There are some very common sentiments I hear from people who are living in clutter (whether it’s digital, physical, or mental):
- Oh, it doesn’t bother me.
- I hardly even notice it.
- There are other things more pressing.
- I’ll get to it someday, but I actually do fine in a cluttered environment.
Now, these sentiments may be true. If clutter is not a problem for you, I’m not here to tell you it should be. But something brought you here to LearnDoBecome, and something is causing you to feel overwhelmed, and I want to share some ideas today that may encourage you to prioritize the “clearing of clutter” in your life because I genuinely believe it will make a bigger impact than you might anticipate.
First, let’s talk about the subconscious “chatter” that goes on in your mind.
We all have an internal dialogue, and that dialogue is what affects our emotions. You feel the way you think…and then you think the way you feel. That’s how we create our “personalities” and our “identities” and our patterns and our ruts. We create thought habits that either keep us moving forward or keep us feeling stuck. This probably doesn’t sound super new to you.
When someone has a panic attack, for example, it stems from the subconscious (or conscious) thoughts taking place at that time.
When you live in clutter, I’m willing to bet that your subconscious chatter is keeping you in that clutter. You might be thinking things like, “Oh, my house is such a mess. There is too much going on. I can’t keep up. I’m not put together. I can’t find anything. I don’t know how to create a beautiful environment. I’m letting myself and my family down.” (I heard my mom saying things kinds of things all while I was growing up, and it hurt my heart to see how weighed down she often felt.) And in the past, I’ve said these things to myself…and even currently, there are times I say things like this to myself.
However, when you clear your space and create an environment that inspires you–even if it is simple, done on a budget, and not “fancy” to anyone else–your thoughts will naturally change when you see evidence of order, cleanliness, and simplicity around you. Your mood will lift, and your subconscious chatter will change to things like, “Wow, this looks so good! I’ve kept this clean for weeks now! I can handle my life! I can manage what’s on my plate. I’m showing up for myself and my family in a beautiful way. I am competent. I’m moving at a pace that makes sense!”
It’s subtle. You might not even notice how much your environment impacts you in the moment. But it is going to make a BIG difference that you will hardly be able to quantify.
Now let’s talk about “numbness” and decision fatigue.
One reason you might say that the mess doesn’t need to be a priority is because your brain has literally gone numb to it. This is a concept I first learned from David Allen, author of Getting Things Done®. Because we can’t handle ALL the decisions that a big old room of “stuff” represents, our brains will protect themselves by shutting off the “scanners” that notice those kinds of things.
If thinking about the stuff is too painful and requires too much energy, we stop. We DON’T think about it. And then we tell ourselves it isn’t bothering us.
Not true. It IS bothering us–to the point that if we focus on it, we often start getting rashes or hyperventilating or something like that.
But we don’t have to be afraid of a calm mind and clear space. It doesn’t need to be complicated. The reason you probably don’t want to make routines or project lists or look at your calendar is partly because it’s a habit and partly because we make it so complicated that it stresses us out to look at it.
The solution is to make the process of projects/routines/tasks/calendar creation so simple that you feel LIGHTER when you engage with it. That is why you need to get good at making decisions. That is why you need a seamless, humming Command Central.
But part of you thinks you don’t want to get organized because you don’t have enough information to do it perfectly or you might lose out on options. Perhaps we can address those things at a different time, but the main idea here is that getting organized will heighten your decision-making capabilities and actually give you more control over the way you gather and process information. It’s worth the effort.
Finally, let’s talk about how we get a “high” in our lives.
Clearly, there are a lot of unhealthy ways to feel an emotional “high.” That’s what drives people into addictions (drugs, alcohol, shopping, gambling, screens, food, the need for praise, etc.).
Throughout my life, I have turned to some unhealthy behaviors in order to feel a sense of satisfaction and contentment. When I was 13, my dad kept tons of candy in the trunk of his car. He liked to buy Halloween candy when it went on sale, and he could control himself–eating just a little each day. But my mom didn’t want it in the house (where it was a temptation), so she told him to keep it in his trunk and drive it to work each day where she wouldn’t see it. Every night, I knew if I went out to the trunk, I could have an Abba-zaba or Bottlecaps or something else to satisfy my sweet tooth–but it led to a lot of weight gain, shame, and hiding in my room.
In high school, being “active” in school gave me an emotional high–so I signed up for every club and group and ran for student office every semester and tried out for every play, and I got so little sleep. All because of the need to feel important.
Early in my motherhood, wiping counters and keeping the house clean became a bit of a compulsion. And when we first started our business, repeatedly checking our stats or spending hours on busywork gave me that “high” I was looking for.
You probably have at least a few stories like mine where you’ve gotten into routines that haven’t served you, but you desperately wanted to feel some sense of achievement or accomplishment.
When we either turn to addictive behaviors (whether they are applauded or not by society) OR when we sacrifice the relationships in our lives in order to feel some sense of happiness and meaning, that “high” will never last, and it will never leave us truly happy. No matter how many bites of candy went into my mouth, no matter how many activities I did in school, no matter how clean my counters got or how well my website stats were, that wasn’t the kind of joy I was looking for.
I’m not THE expert in this, by any means, but as I’ve thought deeply about this concept, overcome my own unhealthy behaviors, and worked with hundreds of thousands of people around the globe, I’ve learned that when we can get a high from a natural, well-paced, values-driven, healthy lifestyle, we can feel good almost every day AND feel a sense of lasting joy.
Clearing clutter in our minds, hearts, and physical spaces is a big part of that. We’re not cleaning and organizing in a compulsive way in order to make ourselves more valuable. We’re creating happy, meaningful lives that are sustainably “good”–without having to try so hard.
The other day, I said, “Eric, I want to get a lot of work done this month so I can relax next month when Spencer is out of school.” Eric lovingly replied, “How about we work well this month AND relax, and then ALSO relax next month?”
That was such a better goal.
I’m still working on this concept now–creating relationships, work, self-care, and service to the world that brings so much joy that I never feel the need to “escape” from them. That is the kind of emotional “high” that I want for you, too. And that is what our community here at LearnDoBecome is creating together. And it’s not that we can’t do those things when we’re living in clutter, but it is a whole lot easier when you have a clear, clean, calm foundation on which to build.
I invite you to ask yourself what your internal chatter is typically saying when you walk around your home and office.
Next, I’d like you to consider the clutter that is in your life and ask yourself if your mind has gone “numb” to any of it because too many decisions are buried in there.
Finally, I’d love for you to consider how you currently get an emotional “high” in your life. Are your routines and habits healthy? Are they serving you? Would everything feel easier if all the clutter was gone?
We’re all on this journey together, and there will always be bumps along the road, but hopefully these thoughts were helpful for you today.
Sending lots of love!
Our next session of Four Weeks to Finished begins Tuesday, May 31st, 2022!
Click here to either get on the waitlist or get registered for Four Weeks to Finished (depending on when you are reading this/when you click).
We’re so grateful to have you with us!