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     Cleaning Out Your Personal Life

When most of us think of clutter, we usually 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 EXTRANEOUS or unnecessary -- 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. 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, I have to, I have to." Guess what -- you don't have to! You only have to do what you decide to do. 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" every time 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? Money leaks are places where your hard-earned dollars are slipping away without you even realizing it. Your money leak 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.

Try keeping track of EVERY PENNY you spend for the next month -- that includes personal items, business expenses, snacks, 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 magazines!" 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 substance abuse or screaming fits 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 -- and 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 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 a institutionalized form of slavery in our modern society. Why do we feel we have no say over our work environments? That we just have to take what we get? Again, most people "put up with" their job situation because they never think to do otherwise. What kind of clutter could you clear out AT WORK -- cutting down on unnecessary meetings? Reducing the number of reports you have to generate? Handing a few of your menial duties off to an administrative assistant?

What do you think would happen if you approached your boss with a list of SUGGESTIONS (in a pleasant and professional way, of course)? Would you get fired -- or would your employer take time to consider your needs? If you would get fired, 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 your boss -- 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?

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 stop to 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 as other forms of clutter. 

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. 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.


Copyright Ramona Creel, all rights reserved-- you are welcome to reprint any article, but you MUST include this resource box.

Ramona Creel is a modern Renaissance woman and guru of simplicity -- traveling the country as a full-time RVer, sharing her story of radically downsizing, and inspiring others to regain control of their own lives. As a Professional Organizer and Accountability Coach, Ramona will help you create the time and space to focus on your true priorities -- clearing away the clutter other obstacles and standing in the way of that life you've always wanted to be living. As a Professional Photographer, Ramona captures powerful images of places and people as she travels. And as a travel writer, social commentator, and blogger, she shares her experiences and insights about the world as we know it. You can see all these sides of Ramona -- read her articles, browse through her photographs, and even hire her to help get your life in order -- at www.RamonaCreel.com. And be sure to follow her on Twitter and on Facebook.

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