Saturday, February 2, 2013

Are Your Possessions Stealing Your Energy?

English: A keyboard with clutter on it to illu...
English: A keyboard with clutter on it to illustrate the term clutter. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Lately my days have been filled with relocating my mother-in-law to a nursing home and cleaning out the apartment she has lived in for almost twenty years. It has been a sad and frustrating job. Fiercely independent, stubborn and increasingly forgetful, she has clung to the familiarity and security of her apartment even when it was no longer safe or reasonable for her to continue to live there.

Unwillingness to Embrace Necessary Changes

As I throw away, give away and pack away the belongings of a lifetime, I am struck repeatedly by the stages of our lives and the unwillingness to embrace the progression and necessary changes. Her closet is filled with clothes that are yellow and dusty with age. There are boxes and bags of fabric and sewing accessories from her career as a seamstress that she left more than twenty years ago. There are drawers and drawers packed full of old bills and cancelled checks that she was afraid to throw away. Unable to adequately clean, her furniture and belongings are covered with layers of dust and dirt, yet she resisted any help and fired the home health aides and nurses I employed for her, insisting that she was managing fine.

Everything You Own Steals Energy From You

Easy as it is to judge the overwhelming clutter of her life, I must admit that I often become equally attached to my own belongings. Sorting through my mother-in-law's collections of a lifetime, I am struck by the burden of material things.  Certainly there are some things worth saving and passing on to grandchildren.  There is jewelry and special photographs but the majority is of little value. Interior designer, Pamela Porter writes, "Everything you own steals energy from you in multiple forms.  You use it, clean it, store it, fix it, or simply think about it.  Let bidding it good-bye be the last bit of energy it takes from you.  Once you lighten your load, you'll feel like a new person.  So have a yard sale, list on eBay, donate, recycle, or simply toss-just find a way to reduce what you have.  Only then can you give your spaces and your attitude a fresh start."  I'm not the first of my baby boomer friends who has been inspired to clean out their own overcrowded homes after having to provide the same service for elderly parents or relatives.

Clutter is the Enemy of the Productive Writer

Writer, Jeff Goins wrote a blog post on clutter and creativity where he noted that clutter is the enemy of the productive writer.  Although artists of all kinds are noted for their lack of organization, he maintains that living in a messy environment creates problems for a creative.  Do any of these sound familiar?
  • Clutter creates distraction-The writer whose desk or computer is filled with unnecessary clutter is easily distracted.  How many times have you put off your first priority of writing because you were waylaid by clutter?  Deleting emails, organizing stacks of papers, sorting through images can all distract and lead us down the wrong path.
  • Clutter diminishes creativity--An environment awash in noise and stimulation is not an environment that promotes creativity.  Instead it creates lack of focus.  A productive environment provides boundaries and structure where the magic of creation can happen.
  • Clutter creates disorganization.  The writer who spends time looking for the article he wanted to reference, the quote he wanted to use, the inspirational thought he wrote down on a napkin, knows that disorganization leads to wasted time.

Creating a Clutter-free Environment

There are a number of things you can do to create a clutter free, productive writing environment.  Begin by:

  • Cleaning up your computer-- Create a computer that encourages you to get to the business of writing rather than getting lost looking for the right page, blog, image or quote.
  • Cleaning up your desk-- Organize your writing environment and get rid of the numerous distractions.  Stacks of books, unopened mail, bills to pay, all these things distract you from the task at hand.  Have only the tools you need to get the work of writing done.  Create a visual and physical space that is peaceful and inspiring.
  • Eliminating multi-tasking--Writing while simultaneously checking your email, listening to a podcast or talking on the phone only creates an illusion of productivity.  It doesn't create quality work and creates and illusion of productivity.

What about you?  Are your possessions stealing your energy?  Could lightening your load create an environment that is both energizing and more productive?

Want to learn more about goal setting and how to Be Do Have, even with a busy life?  Join me for a free teleseminar on February 19th with Jen McDonough!  Details are here:  Teleseminar

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  1. I, too, detest clutter - it is very distracting, indeed!
    Sorry you are having to go through this tough time in moving your mother-in-law - my heart goes out to you . . .

  2. Hey Lynne, you always shoot from the hip and today you shot through my heart. Clutter, indeed, sucks the energy out of me like nothing else. I'm a stacker, and when spring comes, I'm a tosser. My Mother In Law has had 1 knee replaced and 2 hips replaced in the last 2 years and her house is a hot mess even when we hired the local cleaning company. She is a hoot, but they are frustrated. As she continues to improve, I may find myself helping her toss as she mentions it. A tidy space gives freedom...and it's a good feeling. Thanks for the prompt to do some pre-spring tossing.

  3. I loved this post. Lynne. I have a really hard time focusing when things are disorganized so I have a colored file folder system for all my writing things, another for home things, etc. It's been a big help but that multi-tasking thing is my downfall.
    One thing I am truly realizing about possessions is that it is so true that they own you. Whether it's furniture, clothing, dogs etc... they require your time, attention and money. You have to make choices as to whether they make your life more full or subtract from its joy.
    I know the process of moving your mother-in-law was difficult in many respects. I wish we could teach a class to kids when they were young about putting things in their place after using them and re-assessing whether we keep, sell or trash our belongings regularly, then when we get older it would not be so difficult. Some of us end up marrying another person who is "holding on to things" and we just double our "stuff".
    Great post. Makes me want to go clean out my closet right now!

  4. Lynn,

    Dealing with a situation like this is definitely a catalyst for clearing out clutter in our own lives. When my Mom died several years ago, we had to go clean out her house. After seeing all of the things that she saved that were just going to be thrown out or donated, I decided to throw out and donate a lot of my own stuff. I asked myself a few questions:

    Am I using this?
    Can someone else benefit from this?
    Does anyone care about this item other than me?
    What will happen to this when I die?

    Have a Victorious Day!