We’ve seen the shows about de-cluttering a wardrobe or a home and how cathartic it is. The process of getting rid of what we don’t need and haven’t used for a period of time creates space for new and exciting things…..or space to breathe! It also provides a sense of control and organisation when the task is complete. But what about the need to de-clutter our lives? There’s so much clutter going on there too!
The world we live in is frantic. There is so much to do, there’s so much around us that distracts us and our time seems to constricting. So why do we do things that continue to clutter up our time? Do you really have time for these meetings you attend that have no purpose? Do you have time to attend boring after hour’s functions out of a misguided sense of duty? Do you really have time to volunteer for the Parents Association or to constantly be an ear for that person that just sucks your energy dry? Do you have time to scroll through Facebook with a to-do-list that is growing? It’s time to de-clutter! And what better time with spring just around the corner.
I classify clutter into five categories:
- Physical Clutter – visible things around you. The mess on your desk, the state of your home, your room, your office, your workplace, your wardrobe, your garage.
- Mental Clutter – the thoughts running around in your head that keep you awake at night, that worry and concern you.
- People Clutter – the people you surround yourself with. These people will either lift you up or sap your energy.
- Digital Clutter – social media, games, Smartphone’s etc. The distractions!
- Activity clutter – the events you attend, the associations or clubs you join, the meetings you have, the coffees you arrange because you should.
Impact of Clutter
When we’re cluttered it has a negative impact on your ability to focus and process information. The clutter either around you, in front of you on screens or in your mind competes for your attention resulting in a decrease in performance and an increase in stress.
It also creates a sense of being out of control and contributes to the feeling busyness. Trying to find things on a messy desk or in a messy office is a massive time waster for example. When we feel out of control we feel vulnerable and insecure rather than confident and in control. As you will most likely know from first hand experience this brings a very different type energy and evokes very different behaviours. Ones we’d prefer to avoid.
How to De-Clutter
- Clean up the mess around you. The easiest of all. This is a great starting point. Get a sense of order into your office, on your desk, in your home or in your garage! Get rid of what you don’t need and store what you do need. Make sure what you use each day is accessible and have a process for the end of each day to retain your orderly state. This can provide a great sense of achievement, give you a sense of control feeling organised and inevitably evoke the question ‘why didn’t I do that sooner?’!
- Write things down. Get all of that clutter that is swimming around in your mind out of your head and on to paper. That way you can see what is consuming your thoughts and make sense of it. Write everything down, the big things and the small things. Then prioritise what you need to tackle first, second and third and create a plan. You will be amazed how this simple exercise makes such a huge difference. When you have a clutter mind this inhibits creative, decisive and strategic thinking. Your ability to think clearly will be dramatically improved by removing all the clutter and making sense of it all.
- Stop and get curious. The particularly relates to the activity clutter. Ask yourself ‘for what purpose am I going to………’. If it’s for any other reason than getting you closer to your goals, fulfilling your value of contribution, you’re passionate about it, you learn something, you love attending and gain a lot from the events and there is a deeper purpose to you doing something then you have to ask yourself why you’re doing it. Question why you are doing that you are doing especially the things you don’t enjoy, feel waste your time and what you dread! And then assess your options. Saying ‘no’ could be an empowering choice.
- Do a people audit. Often we hang out with the wrong people. Those who are forever taking rather than giving back. The scales weigh heavily in their favour and they drain the hell out of you. Limit the amount of time you’re spending with people who don’t lift you up and are forever sapping your energy and spend more time with those who are important. This can be a real eye opener for people and often we don’t realise how much time we give those who aren’t giving us much back. Be ruthless. Time is precious and it’s important to spend your time with the right people rather than those you are obliged to or feel you should out of a misguided sense of friendship.
- Plan for digital free time. It’s well known that technology affects our sleep. It’s also well known that social media, text messages, emails etc are one of the biggest distractions to our focus. We are in complete control of this. It’s a choice how often we look at the phone, scroll Facebook or Twitter and check emails. We need to limit how often we do this and create space for digital free time. We need to give our brains the rest it needs, we need time for slow thinking, meditation and to just allow our mind to wander. Put down the phone and limit the amount of digital clutter you allow into your world or you can easily become consumed by it with detrimental results.
By taking these five steps you’ll be well on your way to a de-cluttered life that will allow more time for you to enjoy the things that matter to you and what really counts.