The Being & The Doing EPISODE 16:
The Hidden Impact of Invisible Clutter
The clutter in your house definitely takes a toll on you. But you might not realize the invisible clutter in your heart and mind also has a negative impact on your life. It just might be the reason you can’t tackle the stuff that needs to be cleared out. In this episode I share some ideas on your cluttered mind and how to manage thoughts, and how your relationships sometimes need a purge too.
*A full transcript will soon be posted at the bottom of this page.
How to deal with a cluttered mind
Here’s a blog about information overload
Here’s a blog with tips on giving your mind a clean sweep
Beginner’s Guide to Meditation [free download]
Click Here for the guide.
This Episode’s Homework
Something to think about:
Give some thought to the people that you give your time and energy to and ask yourself:
Is this relationship mutually enriching?
Do you support/encourage each other to be the best you can be?
Something to try:
Take a 5 minute mind break. Allow yourself to sit or walk without having to think about the next thing you have to do. The trick to this is simply giving yourself permission to do it. Think of it as a temporary “no info zone”.
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CREDITS: The Being & The Doing podcast is produced by Neela Bell. Voiceovers by Jason Harris. Music is GoodMorning Sunshine by Yoav Alyagon and Firefly by Scott Buckley.
Full Transcript of the Show
Intro: Welcome to The Being and The Doing, a podcast about well-being and the practices that help us have more calm, focus, purpose, and presence in our busy lives. Here’s your host, author and life coach, Laurel Vespi.
Laurel: Hey, lovely ones, welcome to Episode 16 of The Being and The Doing. This is Part 2 of the series that I’m doing called, clearing the clutter that holds you back. In the last episode, we looked at what clutter is and why we have such an addiction to stuff and more importantly, the toll that clutter, the physical and mental and emotional clutter, takes on us because it messes with our energy and it creates a sense of overwhelm which adds to our stress. And ultimately when we have clutter, we’re not as successful as we could be; whether that’s at home or at work or with any of the things that are really most important to us. So if you haven’t had a chance to listen to episode 15, I encourage you to do that because it kind of sets the groundwork for today and for the Part 3 episode that is coming next time.
Today, I want to start by reminding you of an important principle. Just because you can’t see something doesn’t mean it doesn’t have an impact. Now, here’s an example that everyone can relate to. Have you ever dropped anything, your dinner on your shirt or your phone in the toilet or your car keys in a puddle? Well, of course, you have, we all have, and things falling or dropping is because of gravity. You can’t see gravity, but you see the impact of gravity all the time that ‘oh darn it, I just dropped’ whatever experience, is a result of something that you cannot see but is still there nonetheless.
So just like gravity has a pull on you so does all of the invisible clutter that you have in your life. You can’t see it like you can see the piles of stuff that you might have but it does have an impact all the same. So what does it mean, invisible clutter? Well, I think it falls into two categories. Things that clutter up your mind, essentially, your thoughts and things that clutter up your heart, which has to do with unresolved feelings or emotions. And I really believe that the clutter that you have in your mind and your heart just might be the biggest obstacle to getting rid of the physical clutter in your life.
So, let’s look at mind clutter first. If it was possible to unscrew the top of your head and take a peek inside of your mind, I bet it would be just as cluttered as the worst space in your home. First, we’re all dealing with information overload. There’s a statistic that I read or a fun fact that said that the weekday edition of The New York Times probably contains more information than the average person was likely to come across in a lifetime in the 17th century.
That’s a lot of information crammed into one weekend’s worth of newspaper. We are bombarded with information and if we’re not selective about what we’re paying attention to it becomes overwhelming.
You know, just imagine if every social media post or news article that you laid eyes on was actually a physical item in your home, you would probably look like a hoarder. And it’s not just the information coming at us that clutters our minds, it’s also the bazillions of thoughts that are flowing through them. Because here’s the thing about thoughts, you have tens of thousands of them a day but that’s actually your mind’s job, to think. So it’s not the actual thoughts that are really what clutters up your mind, it’s how many of them that you’re trying to pay attention to. Let me say that again; it’s not the actual thoughts in your mind because your mind thinks, that’s what it does, that’s not the clutter. The clutter comes from how many of those thoughts you are actually trying to pay attention to.
In your mind, you’ve got lists, plans and schedules, you’ve got thoughts about things that are undone and things you wish you had done and things you wish you hadn’t done, things that you’re worried about and we add to that, all the negative self-talk that you’ve got going on and thoughts about the past and thoughts about the future; your mind is overloaded.
Now, I’m going to leave a link in the show notes to a couple of blogs that I wrote that dive into this topic a little bit more. Now, what does the invisible clutter in your mind have to do with the physical clutter that you have? Well, you only have so much energy and if it’s going towards all of these thoughts in your head, it doesn’t leave much room attention space for dealing with that stuff you have, what stuff to get rid of and how to do it.
So, how do you manage the thought clutter? Remember, it’s not about thinking less or emptying your mind. That’s a waste of time because remember, thinking is your mind’s job. It’s really about being conscious and intentional about which thoughts get your time and energy. Now, meditation is one way to learn how to be aware of your thoughts and to let them pass by. Think of it this way, thoughts are a lot like trains so imagine that you’re in a train station and there’s always another train coming through and you don’t have to jump on each one that passes by, you can let lots of those trains just pass through, just like you can let thoughts that are in your mind just pass by.
I’ll leave a link in the show notes to my Beginner’s Guide to Meditation. It’s a simple way to start practicing and I think you’ll find it a really easy way to begin to work with your thoughts and which ones you’re paying attention to and which ones you’re not.
Let’s look at the second category of invisible clutter. That’s the clutter that’s in your heart and it has to do with stale relationships. Everything in this life is about being in a relationship so it consumes a lot of our time and energy. To paraphrase an old nursery rhyme: when relationships are good, they’re very good and when they’re bad, they’re horrible.
So good relationships are mutually satisfying and enriching. They’re this wonderful dance of give-and-take and you get as much out of a good relationship as you put into it. Now, it’s the bad ones that can be a huge source of clutter in our lives. I’ll bet that there’s at least one relationship you currently have that falls into that category. You know, the person whose calls you always want to screen, ‘I see that that number come up, anything, aah’. Or maybe it’s a relationship that creates tension or stress or maybe it’s one that exists out of guilt or persists in spite of being boring, bit by bit these relationships drain the life out of you.
We all have relationships like that on varying degrees of, let’s call them, staleness. Some of them are just little irritations and some of them are huge irritations, but all of that creates this clutter in our heart because we know they’re not healthy. So how is it that we end up cluttering our hearts and our minds with relationships like that? I think there’s a couple of reasons. Somehow, we convinced ourselves that all relationships are meant to last a lifetime but that’s not really true. There are some relationships that we simply outgrow and some relationships were just never healthy, never mutually satisfying from the get-go. And sometimes we think because we’re related to a person or we’ve known them forever, that we have to keep investing in them with our time and with our energy.
And the other reason is, we’re afraid of what will happen if we clean out our relationship house. We might, maybe, hurt someone’s feelings or we just don’t want to deal with the anticipated drama if we say adios to that person. But here’s another way of thinking about it, how you treat your relationships is all about respect. If you’re in a relationship that is too stale to keep, too tarnished, then it’s time to let it go. It’s disrespectful to continue that facade of a relationship that doesn’t really exist. Some relationships though, you don’t have to toss them completely. Maybe you just need to create some more space in them; be kind and gracious and respectful and take a small step back, maybe a giant step back because when you let go there’s more space for your relationships that are mutually satisfying and enriching.
In The Ultimate Guide to Clearing the Clutter that I’m going to share next time, there’s a really cool activity that helps you look at relationships and see which ones might need a little purging because it’s not as simple as just cleaning out your garage or cleaning out your closet. Decluttering is a bigger conversation that you have to have with yourself. In the last episode, I had a definition of clutter that I shared and that was, ‘clutter is when we fill or cover with scattered or disorganized things that impede movement or reduce effectiveness.’ And that definition applies equally as well to the thoughts in your head and the people in your life. Because there are some of them that impede movement and reduce the effectiveness of how it is that you are engaging in life. Because when your head is too jammed up with thoughts, it doesn’t leave any space for you to be able to think about, perhaps, the bigger more important things that you want to be paying attention to. It just feels overwhelming to think about the next step that you maybe want to take.
Same with relationships because they draw energy from us and so when we’re cluttered up with relationships that really are not a fair give-and-take, are not mutually satisfying and enriching and supportive, then they take away from the ones that really are because you’ve only got so much time and energy. Now, there are some other kinds of invisible clutter, there’s digital clutter. Just because it’s on your computer doesn’t mean it doesn’t have an impact or time clutter having too many commitments and not having enough white space in your calendar. So when you look at your calendar, there’s no space, it’s cluttered up. There’s not enough room for anything else. And I’m going to share some ideas on those kinds of invisible clutter in The Ultimate Guide that you’re going to be able to get access to in the next episode as my gift to you.
So for now, as always, let me leave you with a little ‘being and doing’ homework. Something to think about and something to try. And if you’re new to the podcast, why do I give you homework? Well, first, it’s great that you’re here listening to the podcast because when we’re listening to it, it maybe gives us something to think about or gives us a little bit of a tip to try that’s terrific. But what I know from all of my years as a coach is that if we don’t actually engage with the material, whether it’s you listening to this podcast or maybe a book you have been reading, if you don’t actually engage with it, you don’t get any results, you don’t move the ball forward.
And so, I like to leave you with something to think about which is a reflection question, something to build awareness, that’s the being part and something to try, which is an action, that’s the doing part. And when we think about things a little bit more and then we take a little action, then we begin to expand our learning, things begin to change. So there always is in the show notes the little download of the little activity sheet that you can use for your homework or you can just write it down anytime on a piece of paper. And if you’re listening somewhere where you can’t be writing it down, I always put the homework in the show notes too.
Something to think about; give some thought to the people that you give your time and energy to and ask yourself these questions, is this relationship mutually enriching? That’s a yes or no question. And do you support and encourage each other to be the best that you can be? That’s a yes or no question. So if the answer is yes, great. If the answer is no, it’s time to declutter your heart and probably your mind as well to make space for other things, even if that’s making space for the relationships where you get to say ‘yes’ to both of those questions.
So something to try; your mind is probably cluttered up with the to-do list and problems to solve and that general information overload. So something to try is to take a five-minute break from all of it. And this isn’t a break that, ‘I’m taking a break when I’m actually checking my social media or my email.’ No, no, taking a break that is a total pause from everything. Now, that either might be harder than it sounds or that might sound hard to you already. You know what? We’ve become so accustomed to filling every moment of our day that doing nothing, just taking the complete pause, feels really uncomfortable. But taking a do-nothing pause, actually lets your brain power down for a few moments and that’s a really good thing for your brain. So just allow yourself to sit or even take a little walk without having to think about the next thing that you have to do. And the trick to this is simply giving yourself permission to do it. Just think of it as a temporary ‘no information’ zone.
Next time, yes, we are finally going to get to what you’ve been waiting for in Part 3 of this Clearing the Clutter series. We’re going to dive into, how to tackle the physical clutter in your life, why it’s so darn hard to get rid of stuff and some tips for getting started. So you will want to be sure to tune in for this next episode. And until then, lovely ones, pause and breathe and enjoy your day.
Outro: You’ve been listening to The Being and The Doing with your host, Laurel Vespi. If you liked this episode and think other people would, please subscribe, rate and give a review on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts. Be sure to tune in next week for another conversation about The Being and The Doing. Thanks for listening.