Clutter: a disorderly heap or assemblage; a state or condition of confusion.
Controlling clutter is a daily task. At our house clutter is a constant threat, especially with papers. Mail to open, bills to pay, schedules to check, and work to administer all pile up and beg to be sorted, prioritized, or simply thrown out.
I’ve discovered, though, that clutter doesn’t just exist in our outer world. Sometimes I experience an inner clutter that can accumulate in my mind, my body, and my emotions. Usually I feel inwardly “cluttered” as a result of going through an intense time: too much to do or too many details to think about. In other words, an accumulation of stressors builds up. My guess is that I’m no alone.
Inner clutter can linger for a while. Even after I’ve cleaned up the desk, sorted the mail, and found misplaced items, I can still feel that sense of clutter. I don’t like that feeling so I try to find ways to “declutter.” Here are some strategies that have helped me:
- Exercise. Moving one’s body and exercising one’s muscles are good for almost everything. We know that exercise increases the immune system and elevates our mood. I like to run, and when I do, I feel more relaxed, more in control.
- Meditate. Quieting the mind and letting my thoughts come— and then go—without trying to control them can be a great help. After, say, twenty minutes or so, I feel more relaxed and my outer perspective has improved. The stressors that seemed insurmountable don’t seem so overwhelming. Sometimes simply sitting with quiet music or reading a thoroughly engaging book can have the same effect.
- Sleep. When I become more fatigued, my sense of inner clutter increases. But when I take a nap, or go to bed early to get in a few extra hours of sleep time, I awake feeling rested and things seem manageable. Sleep has a way of resting the body and “emptying” the mind, allowing new and creative thoughts to emerge. In fact, I thought of writing this post on this theme when I first awoke this morning
- Recreate. Whether this means playing a game or having coffee with friends, redirecting the focus of our energies is a big help.
- Do something creative. When I speak to grief groups, I sometimes ask: How do you like to be creative? Sew? Work with wood? Draw? Write poetry? I’m convinced that creativity is healing, and it’s a great resource for those who mourn or are caregivers.
The next time I feel that sense of overwhelm, clutter, or exhaustion, I may go back to this list to remind myself that I can take action and find ways to resume a healthy and less stressed life.
It’s the way I want to be every day!