Munch, munch munch munch!!! That’s the sound of clutter eating away at the most important commodity we have. That valuable thing called time. Have you ever noticed how cluttered your life can become and how fast it becomes numbing and overwhelming? I mean not only the stuff you gather that you’ll “find a use for someday” but the mental clutter that seems to creep up on you. It’s a habit of busy people to build up clutter in their minds like dust on the furniture. You just clean it all off one day and the next moment you look there’s more.
I’m always in awe of people that seem to have uncluttered lives and have so much time on their hands. Maybe not in awe, necessarily, but, perhaps, suspicious of them would be a better word. How the heck do they do it? Everything just seems to just fall into place and they go about their lives accomplishing things with ease and it all seems so planned out and perfect. That’s why I’m suspicious, perhaps, because things just aren’t perfect no matter how you try to make the illusion real, or are they? Reality is that we’re all cluttered in one way or another but some people seem to handle it better than others. I’m not talking about being busy. Busy keeps you engaged and most busy people that I know of like it that way and are always ready and able to take on more. I’m one of those people. The old adage, that if you want to get something done, give it to a busy person, holds true in every case. I never say no.
But let’s get back to the people I’m suspicious of. I’ll bet that if you looked at them more deeply and beyond the perfect lawn, the perfectly shoveled snow off the driveway, the perfectly turned out children for school and all the things they seem to accomplish, you’ll see that either they’re just very boring people or more likely they’re very busy too, but have it under control instead. We all have clutter, but some people are more effective at handling it and have figured it out and use it to their advantage perhaps.
The other night, Maggie and I watched “All About Schmitt”. Have you ever watched it? Jack Nicholson played the part of Warren Schmitt as the 65 year old, actuary at an insurance company in Omaha, Nebraska and at the top of his game. His life was perfectly organized up to the moment he reached 65 and retired. His life was all perfectly planned and laid out before him. Before the second hand reached precisely 5:00 pm, he sat there watching the clock slowly tick its way to the hour when his life was to move into its next stage. All precisely planned to the second. As soon as it hit 5:00 pm he gathered up his stuff and walked out of his office where the better part of his life had been spent and turned off the light as he closed the door.
A sad commentary on what actually happens in the real world and it reminded me of how mundane our work lives often become as we settle into them and play out our career. I’m happy that I’ve avoided that trap, although I had a smidgen of it when I worked for a large corporation years ago and they did me the favor of making my job redundant and let me go. Amazingly the headaches went away and I felt a new freedom and have flourished ever since. No longer fettered by chains that kept me stifled, overworked for somebody else’s benefit in an interesting job but a dead end one subject to the stroke of some bean counters pen and ultimately redundant. My life had become cluttered for someone else’s benefit and I didn’t even know it because I thought I was making a difference when really I was not.
Unfortunately clutter can stifle you. Being too cluttered can keep you from doing those things that you really want to do. Travel, learning a new language, building the shed that you so desperately want and need, watching that great movie and a million other things. Clutter is debilitating and can lead to stress in your life if not managed. It’s time to become uncluttered.
Today, I’m still fairly cluttered, but in a good way. I write a blog as you know, maintain four websites, am working on a book and my memoirs, work just about every day in two businesses, spend time with my wife helping her in her business, have many friends who I enjoy being with, renovating my home, playing with my dog, communicating with the kids, working on my car, photographing what I like, doing research on projects, surfing the web, working in my garden, talking to friends on ham radio, fixing electronic and mechanical stuff, taking on-line courses, listening to music, watching musical performances, evaluating software, watching TV and Netflix and once in awhile sleeping and eating. Now that’s cluttered, I’m sure most people would agree. I have a lot on the go as you can see. Top it all off with a desire to find the right place to finally retire where we can stay warm and still do the things we want to do and be able to afford it all on diminished income. My problem, as you that know me so well, have heard me say before, is I’m an idea man and I see potential in everything and I can’t say no because all this stuff is fun and exciting. I’m also tired a lot of the time. But I manage and love my life and as you also know, laugh a lot.
I was talking to a close friend and colleague the other day. She’s always busy and laments not being able to do some of the things that she wants to do in her life because of all the things she’s done or is doing doing already. She says that she wants to do some new and adventurous things that perks her interest. Her reply, when I ask her why she isn’t doing them has always been, “I fully intend to do them, but I have to wait until I’m finished doing these other things first.” My first thought after hearing that so many times from her, is that she will never find time to do the things she wants to do because she’s built up a clutter in her mind that prevents it and can’t see beyond it. She needs a paradigm shift in order to solve this dilemma or perhaps just a nudge in the right direction will do it. It’s time for her to realize that she’s on borrowed time just like the rest of us and that if she keeps waiting to do important things and keeps putting them off, then regrets will be the result instead. Regrets that will never be resolved until it’s too late and her clock stops.
Let’s face it, we’re all wasting time waiting to do those important things that we want to do in our lives and opportunities get lost because of it. The same is true of the movie I was alluding to. When Warren Schmitt finally retired after living a humdrum life of waiting for the clock to strike 5:00 pm and a promise of finally being able to travel with his wife, Helen, in their new motor home, the opportunity was lost because her clock stopped and she died. Warren was then faced with a broken dream that would never be fulfilled according to their plan. Don’t do that! It’s nothing short of stupid and such a waste of time and there’s so little of it left.
Let’s talk about removing the clutter from your life and how to do it? First of all, sit down at a table or your desk and turn off all the distractions. Close the blinds, and shut the door and isolate yourself to just you and you alone. Try doing this exercise late at night, perhaps, with the TV, radio and smart phone turned off, or in another room. Make sure the kids are asleep, the spouse is somewhere else, the dog settled down for the night and all other distractions removed. The next step is to identify all the things that you’re engaged in by writing them down as items on a list. If you’re involved in a church, sit on a board, are a member of a club, play golf, swim, exercise, write a journal or blog, work, run a business, write them down on your list. If you like to read books and spend a fair amount of time doing that, write it down. If you’re a volunteer, write it down. If you like to travel, write it down. If you like to putter in the garden or if you have a long lost idea or opportunity that you want to pursue, write it down. As you get going, more and more things are going to pop into your mind. Write them all down. Let your mind soar and reach out into the stratosphere or beyond and write those thoughts down as they develop in your mind. Think about the things you want to do in the future as if there is no restriction because of money, health, education or anything else and write them down. Do you want to start a blog or write a book or become a photographer or make videos for YouTube or become a better cook or even perhaps a chef? Write it down. Do you want to learn how to sail or fly or become a sky diver or learn to scuba dive instead? Write it down. Open your mind to all the possibilities regardless of whether or not you think they’re beyond your means or ability. Let your mind float into space and look at those opportunities as real and write them down.
When you’ve finally completed the list it’s time to be brutally honest with yourself and evaluate each item with a pro’s and con’s for each one. Go through the list and write each one of the items on a separate sheet or page. Doing it on a separate page of a subject notebook is probably the best way because you’ll be able to isolate each item or thought and refresh those that need it and add to the list as you think of new ones. You may end up with a fairly thick stack of paper.
On each page, draw a line down the middle separating the page into two columns and head the left column as Pro’s and the right column as Con’s. Number the columns down the page. Then begin writing why you think doing this item is a good thing as an item one below the other. When you’re finished the pro’s put down the con’s in the same way. Be brutally honest about what the pro’s and con’s are for each of the items. If you’re anyone like me, your list is fairly long and it will take you a session or so to complete the exercise. The results will help you identify what you really consider important in your life and which ones are simply adding to your clutter and need to be either modified or eliminated from your life.
As you’ve heard me say many times, we only have one twist around this old planet and time is the only important commodity that we have and it isn’t a renewable resource. Every one of the activities you have identified take up some of this valuable resource called time. You need to now identify how much time you’ve honestly been spending doing each of these things and follow that with the amount of time you think you would like to spend doing them instead. Identifying what’s reducing the amount of time you have for the things you feel are important in your life will be the first step to removing the time wasting clutter and give you more focus on what you have been putting off being able to do for so long.
Life is filled with so many wonderful things to do, but regardless of whether or not you believe it to be true, you simply can’t do it all, especially at the same time, that is. The idea is to plan, of course, but wait a minute, isn’t that what I was just talking about a few sentences ago? Well, yes and no. Making a list of the things you want to do is a good thing in many ways because it provides an avenue to getting things done. I have found the best way to plan is to write it down. From this list you can prioritize and do the things that you really want to get done in order to break them up into bite sized chunks and work them off till they’re finished. Putting all the things that you want to do into a plan is an excellent way to provide feedback on how successful you’re becoming at making it happen. The biggest thing about it though is how it makes you feel when you’ve accomplished the things on the list. That good feeling is infectious and you want to tell others about it and keep doing it till it becomes an amazing new habit. All of a sudden you find yourself having more time to do the things you want to do and spend less time spinning your wheels and accomplishing nothing as a result.
The other day I found a website in my wanderings by Marie Forleo. Have a look at it here. This amazing young woman has got it figured out. And she freely shares some important information on how to get organized and remove the clutter from your life. There is a video on the site where she interviews Ned Hallowell who has an amazing outlook on how we can get rid of clutter. I strongly recommend this video to anyone that finds themselves in the clutter trap.
So that’s the beginning of how to get rid of clutter in your life and create the time you need and want to do the things you have always wanted to do. I need to hear from you if you have questions about this or any other blogs I’ve posted. Feel free to contact me at anytime. And here’s to a clutter free, fulfilled life as a senior citizen.