Blog: Simplify Your Life
Clearing The Clutter Out Of Your Personal Life
When most of us think of clutter, we think of a physical mess -- a stack of paper on the desk, a pile of clothes on the closet floor, a garage we can't fit our car into. But clutter extends beyond your surroundings and insinuates itself into your personal life. Clutter is anything that takes up time, space, energy, or money without giving you a tangible result. You've learned how to clear out the "junk" in your home and office -- now let's talk about cleaning out your personal life.
Take a look at your calendar and your "to-do" list -- how much of what you have written down is critical to your survival on this planet? Very little, I'm sure. How many of your appointments involve something that you dearly love to do. A great deal, I hope -- but if you're like most people, probably not. What eats up most of your time during the day?
Unfortunately, most folks' schedules are filled with external obligations -- things that you have promised other people. "I have to pick up my kids from soccer practice." "I have to attend committee meeting." "I have to clean the house." "I have to, I have to, I have to." Guess what -- you don't have to! If you don't want to do it, say "no."
I'm not suggesting that you turn completely selfish -- compromise is an important part of maintaining civil relations with those around you! I'm merely suggesting that you be very judicious about what you put in your schedule. Get rid of that knee-jerk reaction of saying "yes" everytime someone asks you to volunteer. It's all a matter of training the people around you not to automatically expect you to participate.
Didn't realize you could have clutter in your finances, did you? Take a look at your spending patterns -- do you see any money leaks? These are places where your hard-earned dollars simply slip away without you even realizing it. Your danger zones could be buying snacks at work -- or late fees and interest charges that accumulate when you forget to pay your bills -- or groceries that go bad before you get a chance to eat them. But you need to be especially aware of these types of "unconscious" spending (asking you to be aware of something unconscious -- a bit of a contradiction, I know!)
Try keeping track of every penny you spend for the next month -- that includes personal items, business expenses, magazines, coffee, whatever. This may sound hard, but it's not bad if you get into the habit of carrying a small notebook with you. At the end of the month, take a look at your expenses -- you'll be surprised to see where your money goes. Once you say, "My gosh, I had no idea I spent so much on ______!" you know how to curb your money leaks.
This is always a hard one. People feel trapped in relationships that are "less than fulfilling" for so many reasons -- low self-esteem, fear of change, habit, or just because it's easier than leaving. But most people stay in difficult relationships for one simple reason -- because they never stopped to think that they had another choice.
And I'm not just talking about seriously dysfunctional relationships -- ones involving abuse or violence. You might have a friend who complains about her life every time you're together. Or a family member who borrows money and never pays you back. The point is, you're not getting enough positive return out of the arrangement -- something has to change.
So let's do the old "Keep," "Get Rid Of," and "Not Sure" with your relationship. "Keep's" are pretty clear -- those near and dear to you. "Get Rid Of's" might be a bit harder -- but you need to learn when to call it quits. If you can't think of anything good about the relationship, ask yourself why you really need that person in your life. The "Not Sure's" are those mixed relationships -- some things are good and some are intolerable. Your job is to present your concerns to the other person. Set up some rules -- this certain thing has to happen more/less often for this relationship to work. And be open to discussing the other person's rules as well. If you can reach a mutually satisfying agreement, dandy. If not, they go into the "Get Rid Of" pile.
Employment has become an institutionalized form of slavery in our modern society. How many folks do you know that feel trapped by their jobs? Unable to do what they really love because they need to pay the bills? If you are "putting up with" a crappy job situation because you're are afraid of losing that steady paycheck, it's time you realized that you do have a say about your work environment, responsibilities, and schedule. What kind of clutter could you clear out at work? Cutting down on unnecessary meetings? Going home on time each day and refusing to work evenings or weekends? Reducing the number of reports you have to generate? Handing a few of your menial duties off to an administrative assistant? Think it's impossible? Think again!
What would happen if you approached your employer with a list of suggestions (in a pleasant and professional way, of course)? Would you get fired -- or would your employer take the time to consider your needs? Honestly, if your boss would can you for offering your two cents' worth, maybe you don't need that job! It's worth a try, anyway. And if you're self-employed, pretend that you are taking a list of concerns to someone else for review -- would you look at your job duties any differently if you worked for someone else? Why don't you treat yourself at least as well as you would treat an employee?
Your Own Head
We saved the most challenging area for last! How much "junk" do you have floating around in your head, littering your thoughts? People don't think about emotions as clutter, because they aren't tangible -- but guilt, jealousy, anger, and unreasonable expectations of what we can accomplish in a day eat up as much of our time and energy.
Think about the last time you had something heavy on your mind -- did you get much work done that day? I'll bet that every time you set out to accomplish a task, you were distracted by your thoughts. It's like a gang of incredibly annoying adolescents, making noise and causing a ruckus in your cerebellum. Too bad you can't just slap them!
The only way to make these bad boys go away is to become conscious of them. Pay attention when your mind strays to some unproductive and negative emotion -- and make a concerted effort to let it go. This will take some practice -- awareness of your mental state doesn't happen in a day -- but it will pay off in the end.
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posted on: 12/22/2009 11:30:00 AM by Ramona Creel
category: General Organizing Tips
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Simplify Your Life
by Ramona Creel
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I have been a Professional Organizer for more than 10 years, I am a NAPO Golden Circle member, and I was the original founder of OnlineOrganizing. I have worked one-on-one with scores of clients and have trained dozens of newbie organizers as they got started in the industry. I provide both hands-on and virtual coaching to help clients improve their organizing skills and simplify their lives. I invite you to visit my website at http://www.RamonaCreel.com, and I challenge you to find one new idea that you can put into practice in your life, to help you become better organized, starting TODAY! I am passionate about coaching folks toward a more balanced, productive, and enjoyable life -- and I firmly believe that if I can do it, so can you!
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