Feeling Overwhelmed? Me?
I've recently been quite busy. I've been to several brilliant short courses over the last couple of weeks (but I haven't had time to implement the key learnings from them yet), I'm reading several interesting books at once which are supporting my work, giving me food for thought and further actions to take, I'm researching coaching skills as a work aid, I've got my ongoing work supporting and working along side my clients, then I've got my own life as well as a busy family life to juggle. Although I felt I had a lot on my plate, it all seemed fine and do-able but then horror of horrors! It came to my attention that I had tech issues with my website!
I didn't know how to fix this tech issue and seemed it to blow up out of all proportion and became a bit of a monster in my mind. It also somehow seemed to affect everything else going on in my life that day. I found it difficult to focus on one task at a time, I was unable to choose between my priorities, I was anxious that I wouldn't get everything done and I even had difficulty sleeping that night. When I woke up the next morning, I realised I was suffering from overwhelm.
Overwhelm is described as "too much for a person to deal with", or as "to defeat someone or something" And it is also associated with "strong or sudden feelings".
Well I certainly felt that I had too much to do, and I felt unequal to the task of fixing the website, you could say I felt "defeated". My mind felt cluttered up with tasks, I worried that by focusing on that one issue I'd take my eye off all the other plates that were spinning and for me the "strong and sudden feelings" associated with it were panic. How was I going to do everything and fix the glitch?
So in the middle of the night when I couldn't sleep, I had a little chat with myself. I listed out all my tasks in my mind, I chose one to prioritise and focus on and next I chose a path of action and scheduled a time to do it. The next morning my head was still a little fuzzy, but at least I was clear on what I was going to focus on.
I chose to work on the website glitch (which now didn't seem quite such a big monster). I was attending a working day with other business women and scheduled it as my first task of the day. Several people offered help and whilst I couldn't fix the problem immediately (this happened a few days later) I realised that facing up to the problem and asking for help had led me to discover lots of new wonderful things.
I ended the day feeling positive and like I had achieved something brilliant. I'd not necessarily ticked a million things off of my to do list, but I'd learnt new skills, made a new contact, felt supported and what's more I'd learnt something about myself. Allowing myself to feel vulnerable and panicky was ok, and reaching out and asking for help was a powerful tool for change.
My thoughts turned to my clients, and what emotions they face when dealing with their clutter. Time and time again, I hear the word overwhelmed when talking about clutter and life. So next week I'll be sharing my top tips for dealing with overwhelm in the face of physical clutter. See you then.
Choose your vision
Quite simply, how would you like your space to feel? What would you like to achieve? How do you imagine living and what would that look or feel like? Forget interior design for now, we are talking about how you are going to live and function in the space and how that is going to improve your life. You might choose a picture from a magazine or Pintrest, but I prefer my clients to put it down in writing. This really focuses the mind on the outcome and when the decluttering gets tough, the vision brings us back to our overall objective and keeps us motivated to continue.
When deciding where to begin, chose an area in your home where you will be able to make a reasonably big impact. Basically we are thinking bulky items here. Getting rid of larger items first such as clothing or old electrical goods creates extra space quickly and when you start to see immediate results you will gain motivation to keep going and maybe even feel a spark of excitement. Don't start with a filing cabinet of old paperwork, you're likely to get fed up with it before you've made any visible progress and it could put yourself off the whole thing.
Decluttering can be really tiring. As you are faced with decision after decision over every single item you own, decision fatigue can quickly set in. I recommend starting with items that are really easy to make decisions over. Avoid personal and sentimental items such as photographs, letters, diaries, cards and school reports as you'll have a tendency to spend your decluttering time reminiscing rather than letting go. Just as with any new habit or exercise routine, you need to warm up first, so think about tackling your wardrobe or old magazines or out of date food in the pantry first.
When working with a client, one of the things we find most useful is to group similar items together first. By gathering together types of items you can see just how many Stanley knives, spatulas, biros or post it notes you actually own. Sometimes seeing the shear quantity of unnecessary items is enough to encourage you to pare them down. Secondly once items have been grouped they are then far more easy to store. Everything has a natural place within the home and once sorted it become a joy to decide on these natural places.
If your are feeling totally overwhelmed then by all means get some help in. A trusted friend can often help us to see our clutter in another light and encourage us to let go. Not to mention another pair of hands is going to come in very useful when all that stuff has got to be moved and shifted. If you're not keen to get a friend involved but really do need some help then a Professional Declutterer may be what you need. Professional Declutterers cover a whole range of services from streamlining technology, helping you move house, decluttering wardrobes, organising paperwork and even working with hoarders. They operate discretely and without judgement. Check out the Association of Professional Declutterers and Organisers to find one near you.
Setting yourself one small objective at a time is the way forward here. Don't start by thinking you're going to clear the whole house, the whole attic or even a whole room in one day. Firstly you'll really have to go some to achieve such a big objective and the danger is that you could lose motivation and wear yourself out. Instead, choose a small area such as a kitchen cupboard or underwear drawer or your shoes. Set aside some time and go for it. The psychology of achieving something small will motivate you to continue far more then if you'd tackled twice as much but not finished.
Rome wasn't built in a day and you didn't accumulate a life times worth of clutter overnight. If it has taken years to accumulate, it is going to take a while to let it go. So be patient with yourself and the process, work steadily at a pace you can maintain. Rather like going on a diet or training to run a marathon, don't expect to lose all the weight straight away or be able to run 26 miles after one weeks training. This will be rewarding but you'll need patience and persistence.
And by this I mean as soon as you have finished decluttering a particular area, take action straight away to get it out of the house. You might be tired after making all those decisions and shifting stuff around, but honestly making one final push to physically remove the items from your home will be worth the effort. So put it in the car straight away and take to your local charity shop or recycling centre without delay. Rather than procrastinate and think you can drop it all off next time you are in town, make time to do it right at the end of the decluttering session. For a start, you will be able to see the impact you've made as soon as you walk back into the house, you won't be tempted to change your mind and sneak things back into the home and the house won't be cluttered up with your discarded items, ironically causing you more clutter!
So, what are you waiting for?
Got your own decluttering tips? Then please share them here.