Environments are Stronger than Willpower

The last few weeks I have been actively re-organizing and re-decorating my home and office. My boys are with their Dad for the summer, and yet for some reason, the clutter remained. I didn’t realize how much it was negatively impacting me until I started finding a place for everything, started taking down old things, and replacing them with new things that I loved.


It is truly amazing how much impact our environment has in our lives. For example, imagine you want to loose weight and eat healthier but you have candy dishes out on the counter, soda in the fridge, and junk food in your closet. It’s going to be hard to eat healthy when you are surrounded by temptations. In this case, the environment is practically setting you up for failure.

Jim Bunch outlines nine environments in our lives: self, spiritual, relationships, network, financial, physical, nature, body, and memetic. Learning about this and putting the concepts into practice have been life-changing for me.

We are impacted and surrounded by environments every hour of the day, every day of the year. These environments affect our ability to create wealth, to be productive, to be healthy, and ultimately our ability to be happy and find joy.

We can have the best intentions, but if our environment is not conducive to what we need, we will struggle to be successful. Think about how many New Years Resolutions actually hold… All nine environments need to work in harmony. If one is out of balance, it can affect all of the others.

A Change

Environments, Jack Canfield says, can “either inspire us or expire us…energize us or drain us.” Environments exert a lot of control over our feelings and behavior, but we have the power to create positive environments.

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Our environments need to be in alignment with where we want to go and who we want to be. And we have more control over some environments than others. Essentially, to transform an environment, there are three things we can do: add something, delete something, or modify something.

Physical Environment

I am going to refer to the physical environment since that is what I have been actively working on over the past several weeks, but the concepts are equally valid for all the other eight environments. I have been using all three techniques to change the physical environment in my home and in my office.

The physical environment includes:

  • Home
  • Office
  • Furnishings
  • Equipment
  • Technology

It is those things around you that you can physically see, touch, and feel.

The Impact of Clutter

Clutter is my nemesis. Whether it is in a closet, on my desk, or that one section of kitchen counter… I think we all have that one (or more) place catching all of the random clutter. For a long time, I even had an entire room, my office. I never wanted to go in there. How was I supposed to get things done if I didn’t want to be in my workplace?

So, why do we collect so many things? I justified keeping the clutter by thinking that maybe I would use it later, or that it has sentimental value, or that I paid a lot of money for it… So, I kept/keep it, even when I haven’t used it for weeks, months, and sometimes even years.

Excess things in our surroundings can have a negative impact on our ability to focus and process information. Physical clutter competes for our attention, increases stress, and subsequently decreases performance.

A House of Order

“Organize yourselves; prepare every needful thing; and establish a house, even a house of prayer; a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God.” – The Doctrine and Covenants 88:119

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This scripture reminded me of the kind of home and environment I want to live in, work in, and raise my family in. I want a home where our needs are met, but not one of excess and waste. I want a home where everything has a place and can be easily found. A home where the spirit can freely dwell as we pray and learn and grow. I want a home where people feel welcome and loved. And I want a home where I don’t feel stressed about how cluttered it is.

I used the three tools to modify my environment: delete, modify and add.


The first thing I did was to decide what needed to go. I went through each room and identified what was having a negative impact on me. Why keep it?

There is something very satisfying about filling up boxes and donating them to someone else who could use them or who truly needs them. And if you aren’t ready to get rid of it, pack it up and put it away. That item you never use or don’t like doesn’t need to be out taking space that something else could be using.

It is also very satisfying to tackle stacks of papers and shred, recycle, and throw away things that really don’t need to be kept. I cleaned off surfaces and thanks to the prodding of my good friend Michelle Zollinger Tams, decided that everything I was going to keep needed its own home. She told me, “everything needs a place,” and I have been determined to make a home for what I wanted and to clean out what I didn’t need.


Since I have fairly small spaces to work with, I rearranged furniture. I tried different arrangements until I found one that created a more open and flowing feel. I don’t feel as crowded.

I’m so excited that my chairs won’t scratch the wall when my family sits down at the table to eat anymore! I can’t believe it took me three years to turn the table.


After I got rid of the clutter and re-arranged my furniture, I had more space for other things that would help create a positive environment. I chose decorations that made me happy, that brought light, and were a source of inspiration and creativity. I was surprised at how distinctly my energy changed from one of chaos to one of joy and order.

When I added new things, I didn’t use all the space I created. I still needed to see some empty space.

However, I think it’s important to note that everyone has different definitions of clean, clutter, and being organized. It is your own perception of clutter that matters, not someone else’s.

Create Your Ideal Environment

Obviously, in a family relationship there is a give and take that must happen when creating your home, but I would caution you not to compare yourself to others. How they have created their space may not work for you. And just because everything has found a place doesn’t mean that it should be inaccessible if you are never going to use something, why have it?

Find what works for you. We want our environments to help us be successful and not set us up for failure.

Create your ideal environment, so that you can thrive.

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  1. Bunch, Jim. (2005). The Ultimate Game of Life. Retrieved from http://df4tmfarrg3rl.cloudfront.net/9%20Environments%20Book%20-%20Printable.pdf
  2. Canfield, Jack. (2017). Retrieved from http://jackcanfield.com/blog/taking-control-of-the-environments-that-control-you/
  3. LDS.org. (2017). Retrieved from http://classic.scriptures.lds.org/en/dc/88/119a

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14 thoughts on “Environments are Stronger than Willpower”

  1. I’m a big believer that our surroundings affect our mental state! A cluttered space equals a cluttered mind for me! Loved reading this and nodding my head in agreement!

  2. Love these tips! I have definitely been getting rid of A TON of things in my home and I feel SO much better when there is no clutter around. I stay focused and I’m simply happier.

  3. This is wonderful! I constantly feel stressed due to my environment. The clutter and mess a three-year-old boy can make! LOL I really need to go through our house and get rid of a lot “stuff” to de-stress us all.

    1. Isn’t it crazy how quickly things can get carried away? Gotta love those little even if they do cause a little more clutter!

  4. When I am stressed out I start cleaning and finding a home for the clutter. It makes me feel so much better and improves my mood.

  5. These are great tips! Delete, modify, and add can be really useful in so many situations. Environment is such a huge factor in habits and behavior. Great things to think about, Krista! 🙂

  6. Love this! I can’t work at my best when my environment (physical, mental, or otherwise) is cluttered or stressful. Best to tackle that clutter first so I can give my best to the task at hand. I like your Kon-Mari approach to the “delete” tool too.

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