Summer! The season of abundance, beach fun and berries, rosé for some, popsicles for others, picnics and siestas! Summer invites us to lighten up, as in a lighter diet, schedule, attitude. Perhaps like me you also enjoy getting rid of stuff to open up more space in your living quarters. But there’s another kind of living quarters where all of us spend tons of time, that can often use de-cluttering. That “place” might even be your headquarters ?? (hint hint 😉 ) It’s your head of course! How is your head? Is it neat and organized? Or cramped and overflowing with junk? Let’s make some room in there!
I got back from France last week where I went to visit my family. I also travelled to parts of the country I didn’t know (Périgord Noir and the area around Saint Tropez), reconnected with friends from long ago (some I hadn’t seen in over 20 years) and had much fun playing with dogs of all sizes (see photo). The change of scenery, rhythm and company, in other words the (welcome) disruption to my usual routines effortlessly brought me to a different state of mind: UN-CLUTTERED. My head began to clear of all the NY-associated thoughts, work, workshops and where-is-my-life-going kind of thoughts. I found myself unable to plan anything beyond the duration of my trip. I believe that’s why we travel in the first place: to disrupt our habitual and often repetitive thought patterns, to reset not just physically but also, and most of all, mentally.
Then something interesting happened upon my return. In my still uncluttered vacation state of mind, certain things I do (or avoid doing) that generate major mental clutter really jumped to my eyes. Read on to find out what those are so you can stop doing them right away and free up precious mental real estate.
A few days ago I began sorting through all the emails I had ignored while away. Many newsletters, invitations and groundbreaking research begging for my attention. I clicked away. Before I knew it I had 19 tabs opened. Then my computer shut down unexpectedly and I lost them all. Anxiously (neurotically!) I tried to remember what they were, when it hit me that perhaps I didn’t have to reopen every single one of them!? Maybe I didn’t have to watch or read everything? Keeping too many tabs open for too long is a sure recipe for overwhelm. It nurtures the unpleasant feeling that I’m always running behind. Action step: look at the open tabs on your computer. Do you have to go through them all? Will all this content enrich your life or just fill your head with more stuff? Go ahead and close the head fillers. You can do it.
By now we know how important it is to nourish our bodies with wholesome foods. But what do you feed your mind with? Whether gross or subtle all the material we ingest is infused with a distinctive consciousness. Do you feel more uplifted or empowered after watching that show, reading that blog or listening to this artist? How about your inbox? How much of what’s in there is high quality? But even the best foods eaten in excess will cause toxicity. There is a ton of great content out there, for sure. All available to us 24/7. Great! Or is it? Do you need to keep abreast of it all? While in France I hardly read a magazine or watched TV (except for Questions pour un Champion, a classic!) and stayed away from social media. Guess what? I hardly missed anything. As you know if you’ve been on a news+social media fast whenever you start consuming again, a lot of it is the same over and over again, egos trying to be better, righter, prettier than others. Action step: pay attention to how you respond emotionally to your mass media consumption. The same way you’re no longer eating trans-fats or fake sugars (right!?), limit your intake of mass media content that isn’t nutritious, anything that upsets you, pulls you down or triggers worst-case scenarios thinking.
I came back from vacation to a tidy apartment (the way I left it). Heaven! But my tendency is to spread out. As I began to unpack, my tidy apartment morphed into a teenager’s bedroom: shoes, bags and clothes spread all over. Simultaneously I noticed my mood shifting from clear to burdened. I quickly made an effort to put away everything back in its place, and guess what, clarity returned almost instantly. Every few months I give away clothes, books and other items. I throw. I shred. And to this day, I am continuously blown away by how much more focused and creative I feel when my place is orderly. Action step: go through your place right now with an empty bag, and fill it! To be thrown or given away. I know you’ve got tee-shirts, cd’s or old linen begging “Let me go!”
As stated at the beginning of this post, travel is one of the best ways to short-circuit our repetitive thinking. Action step: go somewhere you’ve never been before, before the week is over! No need to fly to another continent, a new neighborhood or nearby town will do for now.
I do hope you have an exciting vacation to look forward to though. Preferably the way the French do it: 5 weeks a year! Honestly, I think it’s just the right amount of time if one is to catch up with relatives, discover new vistas and go on a more restorative trip such as a silent retreat. Don’t you think you need that in order to be and remain your most balanced self while contributing your best to your community? I do : ) I already got my first 3 weeks down, starting to think of my next 2!
An uncluttered mind is creative, intuitive, better at problem-solving and decision-making. Want some of that? You know what to do now. I wish you much fun making room in your head. I’ve got a few more tips to share but didn’t want to clutter your mind with my decluttering wisdom (haha), I’ll be back next month with part 2.