It’s a word everyone dreads — at work, at home, in life. But what if there were something we could do to stop it? The result just might change our lives.
Sometimes life can get really overwhelming, don’t you think?
It’s 6pm, for example, and you’ve just spent the whole afternoon trying to fix the garbage disposal, which stopped working suddenly when you were trying to load the dishwasher. Your computer is open — emails lurking there, waiting to be answered, as soon as you are done with dinner, which will be leftovers, since you still haven’t made it to the grocery store.
Your phone is ringing and dinging every few seconds. The dog is barking to go out. The kids are running up and down the stairs.
Are you getting the picture?
Sometimes life can be really overwhelming.
Several years ago I noticed myself feeling overwhelmed with life more often than was perhaps normal. I was in graduate school — an overwhelming time, to be sure. But in order to cope, I was taking anti-anxiety medication, drinking more often than I care to admit, and doing pretty much whatever I could to keep all the stress from getting to me.
I complained about the stress, tried to escape the stress but still, the stress wouldn’t go away.
It made me wonder: could there be a better way?
So I decided to trim the fat.
The first thing I did was sell or give away most of what I owned. I didn’t realize how much stress my physical possessions were causing until I actually started to get rid of them. The more space I made in my house, the more space I felt like I had in my mind.
Second, I started saying “no” way more often. At first, this caused more stress than it relieved because I worried I was letting people down. But the more I practiced it, the more natural it became. The more space I had in my schedule, the less stressed I felt.
All because I was willing to cut back.
This is not a connection most of us would perhaps naturally make — the connection between stress and clutter — but it’s a connection that is certainly there if we’re willing to look for it. If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed more often than you care to admit, here’s something to try: get rid of some stuff.
Quit a committee you don’t really want to be on. Make a run to Goodwill. End an unhealthy relationship taking up too much space in your life. Clean up the clutter in your living or working space. Clean out your email inbox.
I bet you’ll be surprised how much of a difference it makes.
Recently, a friend asked me why I had gotten rid of comments on my website and I told him it’s for the same reason I do most everything these days: to simplify things, to keep away the clutter, to fight my way to more productivity, more happiness, more peace — and less stress.
- The Cold Hard Truth: You’re Overwhelmed Because You Want to Be
- How You Can Better Control Your Time (Podcast)
- 5 Ways I Clear Clutter In And Out of My Head
The bottom line is this: If you’re feeling overwhelmed, stop complaining. Stop trying to escape. Chances are you simply need to trim the fat.
No Sidebar: At Work
The feeling of being overwhelmed is one that impacts us across all areas of our life and work is certainly not immune from that. In fact, studies show employees are working longer hours, have less work-life balance, fewer boundaries in their work lives and are chronically overwhelmed.
The question is: is there something we can do to avoid this?
Business woman and career mogul Marie Forleo says yes. In fact, she says we can find more simplicity in our business and work lives with one single word.
And maybe sometimes the best solutions to our problems are the most simple ones. Perhaps we can find more mental clarity and productivity — and therefore more margin in our day — by simply clearing the physical items from our work space.
It’s worth a try. I mean, what’s the worst that could happen?
No Sidebar: At Home
These days it seems like everyone is a minimalist, doesn’t it? But whether or not you’re ready to move into a tiny house and spend your days choosing from your simple wardrobe, there’s no denying how much stress can be relieved when we’re willing to simplify our homes, clear out the clutter and focus on what’s important.
Sometimes this means just clearing out the physical clutter that gets in the way of the functionality and enjoyment of our space. That’s what Stephanie Bennett Vogt suggests in her article, Confessions of a Packrat.
At the same time, really finding clarity and peace might take more than just getting rid of physical clutter. It might require changes in our thinking.
It might even require us to pass those changes on to our kids.
And before you get totally overwhelmed by the incredible task it can be to cut back on what you own, and make things simple again — don’t worry. Here are 18 5-minute tips to begin decluttering your home.
No Sidebar: In Your Soul
Perhaps the most important space we can create for ourselves is the space in our souls. But what on earth does this mean?
To start, it means getting rid of the negative self-talk that clutters our thoughts and steals our creativity. There are all different kinds of tactics we can use to create this space — but the important part is we use at least one of them. Writing. Meditation. Therapy. Whatever we need to do to make space and regain our creative energy.
One interesting solution to the brain-clutter problem could be getting rid of caffeine. No matter how much of a nightmare this might sound like to you, before you write it off, consider how much caffeine impacts your brain.
You might be surprised.
Ultimately, the connection between physical clutter and mental clutter cannot be denied. And just like that, we end in the same place we started—and also begin again. When we clean up our clutter, we clean up our life.