what you need to work on. Hang onto that and know it's a marathon much more than a sprint. And don't get down on yourself for falling victim to the clutter... Habits are hard to break and may even be harder to build.

      Reminders help! I like to leave little things in places I know I'll run across. Sounds like more clutter as I wrote this haha Seriously it helps though!!

      Have you tried to reach out to the author? She's starting courses and a community pretty soon. It sounds like a good place to get some fellowship with others seeking clarity.

    5. We all need little reminders, don't we! Of course, if I post too many on the mirror, then, as you say, they too become clutter. One idea at a time!

      I am glad to hear about the expansion of Ms. Bowlin's ideas. I will see it I can track her down.

      I have noticed that I sometimes now look at a little 'mess' and wonder what interior clutter has birthed it! Progress?

    6. Wouldn't that be something to?!

      "Dear Self,
      Avoid Clutter and get your Clarity back!
      25 post-its on your bathroom mirror"

      That is not so rare though. Many people buy closet organizers, shower caddy's and more, but just end up shifting the clutter here and there instead of figuring out why they are hanging onto it in the first place.

      I believe that is what separate this book from others, for me, because The Declutter Code attacks the roots not just symptoms or results. Who cares if your closets are clean right now if you are just going to fill them again!

      Worst yet, if you are really hard on yourself for some past decisions or you are not happy with where you are at in life, aka: emotional/mental forms of clutter. I have issues there too.

      Baby steps to clear all this up and move on!

      As for reaching out to author... I her on Twitter. She is really responsive! Try @declutterist and @yvesanbo! I have interacted with her on a few occasions and she is probably the most down to earth author I have ever met. I mean, really in-tune and in love with helping people. Let me know how it goes!

      PS- if you tweet, let's follow each other: @jayojeda

    7. It was nice chatting with you here! Do you have an email list I can get on for updates with your blog?

    8. Oh, dear. Your January 4 comment got lost in my inbox!

      Let's see, I agree that the inside is what matters. I have spent many years shifting stuff around only to realize that shifting is not decluttering. It is simply shifting.

      Have you read Marie Kondo's book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up? She is pretty ruthless when it comes to kissing your stuff goodbye.

      I am not on Twitter. I can barely keep up with email! You can email me at

      and we can continue our conversations there. I would like that. There is probably a way you can follow me or something but I don't know how that works. I post something on Thursday or Friday every week if that helps. I look forward to hearing from you!

    9. It's okay! Busy time of year for sure! That book you mention is another guide to cleaning up around you, but mentions little to nothing on the true source of the clutter: our minds.

      During the gap in me responding, I have begun cleaning and clearing out my garage, closets and dresser. A guide can help me do this and I appreciate that help. But what happens when that space is there? Will I fill it again or did I learn to stop doing that?

      Yvette is the only author (I have found) who addresses the root of it all. I love that!!! I know she also comes from a place of experience and not judgment. Also a great approach for me because I struggle with receiving criticism, positive or negative in nature.

      I will check on the blog weekly. I like what you are doing here and enjoy your writing. Twitter offers a shorter (for now) version of a blog... you should check it out if you find the time! It also gives you access to a lot of authors, book critics, publishers and more. The book lover can find some good community via social media... just a thought.

    10. I know what you mean about stuff filling the empty spaces. It is an ongoing fight. I don't think we can keep our possessions at bay as stuff is always going to come into our lives in one form or another. Either what we buy ourselves or what is given to us or what we might inherit from family. At different ages I think we have to be vigilant about what is important to us at that stage and deal with the clutter then. As much as I would like it to be, it is never a one time thing. At least you are taking action and clearing spaces. And if they fill up again, well you will know what to do!

    11. I know what to do but have to unlearn what I am used to doing. You mentioned something really interesting... "different ages" and how that relates to what we keep and why we keep it. This is really true. As I get older, I have noticed that "things" still matter to me but I keep them out of habit much more often than keeping them because they are needed. Which is strange because I would think at older ages we would recognize the need versus want much quicker.

    12. Yes, inertia and ennui do take their toll. And some possessions just simply bring me comfort and I am loathe to be rid of them. After years of accumulating, perhaps the job of sorting becomes too overwhelming and one lacks the energy to face the Stuff. That's where the Professional Organizer comes in, I suppose.

    13. I think we all have the angel and devil scenario on our shoulders... we know what to keep, what we shouldn't and what we need to get rid of right now, but we just fall back into that comfort zone of finding room.

      I refuse to pay someone to clean up my spaces... I will pay for a book and instruction on how to stop myself from doing it in the first place, and learn tricks to avoiding the traps.

      PS- The Declutter Code is out on paperback. I just ordered 3 copies :)

    14. I must have a shelf full of books on simplicity and organization and uncluttering. Sometimes it is just comforting to read them even if I don't toss a thing!

      Glad TDC made it to paperback. I nice resource to have on hand!