While I’m not a therapist or a psychologist, I am a professional organizer who sees clients every day who are worried about all sorts of different things. I’m also an engineer. Therefore, I make no judgments on my clients’ clutter, and I don’t see disorganization as a character flaw: I only see it as a problem to be solved. You’ll be relieved to know I only try to solve it for you if you ask! Friends say, “I don’t want you to come over and see my mess!” To which I reply, “I don’t care about your mess unless you are paying me to care about it!”
Naturally, I have problems too, and I worry about them, but I think I worry less than others do because of the methods I use that I will tell you about.
I want you to start thinking about worrying as a form of clutter.
What is Clutter? Here’s what I believe:
- Clutter is anything that stands in the way of the life you want to live.
- Clutter takes many forms. Little things like paper; big things like furniture; negative thoughts; and unfulfilling activities.
- Clutter weighs us down. Physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
- Everyone deserves to feel lighter. My logo, the egret taking flight, represents the freedom of rising above your clutter!
- Less clutter in your home, your office, your schedule, and your mind means more room for the life you want to live. Less clutter. More life.
So, it’s easy for me to say that worrying is just Mental Clutter, but what do I propose we do about it?
Now let me ask:
Do you believe in the power of words?
Let’s talk about positive words first. I’m thinking of positive affirmations, inspiriting quotes, and prayer of all kinds…do you believe in those things? Do they help motivate you, encourage you, and lift your spirits?
Now, what about negative words? How about verbal abuse from others? And what about negative self-talk? Do you think negative self-talk tears us down and affects us as much, and possibly more than negative talk from others?
Here is a quote I like, which has been attributed to many, but I like the way Meryl Streep said it in her portrayal of Margaret Thatcher in the movie “The Iron Lady”:
Watch your thoughts, for they become words.
Watch your words, for they become actions.
Watch your actions, for they become habits.
Watch your habits, for they become your character.
And watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.
What we think, we become.
Do you agree with that? I sure do!
So, now, back to worrying…
If you think you can manifest something positive by thinking, talking about, and envisioning it, do you believe you can also manifest something negative by thinking, talking about, and envisioning it?
Or as I like to say:
Worrying is like praying for something you don’t want.
And why on earth would we want to do that?
If you believe in the power of thoughts and words, that’s what you’re doing…aren’t you? Paying undue attention to, and repeating over and over, the thing you don’t want?
If worrying helped, believe me, I’d recommend doing it more often!
With that in mind…
The first step in dealing with Mental Clutter is to identify what you are worried about.
It could be fear, regret, anxiety, shame, guilt…and, actually, it’s fear about a thing, or regret about a thing.
It’s that thing you need to identify, and the more specific you are, the better your chances are of doing something about it.
The next step is to decide: Can you do something about it? Or not?
(Click to read more and download your free copy of the Worry Matrix.)
This is probably the hardest part of the whole process. Because sometimes we feel powerless. We don’t know if we can do something about it or not. Sometimes we need help figuring that out. Sometimes it’s become such a habit to worry, and we are so busy worrying, that we don’t stop to think whether maybe we could do something about it.
Or, maybe something’s changed. In the words of Maya Angelou,
Do the best you can until you know better.
Then when you know better, do better.
Part of this step can include determining whether or not your fears are realistic. If you’re anxious about the future, being prepared for actual, likely events is the key to a peaceful mind.
But the bottom line is: If you are having persistent, worrisome thoughts about something, ask yourself: Can I do something about it? If you aren’t doing anything about it — or if you can’t do anything about it — it’s just Mental Clutter.
If you think you can do something about it – great! Take action!
The pure fact that you are doing something about it will help you to not worry about it so much.
Here are some examples of actions you can take:
Research your situation; Make a plan; Set some goals; Do or delegate a dreaded task; Document vital info; Save money, Make that appointment, Have that awkward conversation.
Forgive someone. Forgive yourself. It’s not easy, but this rationale for forgiveness makes sense to me:
Forgive others not because they deserve forgiveness, but because you deserve peace.
Refusing to forgive someone is like drinking poison, and waiting for the other person to die.
If you regret the past and feel guilty about something, but there’s nothing you can do about it, forgive yourself and move on. Remember, you know better now.
One of the reasons why it is so hard to part with your mental clutter is that you’re afraid of not having, or being, enough. Is this because you are comparing yourself to others? Stop it! Have a little faith in yourself.
Here are a couple of quotes I like about not being envious of others:
Grass is greener where you water it.
Don’t compare your bloopers to someone else’s highlight reel.
(Especially on Facebook!)
If you’re concerned about what others think, try following Dr. Seuss’ advice:
Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.
Here’s another quote I love about having faith in yourself:
A bird sitting in a tree
is never afraid of the branch breaking
because her trust is not on the branch,
but on her own wings.
Always believe in yourself.
What does this mean? Some people would rather trust in God than to trust in themselves. For those of you who want to trust in God, that won’t hurt either. But you still need to do your homework and take action.
Have you heard this expression?
Trust in god but lock your car.
I also like the Middle Eastern version:
Trust in Allah but tie up your camel.
If you really think you cannot do anything about it, then stop worrying about it!
It’s Mental Clutter.
A good example of something you cannot change is someone else’s behavior.
Are you familiar with The Serenity Prayer?
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.
That’s what I’m saying too: Accept what you can’t change, and change what you can’t accept. Get help if you really don’t know the difference.
Examples: preparing for emergencies; planning for your financial future; repairing (or releasing) damaged relationships; and addressing health issues head on.
If the task ahead seems daunting, break it down into smaller steps. Do them one at a time until you are finished, or you feel prepared, or you have established the new habit that will improve your life and help you worry less.
So, what if, despite your best intentions, you are still living with Mental Clutter? If you have tried taking action on things you can change, and you have tried not worrying about things you cannot change… and you are still worried, ask for help from a friend, therapist, clergy member, or someone who can help with your specific situation – like a doctor, a financial planner, a personal trainer, an attorney, or a professional organizer.
Worry less. Prepare more.
Have those difficult conversations! Make that appointment!
Believe in yourself. And live your life free of Mental Clutter!
What are you worried about? What action are you going to take?
Please share with me in the comments!
Let me know if this helps you, and share it with your friends who may need it.
Copyright 2015-2016 by Hazel Thornton, Organized For Life.
Julie Stobbe is a Trained Professional Organizer and Lifestyle Organizing Coach who brings happiness to homes and organization to offices, in person and virtually. She has been working with clients since 2006 to provide customized organizing solutions to suit their individual needs and situation. She uses her love of physical activity to reduce clutter, in your home and office. She guides and supports you to manage your time. If you’re in a difficult transition Julie can coach you to break-free of emotional clutter constraining you from living life on your terms. Online courses are available to help instruct, coach and support your organizing projects. Get started by downloading Tips for Reorganizing 9 Rooms.
Contact her at email@example.com
Click here to learn more about her online course Create an Organized Home.