This is part of my Spring Cleaning series that runs on Wednesdays through the end of Spring. In this series, we’ll explore the things that clutter our lives (especially, mental and emotional clutter) and how to let it go.
What is mental clutter?
Some synonyms for the word clutter include: confusion, muddle, disorder, and jumble.
Have you ever felt your mind was jumbled? Or confused? Your thoughts were muddled or disordered? You have too much going on to focus on anything?
That’s mental clutter.
It’s the stuff that keeps us fuzzy and unfocused. It blocks us from getting stuff done, experiencing life fully, and really relaxing.
Mental Clutter comes in all sorts of flavors, but most of it fits into these three categories: anchors, headless chickens, and shiny objects.
1. Anchors: The things that weigh you down
It’s sort of like the pair of jeans I keep around even though they haven’t fit me in four years. I keep them because I have hope that things will change someday, but all they really do is weigh me down with shame and guilt over “gaining all that weight.”
Anchors can show up with a physical object or be purely emotional. But either way, these are the things that make life feel heavy.
What are some of the anchors in your life?
2. Headless Chickens: The things that make you feel like a chicken with its head cut off
You know the stuff… it gets you all worked up into an overwhelmed tizzy until you’re running aimlessly in circles trying to keep up with all of it, but keeping up with little (or none).
Everything from mile-long-ToDo lists, expectations(both self-inflicted and external), and information overload to multitasking, and requests for your time-energy-attention from kids, spouses, friends, coworkers, and bosses.
These are the things that leave you feeling like there’s never enough time, energy or enough of YOU to fulfill all of it.
They aren’t all bad, but taken together, often headless chickens lead to overwhelm.
What makes you feel like a headless chicken?
3. Shiny Objects: The things that distract you
Shiny objects could include: television, books, chocolate, pizza, chips, wine, cheese, shopping, “the latest cool thing”, smartphones, iPads, Angry Birds, … or anything that helps “get your mind off of stuff”.
They aren’t really bad things. But a lot of the time, we let shiny objects fill our time and numb us from our real life.
My biggest distraction, for most of my life, has been television. I cannot imagine the number of hours I’ve spent watching TV in my lifetime (cause it’s just too big). It was also my biggest escape when I felt stressed, sad, angry, or depressed. I have literally lost weeks at a time by giving into this “need to escape”.
I still watch TV, but I’ve stopped giving into the shiny object-ness of it. So I watch after my work is done and my feelings are taken care of.
This category also reminds me of finals week in college. Whenever it came time to study for exams, I would spend hours cleaning my dorm room until it was spotless before I would study (of course, that means I used up a bunch of my study time with cleaning). Did you ever do that?
Taking a time out and enjoying a shiny object is not a bad thing necessarily, but when we go from one distraction to the next (from tv to Facebook to cleaning the house), there’s no hope of getting real stuff done.
What shiny objects are distracting you from what’s important in your life?
“More important than learning how to recall things is finding ways to forget things that are cluttering the mind.”
What about you? Do any of these categories resonate for you more than the others?
In the weeks to come, I’ll dig deeper into each category and talk about ways to clear out each type of mental clutter.