I hadn’t seen my friend Clare since Thanksgiving when we met for lunch last week. We hugged, sat down and commenced the catch-up chatter.  For her, it was Christmas in Aspen, a new Rolex, New Year’s Eve in NYC, and upcoming charity events.  My story was similar: dog attacked by coyote, sixty-thousand-mile maintenance check on the mini-van, and, hey – I got a Kindle for Christmas!

As I blissfully babbled on about my newfound love for kale, Clare stared at me, cocking her head from side-to-side like Nipper, the Victrola dog. “Something’s different about you but I can’t quite put my finger on it. What is it?” she asked, taking a sip of her drink.

“I dunno,” I replied. “Maybe it’s the 300 pounds I dropped in the past two months.”

For the record, I highly suggest never delivering that kind of news to anyone in mid-swallow. I spent the next 5 minutes cleaning Mojito off my face and blouse.

For those of you who know me or have seen my picture, I am barely 5’4” and for the past few decades have weighed less that 120 pounds. I’m healthy, active, and pretty darn agile for a chick in her 50’s. Understandably, one might not notice this compact physical frame was being weighed down. Not by the effects of storing fat on my body, but by the effects of storing 30+ years of JUNK in my home.

Much more oppressive than the weight of the material junk was the suffocating feeling of shame and guilt caused by my seemingly inescapable inability to stay organized, never throw anything away, and the kicker – never put anything away.

Oh, the embarrassment when someone knocked unexpectedly. I used the old Phyllis Diller lines more than once when opening the door: “Are you with the bomb squad?” “Who could have done this to us?!” and “I’m waiting for House Beautiful to come take the before pictures for their next issue.”

The most painful part of the whole “mess” became increasingly apparent when I started working from home three years ago. I couldn’t concentrate on work and success when all I could think about was the pile of laundry that needed to be done and the carpet that needed to be cleaned. God knows I should have hired a curator for the museum I mercifully called my closet. And don’t ask me about my office; my filing system would more aptly be described as a piling system.

The bottom line was, there was no room in my head for creating success because it was filled with the emotional and physical clutter of my disorganized house. Something had to change. But what and how? I had already purchased every quick-fix organizing solution known to man and none had delivered as promised (surprisingly not unlike the promises of fad diets and weight-loss programs). How could I shed this burdensome weight?

I had to face what I’d been avoiding; what I knew was causing the problem – my thinking. Before I could successfully clean anything in my house, I had to clean the counterproductive clutter in my head. I dug deep and excavated three massive thoughts that were literally weighing me down and perpetuating the enormity of my load:

Muddy Thought #1:  “If I take time to clean my house, I won’t have time to work hard at being successful in my business.” Pull out the Liquid Plumber, because this was one big clog in my brain. Who was I kidding? I was sitting at my desk everyday, thinking of all the great things I could do, but not doing them because my monkey-mind was worried about cleaning the house, and because I literally couldn’t find the things in my office I wanted to work on! My new clean thought is “if I DON’T take time to clean my house, I’ll keep worrying about it and I will NEVER be able to concentrate – and more importantly enjoy working on a successful business.” By cleaning out the clutter in my home, I would open more space in my head for creativity and spontaneity. That felt better.

Muddy Thought #2:  “If I take time to put things away, I won’t have time to do all the other things I need to do.”  Plug in the Orek – there’s real dirt hiding in this one. The things that I needed to do usually involved getting more things out that needed to be put away – which I didn’t! That’s what was keeping me in this gerbil wheel of continuous crud. My new clean thought is “by putting things away immediately, there will be fewer things I actually need to do and more time to do the things I want to do. AND I can do them faster because I’ll be able to find them!” Funny, this same principle applies to dealing with my dingy thoughts. The sooner I clean them, the sooner I’ll feel better and move forward. Who knew?

Muddy Thought #3:  “I can’t throw this away because that would be wasting good money.” Yuck. The dirty money thing. Time for some extra-strength disinfectant and rubber gloves. I realized I was actually putting more value on junk than I was my own happiness. Ouch. My new clean thought is “just because I pay for something doesn’t mean it needs to (or is going to) make me happy forever. The value is in the happiness it brings or continues to bring, not in the happiness it brought.” Starbuck’s coffee makes me happy, but when I finish it I don’t keep the cup just because I paid for it. What was I thinking?!?

These three new clean thoughts sent me into a frenzy of inspired action. Every day for two months, I purged something. I objectively weeded through closets, cupboards, drawers, bookshelves, files and even cookbooks. I lovingly let go of clothes, dishes, furniture, linens, toys – even plants. Each purged item was thrown out because it was worthless, or it was gifted, donated, or sold in our very profitable garage sale, creating happiness for many.

Every day I felt lighter, stronger and more confident. By cleaning just three muddy thoughts, I was able to rid my house and my mind of over 300 pounds of junk. And I dare say, we both look fabulous.

Are you carrying extra weight in the form of clutter in your home or office or even on your physical body? Is the burden of guilt, embarrassment or fear suffocating you, leaving you incapable of moving forward? Do you have muddy thoughts that are weighing heavy on your mind?

If so, it’s time to take inventory of your muddy thoughts. Dig them up. Clear them out. Let them go. Replace them with fresh clean thoughts that honor your values. Then go meet a friend for lunch and watch her head cock like Nipper. Just duck when you tell her the news.



  1. Sylvia Heed on March 28, 2011 at 8:00 pm

    You, my dear, are as brilliant as you are beautiful!

  2. Jessica Steward on March 29, 2011 at 6:23 am

    Another excellent and important post! Keep going!

    • Sheila Whittington on March 29, 2011 at 8:38 am

      Shucks, Jess. So happy to be writing again. THANK YOU! XOXO

  3. Monica Ricci on March 29, 2011 at 8:23 am

    Bravo! Stories like yours are why I continue to do what I do! It’s wonderful to take charge of your life again by wrestling back control of your home environment. Great post!


    • Sheila Whittington on March 29, 2011 at 8:36 am

      Thanks Monica! I’m glad you continue to do what you do, too!

  4. Kirsten Cameron on March 29, 2011 at 11:49 am

    Love this – I struggle with all of these dirty thoughts. I think I’ll always struggle with them to some extent. I’m going to take all the clean thoughts to heart – they are so true!

    • Sheila Whittington on March 29, 2011 at 12:05 pm

      Thanks Kirsten. I learned you can choose to struggle, or decide not to. When I cleaned up the thoughts, the struggle was over. It was just stuff that needed to be cleaned; much like you clean your face every night. Once I cleared the clutter in my brain, the rest became amazingly manageable. I invite you to find ALL your dirty thoughts and clean them. Then practice the new ones every day. You’ll find yourself in some clean living!!! XO

  5. Veronica Stern on April 29, 2011 at 8:36 pm

    I thought Sheila 300 pounds, why ? how ? no way and then I continue to read……Absolutely awesome. Loved it.

  6. […] may remember my post in March about How I Dropped 300 Pounds in 2 Months, describing how there was no room in my head for creating success because it was filled with the […]

  7. Margie Cherry on July 18, 2011 at 2:15 pm

    The best “DIET” story I’ve read in a long time!

  8. Jessica McClenen on August 8, 2011 at 10:45 am

    Love the post! My Muddy thought-I’m going to use this someday…
    I’m going to try and drop 300 pounds to it sounds liberating!

  9. Allyson Mallah on August 16, 2011 at 8:20 am

    You are hilarious, talented and this article is soooo freaking true! I just went through the “clean out mode” and im still feeling the positive effects from just “letting go!!” 🙂

    • Sheila Whittington on August 19, 2011 at 3:39 pm

      Thanks Allyson! Ahhhhhhh. Letting go. What a concept. So glad it’s working for you!

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