Papers associated with challenges can empower you when they are organized. I had the chance to observe this first hand when I helped a very dear friend organize papers associated with her son’s very challenging disability.
We faced numerous binders, paper storage containers, and piles of papers, the kind of paper challenge that makes you want to run from the room. We went through all the binders, storage containers and paper, sorting papers into easily identifiable stacks: IEPs, psychiatric evaluations, medical evaluations, reference materials, etc. In the process we got rid of a whole box of paper! By the time we were done she could put her hands on any document she might need, and had plans for sustaining the order we created.
My friend began the sorting process feeling overwhelmed and anxious, focused almost entirely on how very difficult her journey on the painful road to obtain help via a less than cooperative school system and a medical establishment that had led her son down some rough roads. By the time we’d finished she was calmer, and saw the remaining papers not as a big burdensome reminder of her difficult situation, but rather as resources to use as she continues to advocate for her son. The process of purging and organizing those papers not only made the papers more manageable, but also helped her ground herself to face future challenges.
Disorganized papers can keep you anxious and overwhelmed. Organized papers can empower and support you!
Clutter clearing overwhelm. We’ve all been there. We have the best of intentions about tackling clutter in some part of our lives. We even make the time to address it. And, when we face the challenge, we freeze. For some it’s the enormity of the task at hand that shuts them down. For others it’s not knowing where to start. And, for others it’s not knowing what to do. Whatever the reason, clutter clearing overwhelm is a challenge for even the most motivated of us.
In this article I’m going to share guidelines for managing clutter clearing overwhelm that I intuitively developed in my early days working as a professional organizer. I had to figure out how to make progress despite feeling overwhelmed by the negative energy of clutter. After all, I was being paid to do just that! Here’s what I learned and what I recommend you do.
Don’t start with paper. Paper has a loud, irritating, noisy energy that draws you to it. You will feel the urge to address the paper first. Resist the urge! Why? If you start with paper, you’ll quit! Paper is the hardest thing to clear. It’s one of the most boring things to clear. And, it takes forever to see and feel positive results from your efforts. If you have lots of paper distracting you from getting anything else done, gather it up into piles (without reading it), bags and boxes, and set it aside to deal with at the end of the clearing process.
Don’t start with little stuff. By little stuff, I mean toy parts, paper clips, buttons, jewelry, small pieces of paper, buttons, etc. Because, like paper, it can have a distracting negative energy, gather it up into a pile, basket or box and set it aside to deal with at the end of the clearing process.
Start with big stuff. The best place to start is with the BIG STUFF. Why? If you start clearing out big things like cardboard packing boxes, furniture, even books, you’ll be able to both feel and see appreciable results for your efforts. You’ll be creating big shifts in energy from negative to positive that will energize and motivate you to keep going.
Start with what’s easy. What can you get rid of without even a twinge of indecision or regret? For me it’s packing boxes, magazines, books I’ve read, and clothes. But, I’d have a hard time getting rid of photographs and prints of dogs, original art that I love, and beautiful ceramic dishes that hold special memories. When you’re looking for big things to get rid of, choose a category that is easy for you to pitch, a category that doesn’t have your heart attached to it.
Don’t look at the forest. As you work, if you focus on the forest, the entire task at hand, you’ll be assaulted by thoughts like, “I’ll never get this done. There’s so much to do. It will take FOREVER!!!!” Those thoughts will send you straight to the sofa or the door. Instead, choose big things to clear and keep your head down while you work. From time to time give the big picture a quick glance, but only to decide where to go next. Don’t look at the entire task for more than a few seconds at a time or you’ll be hooked into self-defeating thoughts that will shut you down.
Choose positive self-talk. As you work, no matter how onerous the task, keep encouraging yourself with self-talk like, “I’m making progress. I can do this. I’ve gotten further than ever before. I deserve to live in a clutter-free environment.” Feeding yourself positive statements is like putting gas in an engine. It’s fuel for perserverence and success.
Silence self-defeating messages and self-criticism. Watch your thoughts as you work. Catch the negative self-talk that may be as automatic as breathing. When I work with clients, I’m privy to some of those conversations. I hear, “It’s going to take forever to get this done. I don’t think I can stand this. There are just too many decisions to make. I’m too tired. I don’t know what to do. I can’t do this. It’s not worth the time and effort.”
Celebrate any progress. If you only spend five minutes grabbing a few items from your closet to donate to Viet Nam Veterans of America when they drop off a yellow bag for donations, take a moment to savor how good it feels to let go of items you no longer love or want to use. Any progress is worth celebrating because it results in shifts of energy from negative to positive. Instead of doing what many people do, which is to focus on how much more there is to do, focus on the benefit of what you’ve done. What you focus on you attract! Wouldn’t you rather attract more clearing instead of more clutter?
Refuse to quit. Don’t let feeling overwhelmed stop you. Those feelings will come up. They are a normal part of the clutter clearing process. When they do, stop. Acknowledge them. Take a deep breath. Identify what shut you down. Adjust your course to working on something bigger or easier. Begin again. Don’t let the overwhelm win!
This is what works for me. Give it a try! If you find it works, great! If you discover new ways to manage your overwhelm, please share them with me so I can pass them on to others. Together we can win the war against clutter in our lives! Remember, clear clutter for good℠! Your good, the good of your family and the good of your community!
“Author, Organizing Expert and Feng Shui Practitioner, Debbie Bowie, is a leading authority on clutter clearing to attract more of what you want in life. If you’re ready to clear clutter and move your life forward, get your FREE TIP SHEET, “Feng Shui Tips for Instant Success” at http://www.clutterclearingcommunity.com.