Clutter. What does that word conjure for you? How does your energy shift when you hear it? For many, clutter is a chronic challenge – and its causes, as well as its impact goes far beyond mere ‘messiness.’
I read an excellent blog post by Mikael Cho titled ”How clutter affects you and what you can do about it.” In it he offers interesting insights on why we acquire things, why it is hard to let them go, and how the clutter that results affects us.
“Over the last few years, I’ve discovered ways to reduce the noise of stuff around me so I can focus on creation and have more time for the things that matter most.
“The last year has been the most productive of my life and I owe a lot of it to understanding the importance of decreasing how much I consume and coming up with ways to cut clutter.”
Clutter, clutter everywhere …
Living life means interacting with lots and lots of things. The more engaged we are, the more attached we become. This is actually a physical fact, as described in Mikael’s post. In a study he cites, the participants were given a coffee mug to hold (this was a mug that was for sale). The longer they handled the mug, the higher the price they were willing to pay for it.
As you can imagine, this has significant marketing impact – and it is also important as an insight into why we may sometimes acquire things that later become ‘clutter’ for us. (And when I speak of ‘things’ in this post, I also mean virtual clutter – the articles that we save to Evernote, the shortcuts that we place on our desktops to visit later – anything that we, in some manner, come to possess.
Clutter and Letting Go …
So, not only is it easy to acquire things that we may not actually need (or even really want), but also … and this is important … it seems that it may actually be physically difficult to let those things go!
In a study conducted at Yale, researchers identified the part of the brain that is engaged in the act of letting go. What they found was:
“Your brain views the loss of one of your valued possessions as the same as something that causes you physical pain.
And the more you’ve committed emotionally or financially to an item, the more you want to keep it around.”
Clutter, Your Space and Your Time
While letting go of clutter may be painful, it’s impact on you is even more so. Clutter affects your energy, your productivity, your stress level .. everything about how you spend your time and, ultimately, how you live your life.
That may sound like an exaggeration – but I really think it isn’t. Clutter is constantly competing for your attention, no matter where you are or what you are doing. Your cluttered desktop is draining, as the piles of paper catch your eye and increase your stress as you try to focus on completing an article for your e-zine. Your cluttered closet means that it takes you longer to decide what to wear in the morning. And your cluttered inbox keeps you from getting to the e-mails that really matter.
Clutter: What Helps?
Well, for starters, accumulating less means that you’ll have less to let go of later. This is a shift that you can engage with gradually. You can give yourself a lift right away by cultivating gratitude and an attitude of abundance.
It also helps to reward yourself each and every time that you let go of something that contributes to your clutter. Letting go gets easier with practice, and validating your efforts helps you want to continue.
Finally, cultivating boundaries is key to taking back the space that clutter co-opts. Whether it’s physical or mental clutter, your boundaries, and most especially your Inner Boundaries, help you cut down on distractions and focus on what you need to. You can literally think of your boundaries as clearing clutter and creating space.
And once you experience how good it feels to have that clutter-free space, you will feel extra-motivated to let go of more ‘stuff.’ That’s a real win-win!© Copyright 2013 Paula Eder, Ph.D.