Friday, March 29, 2013

Time For A Little Spring Cleaning - Of The Mind

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It's time to empty my mental dumpster

It’s time for a little spring cleaning.  It’s time to clear out my mind.

Lately I’ve felt like my mind is nothing more than an over-stuffed storage locker.  It’s the repository of family dentist appointments and household to-do lists, encyclopedic knowledge of the federal sequester and celebrity baby-bump watches, family emergencies, incomplete home renovation plans, solutions to the problems of everyone I know waiting patiently for someone to ask me if they can borrow one.

I’m a mental hoarder and it’s time I open up the doors and windows to let some air in or throw some of this stuff out.  It’s like the proverbial pea under the mattress when I try to sleep and I drag it behind me every day.  My overloaded storage locker of a mind buries my real priorities.  My writing. My home renovation.  Expanding my creative life.  Learning French irregular verbs.

Before I can get to any of that, though, I need to clear out a few things and create a little elbow room.  I need to hire a dumpster and haul off the metal paraphernalia that clutters my mind.

So where do I start?

Gretchen Rubin over at the Happiness Project blog talks about the “opportunity cost” for what we do.  Because energy, time, and money are limited (yes, you Superwomen everywhere – energy and time are limited) doing one thing means foregoing alternatives, so it’s important to spend them wisely.  I guess in my case, the opportunity cost for hanging on to so much is high.  Because brain space is limited, if I haven’t used a thought or worry in six months or more I should let it go to make room for the new ones.  Hey, I’m sure the way that Albert Einstein could think so deeply about relativity was he wasn’t hanging onto a mountain of uncompleted to-do lists.

The website Zen Habits is a good place to learn about de-cluttering a life or a mind.  One strategy it suggests is to create a single Zero Clutter Zone in the house.  It should have nothing but the essentials, i.e., what is loved and used on a regular basis.  Everything else either needs to find a home, be given away, or be trashed.

I guess I could do that for my mind.  I need to leave some free space in my mind to dream, or create, or develop real solutions to real problems and then act on them.  That means trashing all those solutions to problems that aren’t mine.  Or putting the family dentist calendar in the back of a mental drawer where I can refer to it if necessary.  I need to keep my Zero Clutter Zone clean by asking each new bit of information, each problem, each chore that flits through my mind if it has a use and a proper home or if it’s a non-essential that needs to be trashed.

Probably the place to start is with social media.  Do I really need to know every thought of everyone I know?  All of their thoughts are spilling into my Zero Clutter mental zone, crowding out what should be my own essential ideas for a productive day.  Or week.  Or life.

Last year about this time, I was fretting over being a charter member of the digital hoarder club.  It was just one symptom of this tendency to stuff too much into my brain, since my computer really is just brain overflow.  I didn’t make a lot of progress since then, but at the very least I’ve started using tags when I collect ideas in my digital best friend Evernote.  At least I can usually find what I need.  And if I tag it on Evernote (motto – “Remember Everything”) then I don’t have to store it in my brain, ergo victory for that Zero Clutter Zone I need so desperately.

Who knows what I might find when I clear out the piles of rotting newspapers and broken side tables that fill my mind.  Maybe there’s a buried poem.  Or a vision for a photography theme.  Or energy to landscape my garden.  Maybe with some clear space I could restore some lost treasures, like patience or creativity.

I'd really come out ahead on that “opportunity cost” factor if I stopped paying rental on that storage locker of a cluttered mind.  It’s time for a little spring cleaning.  How about you?

My mind is like a Natchez front porch
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What are your most effective techniques for de-cluttering your mind?  Help us all by sharing them in the comments box.  


Patricia said...

Ah yes, achieving a ZERO CLUTTER ZONE in every area of my life is most definitely a primary goal of mine. I hear you, Julie! I have a case of near terminal mental clutter at the moment which I intend to clear out by the end of May ... I'm seriously working on it and will keep you posted. Give us updates on your efforts and keep sweeping stuff off that porch!

Lynn at Southern Fried French said...

Couldn't agree more, great post. WAY too much clutter in this brain. Trying to mediate a bit, but I'm good for a couple of minutes so far!

Vagabonde said...

My mind is not too cluttered- it is my house. I have thousands of books and it is so hard to part with them. I de-clutter my mind by looking at the birds in our back yard. We have 7 bird feeders and so many birds – cardinals, blue jays, thrasher, robins, titmouse, black cap chickadees and yellow something, I don’t know all their names, doves, sometimes I count as many as 40 or 50 fluttering around. Just looking at them for a while and my mind is blank. I also rarely talk on the telephone, watch hardly any TV and am not on Facebook or Tweeter or any of the others.

Julie Farrar said...

I love to watch the birds, too. You can forget a lot while waiting for them to come and go. "Yellow something"? Maybe a goldfinch. As for books, I'm full up to my eyeballs. Coincidentally, I finally made myself gather some today to give away.

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