Internal clutter. We all have it. It shows up as negative self-talk, limiting beliefs, faulty thinking and limiting perspectives. Most of us are unconscious about the variety of clutter that runs the show in our brains.
You’re probably noticing that I’m including myself when I talk about mental clutter. The first therapist I worked with told me that I had a black cloud over my head. She was referring to the array of negative beliefs about life and what I could expect from it that I had laid out before her.
Upon reflection I was able to identify that I had inherited many of those beliefs from my father who has always been a glass half empty kind of guy. I remember him referring to “the malevolent universe” when talking about the state of our world. Little did I know that being exposed to that type of perspective and other pessimistic beliefs colored my view of our world as a scary, dark, unpredictable place. When my therapist shared her observation with me, she made me aware that toxic internal clutter was blocking me from being able to trust and experience feelings of joy. She opened a door for healing and developing a new perspective.
When I can’t seem to get traction in my life, when I get caught up in self-doubt, self-criticism and feeling uncertain and shaky about aspects of my life, I remind myself that I need to check in with the voices in my head. I examine my thoughts, the beliefs that are surfacing, my current perspectives regarding my purpose, my performance, and my journey. Invariably I discover that I’ve slipped into old ways of thinking. Bringing those monsters into awareness is essential before I can change them and make my way back to being fully connected with my best self.
If you find yourself struggling, check for mental clutter. What messages are playing in your head? How are you viewing your reality? Like attracts like. Negative beliefs, self-talk and perspectives attract more of the same.
Bring that clutter to light. Notice it. Don’t judge it. Internal clutter is a choice. But, you must first notice it and its effect on your feelings, behavior and view of your life and the world. Bring mental clutter to light and you’ll be on your way to a better life. Awareness first. You cannot expel energies you haven’t identified. It may not be pleasant process. But, it’s a step in the direction of positive change.
How well do you know yourself? I have done lots of self-help exploration, therapy and coaching, and I am amazed that I can still discover things I don’t know about myself. For example, I’m at the beach with my mother. I just happened to schedule our trip on the week of the East Coast Surfing Championship. So, there are surfers everywhere! It’s been such fun to watch the surfing, see the surfers hauling their boards to and from the water, cramming boards into elevators, and riding bikes with boards in their arms.
As I’ve observed the surfers I’ve noticed similarities among surfers, and have become fascinated with deciphering the “type” of person who is drawn to surfing. What I’ve seen so far is that males dominate the sport. Most are young, slender, physically fit (great bodies!), medium height, and they have great balance and persistence. This is a sport dominated by young, athletic, focused, independent men who are not deterred by being knocked down by waves. They keep getting back up over and over again, perfecting their technique. Surfers are not quitters. They fall. They get back up. I wonder how this translates into the rest of their lives. What effect does that level of commitment to their sport have in their personal and professional lives?
At the risk of putting a few of you off because of the religious reference, I offer you a lovely poem I found among my mother’s papers when I was clearing out her desk. It’s so interesting that these words were a comfort to my mother, that she too probably struggled with the never ending pull of things to do. Of course, she was a mother and that comes with the territory!
I hope you find these words give you permission to take your foot off the gas pedal and take time for more pauses, quiet and reflection. The best inspiration and guidance comes through in the quiet moments!
Slow me down, Lord.
Ease the pounding of my heart by the quieting of my mind.
Steady my hurried pace with a vision of the eternal reach of time.
Give me, amid the the confusion of the day, the calmness of the everlasting hills.
Break the tension of my nerves and muscles with the soothing music of the singing streams that live in my memory.
Help me to know the magical, restoring power of sleep.
Teach me the art of taking minute vacations–slowing down to look at a flower, to chat with a friend,
to pat a dog, to read a few lines from a good book.
Slow me down, Lord, and inspire me to sink my roots deep into the soil of life’s enduring values
that I may grow toward the stars of my greater destiny.
©1992 Creators Syndicate
Today I coached a woman who began our session saying, “It’s been a wild week. I’ve really beenspinning.” I typically hear reports of spinning from clients who have ADHD. Since I’m fairly certain this client does not have that brain based challenge, I was curious about her spinning. Was the catalyst of her spinning thoughts and feelings on the inside or was she spinning in reaction to things happening on the outside, happening with people or events in her life.
When I asked her to describe her spinning, when it started, how she experienced it, it was revealed that the spinning began when she’d gotten drawn into the drama of several family members, people who led chaotic lives filled with challenges of their own making. Her intention had been to be a source of support, but in the process she was adversely affected by their unpredictable behaviors and unintentional disregard of her needs and schedule. She began in spin in anxiety, lost sight of her goals, and lost a whole day that could have been spent getting important tasks done.
My client values being responsible and keeping her word. When caught up trying to meet the needs of others who don’t share the same values, she lost her center and begin to spin in response to their spinning. Together we identified a need to set clear boundaries with family members, letting them know under what conditions she is willing to help and saying no to requests that will disrupt her life and could send her spinning again.
What my client sacrificed when reacting to the needs and chaotic conditions of loved ones was her own ability to stay grounded and be productive. She lost a day of work and her peace of mind. How is your productivity being affected by the chaotic lives of others? What boundaries do you need to set?
How does a professional organizer define a banner day? It’s a day when two clients report that they experience immediate results from clutter clearing.
I ran into one client who frequents the same coffee shop I do, and her first words when she saw me were, “I got so much done!” This client has her home office set up in her dining room. Over time she had accumulated a ring of clutter around her. Normally I can’t get at much of that clutter because she is sitting in the middle of it, and moving any of it is quite anxiety provoking. On my last visit she was running late, so I was able to start work without her. I took the opportunity to clear out the area around her chair. When she arrived I had a pile of bags and papers to go through with her, and the area where she works felt so much lighter, so much better. In that session we were able to go through all those things that had been sitting stagnant for quite some time, moving things along for filing, action, trash and to give away. My client was thrilled about the progress!
When my client reported, “I got so much done!” I was pleased, but I wasn’t surprised. The clutter around her chair was a block to her productivity. Those things that had been stagnant so long held dead, negative energies. They made it impossible for her to clear that clutter on her own. Once that block of negative energy was removed and order restored, the area had a positive energy, one that made mental clarity possible, and she was able to do many difficult tasks that previously were difficult to accomplish when surrounded by negative energy.
That same day another client reported “I slept much better last night.” The previous day I’d helped her reclaim basic order in her bedroom that had become completely cluttered since her return from college. It’s no wonder that she’d some difficulty sleeping in that room! Everything is alive with energy and the energy talks to you all the time. When she tried to sleep in the midst of chaos, the energy of everything strewn about her was chattering at her all night long. There were just too many things talking to be able to have a restful night’s sleep. Our clutter clearing together had quieted all those conversations, and good sleep was possible.
Want to be more productive? Want better sleep? Clear some clutter! Every little bit helps! Quiet those negative energies and you too can experience immediate positive results.
Last weekend I was at Randolph College, formerly Randolph-Macon Women’s College, the college where I earned a B.A. 36 years ago. I was there to speak at the annual reunion about using feng shui to clear clutter. It’s always a trip back in time for me when I return to Randy-Mac. I look back to the days when I walked this campus as an insecure young woman trying to figure out what really mattered and think, “Wow! I’ve come so far!”
One of the things I was able to do there was choose what I wanted to study. I chose to attend Randolph-Macon because at the time of my admission I had much more freedom to choose classes that interested me than at other colleges. In so doing I discovered a love for art history and was able to reconnect with my love of art. When I chose a class that I didn’t like and that it didn’t resonate with my interests, I was able to drop it and pick up another that was a better fit. That freedom was the starting point of a lifelong practice of choosing to expend my time and energy in studies, activities and work that feed me, that resonate with what I love and value. When I stay in alignment with what matters most to me, life is good.
What began here at Randolph-Macon Women’s College has led me to self-employment (something that was never on my radar when in college), to work that feeds my soul and makes a positive difference in my life and the lives of the people I touch through writing, clutter clearing and coaching, and to a way of living that keeps me curious and excited about the unfolding adventure of each day.
The freedom to choose in accordance with your interests, values, needs and passions is life giving and life enhancing. Are you using your freedom to choose what matters most? Are you happy with the life you are living? When you are happy with your life, clear about what matters to you and able to go for it, you are better equipped and are more likely to be motivated to make all areas of your space and life look and feel good–to keep out mental, physical and emotional clutter and eliminate blocks to happiness.
When I was growing up I was taught that the way to do life was to work from goal to goal, ever advancing yourself to make more money. I worked that way for about 37 years before I discovered that I was on the wrong path. Money doesn’t float my boat. Yes, it’s a necessity for survival in our world, but it’s a commodity, a tool, not an end in itself. How sad that we’ve come to define life success in terms of our net worth rather than our true contribution to humanity–the quality of our character and our efforts toward a greater good.
We value achievement and financial success over integrity, making a difference and loving behavior. How sad and limiting.
I’ve not been a financial “success.” I have been successful in many other ways, but not for success sake. I’ve been on a journey, guided to evolve from a clueless soul in need of love to a strong wise woman who can love and be loved, who walks through this world guided by the intention to be a loving source of energy in all encounters.
I have goals and accomplish many of them. But my goals are just steps on a path that is my life, my journey. I don’t figure everything out before taking action. I’ve learned that it’s more important to just take the next right step. When I do, what I need to know is revealed to me. By doing things that way I rarely stay hung up in indecision for long.
Don’t get me wrong. Life has not been a piece of cake for me. I’ve not wandered easily from step to step. But, even in those difficult moments of uncertainly when clarity seems impossible, if I wait and remain aware of all that is going on around me and in me, the answers come. Living life this way has made my life more of an interesting adventure than an arduous journey.
Would I like to generate more money from my business? You bet! Does my success as a human being depend on it? No way! As long as I am learning and growing and moving forward with a curious, loving attitude in everything I do, I am a success.
It seems a current theme in my life is grief and letting go. My mother’s cognitive functions are slowly deteriorating due to dementia. I’m losing my competent, energetic Mom bit by bit. I recently was right in the middle of helping her transition to assisted living, dealing with her grief about leaving her beloved home, the place where she had so many happy memories with John, the love of her life. And, then I had to clear out her house, take apart the remains of her life piece by piece. I encountered lots of sadness along the way, and grief underlies so many of my interactions with her these days.
Because I am trained as a counselor and have had plenty of counseling on my journey, I recognize grief when I’m in it, and know that allowing it and moving through it is the most beneficial route for me. But, most people don’t have the benefit of the kind of knowing I’ve acquired over the years of counseling training and my own therapy. In the clutter clearing process grief can be one of those barriers that can paralyze a person despite their best of intentions to complete a clutter clearing project. Uncomfortable feelings of sadness, loss, and even anger can totally derail the clutter clearing process.
I recently learned of a paper clutter clearing victory by a client who ran into papers associated with his deceased mother. Despite the sadness he encountered he persevered. When he ran into the grief he noticed it, acknowledged it and kept going. It probably helped that he had made a commitment to me, his coach, to clear those papers. He had a compelling need to show me what he could do. But, I think the real reason he was able to keep going was because he noticed the grief, allowed himself to feel it, but chose not to pull the entire scab of his sadness off his wound. Instead he acknowledged it and kept moving.
That’s how I got my mother’s house cleared out. I didn’t want that pain to go on and on. I shed tears, recovered, and moved on. I shed some more tears, recovered and moved on. By the way, I was able to allow my grief, manage it and move on not only because I understand the grieving process, but also because I had the loving support of my husband. Emotional support is an essential ingredient in the grieving process.
I suspect that some people are not aware that they can manage the grief they encounter. They don’t realize that they have choices about how they respond to it. They can run into uncomfortable feelings, stop and flee from them, leaving the wound intact and keeping themselves stuck. They can run into those feelings, identify them as grief, feel them and sink into despair and depression, again stopping their possible progress. Or they can encounter sadness, allow it, and view it as an opportunity to release some pain that they carry with them. By doing that they have the chance to let go of the negative energy of feelings that really don’t serve them, that may be keeping them stuck or limiting their personal or professional growth.
The next time you get stuck when clutter clearing, ask yourself, “Is this grief? Did I run into some feelings that were uncomfortable?” If so, take a deep breath and remember that you have a choice. You can run or you can allow the feelings. You can choose to immerse yourself in them and stop or feel them for a short while, recover and move on. Grief can stop you or be a real opportunity for healing, growth and forward progress.