Spring is here at last!
Why do we still associate spring with spring cleaning?
Certainly, in prairie cabins a century ago, when wind blew dust through the chinks between the logs, spring was the first time the sun was warm enough to dry those curtains and rugs that needed to be cleaned and hung outside after a long, cold winter.
In the 1800s, most homes were heated with coal stoves and furnaces. I recently learned that even in the finest homes, the burning coal left a film of soot on the walls that needed to be cleaned after the weather was warm enough to turn off the stoves. With cleaner heat, many homes don't need that kind of deep cleaning today.
But I still think of spring as a time for fresh air, both literally and metaphorically. The winter cobwebs of my mind need to be swept clean, and the windows of my soul need to be thrown open for sweet breezes and warm sunshine.
Are you still stuck in winter's grip?
Our inner moods and mindsets often pay no attention to the calendar.
This year, even the change of seasons couldn't stir me out of my mid-winter non-writing rut, and I was spending hours at my desk with little to show for it. I was getting enough sleep. I was eating fairly well. Yet I was just slogging along without motivation or any flow of creativity.
First I tackled the physical clutter.
With my daughter's help, I ruthlessly attacked my desk, shelves, and filing cabinets, making a pile of books to go to the library, creating a stack of paper for the shredder, and hauling off huge bags of trash. I had done this several years ago, but the clutter had crept back. Now my desk was clear and my office was an inviting place again, infinitely more conducive to work and productivity.
The mental clutter is much more challenging.
With the physical decluttering, my mood began to lighten and become more hopeful, but there was still too much swirling around inside my head.
And it's no wonder.
I'm chairing a bank board, co-chairing a search committee for a new minister at church, working for a few clients, planning a writing retreat, keeping an eye on two family nonagenarians I love dearly, carving out cherished time with my beloved husband, and planning time to visit my children and their families.
As a voracious reader, perpetual student, and curious seeker of truth and knowledge, I'm almost always in a state of serious information overload. I want to know it all and learn it all and remember it all.
I want to finish my devotional, write my book, create content for my blog, submit articles to other magazines, and help you, my Heartspeakers, who—like me—are on a journey to learn new and better ways to live life to the fullest at any age.
In spite of my best intentions, the phone keeps ringing, the email Inbox keeps filling up, and the siren song of Facebook and social media keeps playing in the background. Besides the things I want to do myself, there's another list of things others would like me to do too.
I can't do it all, and neither can you.
At least not all at the same time.
You know exactly what I'm talking about, don't you?
I know you do, because many of my friends and people I read about are struggling with this too. “Burnout” is a common word in our conversations lately. There's an ebb and flow to it, but just like physical clutter, every now and then you have to stop and get ruthless with all that stuff swirling around in your head and in your life and say, “Something's got to give.”
The author I mentioned above, Amber Black, suggests this as a way to get unstuck:
Make a decision.
This is when I remember my friend Laura West's wonderful advice:
“Say NO more often and YES more fully.”
Here's an approach that has helped me: Make a list of all the activities or issues going on in your life right now. Pay special attention to the ones that are draining you. Then make a decision about whether to continue each one or not.
The answer might be NO if:
- Thinking of it makes you feel heavy or sick.
- You can't see a reason or purpose for it.
- You can't say YES fully.
- Someone else can do it better or more easily than you.
- At the end of your life you'd regret having spent your life's energy doing this.
The answer might be YES if:
- Thinking of it brings you joy.
- You realize it's an investment in your future.
- You realize it's a step towards an important goal.
- At the end of your life you'd be glad you did this.
There's a third answer that might be a modified YES that involves restructuring the task or project to minimize the burden.
A fourth answer might be some version of “Maybe later.” Attach a future date and make note of what needs to happen before it can become a YES or a NO. Remove it from your worry list until that date.
This Yes/No/Maybe approach has helped me reprioritize, re-schedule, and delegate.
How do you manage mental clutter?
I'd love to know and so would others in our community. Your solution may be just what someone else needs, so please share your best mental de-cluttering tip in the comments below or on the Heartspoken Facebook Page.
Decluttering is clearly a recurring issue for me, because I've written about it in the past. If this is a topic you feel called to explore, you might enjoy these earlier posts:
- “De-cluttering isn't just for closets and inboxes” – a guest post I wrote for Cyndi Briggs's blog
- “Find Yourself When You Remove the Clutter”
- “7 Ways I'm Going To Be Kind To Myself This Holiday Season”