Making the Space
Before we can make any changes in our lives, we need to ensure we have the space to do so. And when I say space, I mean physical, mental and emotional space. Space that lets you feel a little bit less like that meme talking about having too many tabs open in your mind and not finding anything.
A lot of time we have things hanging over us that can take our focus away from other things. And it comes down to making decisions. Either deciding to clean up your shit or deciding it is what it is and it’s time to let go of the cloud of shame.
And noticing is something a “want” or a “should.” If something is a should yet you know you’re never going to do it, delete it from your to-dos. Get rid of the guilt. Feel the weight lift off your shoulders.
But, for the other clutter that does truly bug you, I invite you to commit to dealing with it once and for all.
Now, let’s break down each type of space.
Physical space can be your home, office, car, storage locker, etc. Do any of these areas have clutter that could use clearing? What vibe do your spaces give off and is that conducive to you? Is your desk so covered in things that it’s detracting from your productivity? What about your closet? Or your car?
How do these spaces make you feel when you enter them and is that what you want? If it’s not, now is the time to do something about it.
In my case, my closet was my dreaded duty. It was full and yet I never seemed to have anything to wear. Which meant I would go buy new clothes, add them to the mess and yet still find myself claiming I had nothing to wear. I needed external help so I hired a fashion consultant (yes this may seem a bit extravagant, but I had a well-paying corporate job and saw it as an investment). She came over and literally dumped every single piece of clothing on my floor (including those from my dresser drawers, laundry hamper, other closets, and everything). She then went through and sorted my clothes by what suited me, what could get pitched (due to rattyness) and what could get donated. From there, she had me buy black velvet hangers to replace my assortment of crappy hangers. The last step was putting my clothes back in the closet by type and colour. I.e., Tops together by colour palette, then pants, dresses, etc. The feeling I got when I opened my closet after that exercise was worth every penny. It was like a white light turned on with beams coming out and that lovely angelic music going ahhhhhh. And while my closet still gets out of hand, I now know the value of taking the time to organize it is worth it and saves me a heck of a lot of time getting dressed. It’s funny though, as I always knew it would save me time but that wasn’t enough motivation for me to do it – I needed the help of an expert to show me how so I could experience that feeling of supreme organization.
Unfortunately, I don’t have the money to pay for organizers to come in on a regular basis (maybe one day) so now I carry that feeling forward when I choose what other cupboards or spaces to declutter knowing in the end it will feel amazing and save tons of time.
Which physical spaces bog you down? Which one will make the biggest difference in your life and productivity and when are you going to commit to tackling it?
Mental space is all of the things we keep track of in our minds, of which lists and to-do’s tend to be the majority. And what’s interesting about this one, is if we only took action as soon as the item came up we could probably get it done faster than the time it takes to push it off and let it hang over us until we get it done. For example, you see your laundry bin full of clothes – you stare at it, think about how you don’t want to put the laundry away, think about how that would take away from other stuff you want to do, etc. etc. Then the whole cycle repeats the next time you see the laundry bin. When, instead, you could have put on the TV or a good podcast, put your laundry away and move on.
It’s a fine balance between staying focused on what we’re working on and losing too much time thinking about all of the things on our lists.
Ironically, as I write this, I have 3 overdue library books that I have been meaning to return for two weeks. The library is a 3-minute drive or 12-minute walk from my house and yet tasks like these fall to the bottom of my priority list. And I feel guilty for anyone waiting for these overdue books which is likely the motivation I needed to return them on time next time.
For me, I am constantly working on taking action on the small things when they come up or at least putting time to manage them in my calendar right away so I don’t need to keep track of them in my head.
Your turn, what items are you holding off returning, tidying or putting away? Are there any items you bought online that need to be returned that sit there taunting you and taking up space? What’s one action step you can take toward clearing your mental space?
You might say I saved the hardest for last as dealing with our emotional space is a tough one. Emotional space tends to be related to the people we spend the most time with – our partners, kids, parents, siblings, friends, colleagues, and bosses.
And while we can’t always remove anyone who’s an emotional drain, we can limit our interactions with them or address them head-on. For example, your sister is extremely needy and drains your energy. You have two choices – a) reduce the amount of time you spend with her or b) have a conversation with her in a loving way to share how you’re feeling and some potential solutions. Sometimes people aren’t aware of the effect they’re having on people and once aware, can be more cautious of it. And some people won’t care or won’t change and therefore, the only solution is distance.
If you’re feeling this drain at work, perhaps due to a toxic culture, gossipy colleague or micromanager boss – it may be time to make a tough decision. You can address it head-on or look for a new job.
Sweeping how someone makes you feel under the rug only avoids the core issue and although it takes courage to face the situation and change it, it saves you emotional clutter in the long run. And besides, don’t you want to be around people who fill your cup?
Now you have a choice, you can choose to let clutter drain your energy and joy or you can do something about it – what’s it going to be?