One of the key principles that we talk about in coaching is that in order to bring something new into your life, be it a habit, a relationship, a business, etc., you have to let go of something. We’ve talked about letting go before, but I want to get very specific about how to do this, and it’s all about how to clear the clutter.
I’m not only talking about the environmental clutter like how messy your house is, or how gross your car is, but there are two other types I want you to try and tackle: technical clutter and emotional/mental clutter. We’ll touch on the environmental clutter last.
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Clear Technical Clutter
In the same way that your home can be messy, how many of us have disturbing inboxes? We subscribe to all these newsletters, or we get added once we shop somewhere, and all of a sudden you’re getting twenty emails a day that serve you and the available space in your mind zero purpose. We don’t even read them, we delete them, they’re just junk.
Why are they still coming into your inbox?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m occasionally still guilty of this, but I challenge each of us to take two 5 minute challenges regarding our inbox.
Tech Clutter Challenge 1: Set the timer for five minutes and start unsubscribing. Perhaps things gave you value at some point, but delete, delete, delete.
Tech Clutter Challenge 2: Set the timer for another five minutes, sort your emails by “From” and start mass deleting the emails from the same businesses/people that you unsubscribed from.
In the space of ten minutes, you will likely be able to get rid of hundreds of emails.
Some folks aim for inbox zero. For those that don’t know what inbox zero is, it means that you’ve either deleted or filed every email so that your inbox is constantly empty. Personally, this is not my thing. I find it harder to figure out my filing system than it is to search by keyword for an email, but if inbox zero is your thing, power on.
How many of us have multiple pages of apps on our smartphones? We end up with a lot of novelty apps that served a purpose (I no longer need pregnancy apps) or entertained us at one time (I’m looking at you celebrity lookalike app!), but we all have many that we no longer need. Delete, delete, delete.
Another way to make your phone a bit more peaceful is to group apps into folders on your phone, like with like. Social media with social media. Photography apps all together. Maps all together. You get the gist.
Tech Clutter Challenge #3: Clear out and up your apps.
You’re trying to create a clutter-free phone to make your phone experience easier.
The Dreaded Desktop
Sweet Jesus, my desktop has been a mess of late. Case in point:
It was a HOT mess. We all get here at some point, right? It just becomes ‘easier’ to leave things on your desktop, until all of a sudden you find yourself in the hair situation or not being able to find anything. Sigh.
Tech Clutter Challenge #4: Clear your desktop. Again, group like with like into appropriately named folders, sub folders, etc. Delete files you no longer need.
In my case this took seven minutes.
Ah… Now doesn’t this feel better? This is the feeling you’re aiming for when you fire up your screen. We spend so much of our lives on our computers that it only makes sense that the messiness will add unnecessary stress.
If you do all of these challenges, your email, your desktop and your phone will be significantly calmer devices in your life. Remember, you own them, they shouldn’t own you.
Clear the tech clutter, my friends.
Clear Mental Clutter
A lot of us are trying to hold on to our to-do lists (or whatever you want to call them) in our heads. Oh, sweet Jesus, there is no way to hold in all in our minds. It’s like throwing a dozen eggs in the air and expecting to catch them all – disaster.
Especially since having a baby and being a little more sleep deprived, my mental capacity for retaining to-do items is NOT what it once was.
So, what do most of us do? We write down lists. A piece here, a piece there, a note on our phone, an email to ourselves.
Here’s the problem… those lists aren’t all in the same place. Maybe some of you keeners have it all in one place, and power to you, but most of us aren’t that organized.
Here’s what works for me: a bullet journal. Now, I’m not artistic like many bullet journallers out there, but I find having ONE place to keep my various lists and projects on the go is saving my sanity. If you want to give this a go, I’ve included Boho Berry’s Intro to Bullet Journalling Video One below:
Having things all in one place, even minute things, will save you time and energy. I remember this book I had in Junior High that my parents got me which was all about how to get better grades. It was obviously pre-computers being an every day part of our lives, but one of the tips for studying was that if something pops into your mind like “don’t forget to email Sally,” write it down somewhere. By not writing it down, your brain is subconsciously telling you that it needs to keep that front of mind so that you don’t forget. By writing it down, you release your brain of that task and make some mental space. Write it down!
Edit Your To-Do List
Now, I know I’ve just said how you should write down everything, but this challenge is all about deleting things. I’m not talking about deleting things like “email Sally” which you maybe need to do, but I’m talking about removing things from your to-do list that you realistically aren’t going to do.
It’s probably more related to goals than anything else. Ariana Huffington talked about this concept in her book Thrive. Say you want to learn guitar one day, or learn Italian or learn to cook. Whatever it is, if you’re not working on it right now in some capacity, remove it. I’m not saying you’ll never get there, but by having it on your list as an ever-irritating reminder, you’re not doing yourself any good. If it’s important enough to you, you’ll do it now and work towards it. If it’s not, it can get removed. If you pick it up one day, awesome, but let’s clear the mental clutter.
Oh man, we’ve talked about this before so I won’t beleaguer the point, but if you have someone in your life who is pulling your energy, your brainpower, your emotions… either remove them, spend less time with them, or put the relationship on hold.
It is DRAINING YOU. You know who these people are, and I am making no promises that it’s an easy process, but I guarantee it will do you good.
Clear Environmental Clutter
Ah, physical clutter, my old friend. Here’s what, speaking from personal experience, I don’t have the desire or the energy to have a perfectly clean and tidy home at all times. I’d rather put more energy into content creation, playing with my kids, being with my friends, etc.
That said, a tidy house makes me happy. And it’s not just me. A 2010 study by the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, stated that women who described their living space as “cluttered” or “unorganized” were more likely to be depressed than those who described their homes as “restful” places (aka tidy). Other studies show that clutter can make it harder to concentrate on a task at hand, and it can even affect the quality of your sleep!
Again, I’m not perfect here, but I’m suggesting you pick your thing, the thing that you care about most and start there.
For me, that thing is countertops. I don’t care if my cupboards are full of junk provided my countertops are sparkling. A clear countertop brings me such joy and peace I can’t even tell you. For others, the inside of the drawer truly matters to their state of stress. Pick your thing.
Start small as well. I have a toddler, my place is destroyed on the daily. Rather than spend every waking hour picking up after him, I focus on one clear space at a time. Today it’s the countertop above the bookshelf. If I can end every evening of dishwashing with clear kitchen counters, it makes my mornings much more pleasant. And who doesn’t want a peaceful morning when you’re getting yourself, or yourself and littles, out the door?
Now, the less you own, the less you have to clean. Thems are the facts! If you want to go all gung-ho and have the time, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up is a great little guide to clearing clutter from your life. The author, Marie Kondo, suggests grouping like items (all clothes, then all books, etc.), as opposed to going room by room, but the key is to do what works for you.
The goal is to start small. Small wins beget bigger wins. I challenge you to five minutes a day clearing the less usual clutter from your life (technical and mental), and I bet over the course of a week you’re feeling a bit more focused and less stressed. The more time you can dedicate to getting your systems in order, the better you’ll feel.