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Rearranging the Outside to Rearrange the Inside

My precious parrot, Pearl, weighing in on a perfect piece of new art for our (yet again) freshly redecorated outer space.

Ever since I can remember, I have delighted in rearranging things. My first memories of this are joyous solitary hours immersed in color-coordinating and categorizing every item in my closet. Red shirts, blue shirts, red pants, blue pants….you get the idea.

Then came the epic colored glass collection, stored in a handy fishing lure box, with each little dazzling bit in its little compartment along with its green or yellow or orange companions.

To this day, if I happen to miss the (many, blaring, glaring) signs that big or small change is heading in my direction yet again, I can always catch a clue when I catch myself rearranging the furniture, my sock drawer, the tortoise habitats.

The other day, my weekly yoga letter arrived (courtesy of one of my favorite new mentors, #YogawithAdriene).

Apparently the online community is studying a book called “The Untethered Soul: A Journey Beyond Yourself.” Adriene included this quote from the book:

You have to break the habit of thinking that the solution to your problems is to rearrange things outside. The only permanent solution to your problems is to go inside and let go of the part of you that seems to have so many problems with reality.

It probably won’t surprise you to hear I rushed to my online library account to reserve the book.

But what has surprised me is how mixed my feelings actually are about this quote! 

I mean, I get it. Rearranging your outsides rearranges, well, your outsides. This is not the same as rearranging your insides.

Yet sometimes when change is coming and it feels impossible or overwhelming or quite simply unwelcome, I need to do something to shut off my brain for awhile. Otherwise neither of us will ever get a rest.

And since there are only so many hours (and dollars) one can devote to thrift store shopping, rearranging the closet yet again is a great and quite economical way to redirect.

Plus, I like rearranging things! I have a dear friend who is an artist – like a real, bona fide, incoming-earning super-talented artiste – and every time she comes over to my casa she swears I am an artist too.

While I know I am not – at least not that kind – I cannot deny how much I love and need to continually transition my space to reflect what is going on within me. This may mean adding or subtracting a lamp here, updating the pillow selection over there, changing out the flow of my inspiration wall… I guess if one were to say that continual interior re-design of the thriftiest possible type were an art form, I might actually qualify.

But mostly I feel like rearranging my outsides is how I communicate best with my insides. We can’t have a direct dialogue, because I don’t know how to speak “spirit” and it has only the most rudimentary grasp of my native tongue, “clueless-and-panic-striken.”

But we can talk through wall art. Or rugs. Or the latest selection of edible greenery lined up for planting (and then swift and certain doom) in Malti and Bruce’s habitats.

We can chat comfortably while I am filling up another bag of no-longer-timely items for donation back to Goodwill, where I know they will feel instantly happy and at home, since that is likely where they came from in the first place.

We can compare notes and brainstorm over an accessible discussion of whether to put the dry goods on the top or bottom shelf of the pantry this time.

We can bond over selecting new images and words to add to my inspiration wall and discussing where to put the fab new (to me) string of flower lights I scored at the resale shop yesterday.

It also occurs to me that just maybe, personally, my biggest problem with reality is that it refuses to stay put. The moment I do manage to grasp it, even for the briefest of instants, it is already slipping away again, like my parrot, Pearl, catching sight of a very fetching and feathery someone in the counter mirror and sprinting right over to greet them.

Reality, too, seems enamored of keeping things fresh, changing it up without any warning or even a courtesy heads-up.

Which means these shared moments of mutual rearranging may be the few moments when reality and I are actually in some sort of honest-to-goodness sync.

Today’s Takeaway: What is your take on the book quote? At first I felt like, “Oh! So THAT  is what my problem is!” But then I was like, “But wait, you mean I should STOP rearranging things?” 🙁 What do you think? Is there an argument to be made for just dropping all that exterior rearranging? 

Rearranging the Outside to Rearrange the Inside

Shannon Cutts

Parrot, tortoise & box turtle mama. Writer. Author. Mentor. Champion of all people (and things) recovered and recovering.

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APA Reference
Cutts, S. (2018). Rearranging the Outside to Rearrange the Inside. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 30, 2020, from


Last updated: 8 Sep 2018
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