Monday, March 10, 2014

The Thing About Clutter, and My Quest to Simplify

On a whim last week I decided to give up social media for a month; and let me tell you, a week and a half in, I'm already seeing some positive effects. I'm no longer whipping out my phone to 'go online' anytime there's a lull, a break in conversation, a commercial, time to 'fill'. I'm not obsessively checking my notifications as though they're a to-do list to get through. I'm not concerned about capturing photos on my phone to post online or framing my thoughts in the form of a Facebook status update.

Mostly, I'm learning how to be present. To be HERE, now. To be okay in this moment, just this moment and nothing else. A big inspiration to me lately has been Leo Babauta's Zen Habits, and specifically his ideas for living simply, with intention, and putting energy into things that really matter.


I'm also learning that all that time spent online scrolling through newsfeed items is really a distraction from more important things, and a way to procrastinate. It was occupying more than just my down-time... it was ever-present in the back of my mind, it's what I turned to when I didn't want to complete a task or I was bored or just didn't want to think about all the things I SHOULD be doing.

Spending time online is a really easy way to avoid being in this moment; but not being in the moment is proving harmful for so many reasons: you're not with the people you are with. You're avoiding something. You're not clearing your mind - you are avoiding thinking about anything, giving yourself a way to not think at all and most of all, wasting time.

When I think of the distractions I've built into my own life, I realize they are just clutter. Social media, email, texts, blogs and news sites I've historically tried to keep up with... they are cluttering up my time, and my energy. They aren't all bad, but in large part they are taking away from what's really important. In fact, they are preventing me from thinking about what exactly IS important in the first place, and filling my time and my mind with clutter instead.

As a result of giving myself a little bit of time to THINK, just be for a few minutes at a time, I've realized that I've filled other parts of my life with clutter as well. I'm starting to wonder if we're serving our things and not the other way around. The piles of toys in our house could compete with a toy store. Outgrown and worn-out clothes are bursting from closets. There are stacks of papers and things that need to be dealt with. All this clutter, this keeping-up-with-the-Joneses, this acquiring of STUFF is taking away, not adding to my life and that of my family. We're spending time and energy (even if it's just mental energy) dealing with all the things, all the time. The more toys we have, the more we have to clean up. The more clothes we have, the more laundry we need to do. And so it goes.

SO... in addition to cutting back online, I'm on a new quest to cut back at home too: to let go of the things that are taking away, and make an effort to say no, and not to bring things in unless they serve to enrich my life and the things that are important. I'm on a quest to SIMPLIFY, so I - and my family - will have the time, and space, and energy to focus on what IS important:
  1. Family - time spent together
  2. Work - focused and productive
  3. Hobbies: gardening, painting
  4. Friends
  5. Self: physical and mental health
Even limiting that list to five items was difficult for me; I wanted to add all kinds of other things to it, but to be able to simplify and refocus, it had to be pared down to just five important things.

Right now, I'm just taking the very small step to identify what's important, and frame my decisions about what to keep and what to let go of based on whether it enriches or takes away from those five things. I'm not running home to throw everything out, or do a massive purge to give away all our worldly possessions (though a purge is coming!); I'm simply focusing on this list for the time being.

One small step at a time...