Declutter...the mind.

If you have been in tune to any news or social media as of late, you have no doubt heard about Marie Kondo and her best-selling book, "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up."   She also released a multipart series on Netflix where she shows her methods for decluttering a home and bringing more peace and joy to your life.     Kondo's tidying has been all the talk.  Second-hand stores even credit her Netflix show for an uptick in donations.
The show sparkles.  Kondo's personality sparkles, even if I am weirded out just a bit by some of her techniques they are hard to ignore.  I agree with her ideas on "giving thanks," if you will before you get rid of something.  This goes toward being more grateful for the things we have and I believe that is healthy in every respect.   Kondo also encourages us to see if an item has brought joy to our life as part of our decision-making process.   Though we didn't follow her methods precisely, watching Kondo's Netflix series encouraged my wife and me to depart with some clutter.   Beginning in our closets, we got rid of clothing that had been hanging around for far too long.  Most of this went to the Goodwill store.    And we continued from there, getting rid of a bunch of books that had been read many times over.  Lastly, we let go of some odd's and ends.....an old wall clock, old coffee pots....and things that caused us to genuinely wonder why we even had them around.    Several items went the way of "Let Go," an app that makes selling small items locally very easy.

In addition to decluttering our home, I have been very mindful about decluttering my mind.   And I must say, that I think the benefits are just as rewarding, if not more so.   With that in mind, I will share my three initial, and easy, tools I have deployed to declutter my mind.

1.   Turn off notifications!   My phone, a Samsung Galaxy Note 8, is an incredible piece of engineering.   It connects via Bluetooth to my equally amazing Galaxy Frontier Smartwatch.  And though I love both these tools, I found that one or both were constantly buzzing, beeping, chirping or vibrating.  My pea-sized brain is undisciplined and unable to avoid taking a look to see what was being announced.   I was unable to ignore them at work, at play, at rest, in the restroom :)  Virtually every time my watch or phoned buzzed, I broke concentration on whatever it was I was working on and took a look.  And I can't even count the times that the quick timeout turned into a longer timeout....following a link, liking a Tweet, replying to a text.   But, since mindfully turning off the notifications, I have noticed a significant increase in my peacefulness, my ability to concentrate and my happiness.   If there is an emergency, I will get a call.  Otherwise, I don't need to know immediately when a distant friend posts to Facebook, or a co-worker posts to LinkedIn.  I can set aside times to check these social media items.   I find myself enjoying them more for lack of feeling hurried when I engage them. And the reduction in interruptions has been genuinely amazing.  I encourage you to take 20 minutes this evening and look through your notifications on your phones and watches....decide which ones are truly necessary and turn the remainder off for a week.  See how much of a difference it makes in your life, and I am willing to be that you never go back to how you were before.

2.  Block off time to respond to email.  This is similar to Item #1 but in terms of work, our Email traffic takes on some importance.  What I have found though, is that many of us (me included) treat email like a texting service.  We feel the need to immediately check each email that pings into our mailbox and respond just as quickly.   In my mind, I felt like it was an act of service to respond instantly, even if doing so meant that my responses were not always well thought out and worthwhile.   I was missing out on giving 100% to myself to responses because of a desire to be instant in my reply.  That is a "me" problem, and not the problem of the person who emailed me.  So to control this, I have blocked off times at 10 a.m and 2 p.m. to read and respond to any email that needs a response.    Further, like above, I have silenced Outlook so that it doesn't notify me of each incoming email.  I read about this little trick in the Tim Ferris book, "The 4 Hour Workweek," and can't begin to tell you how much time this has saved me, and much more productive this has made me at work.  I now can focus and work on the important things, while avoiding the needless and unending interruptions.  I let my co-workers know of my plan and told them that if they needed me right away, to call me.    It seems simple, but I promise it is incredibly liberating and will astonish you.   I bet you will feel shocked at the amount of time you suddenly seem to have in your workday if you make this simple change.  Give it a shot, and let me know what you think.   Drop an email or respond here after you have given this a shot.

3.  Be mindful.  I've used the word mindful a couple of times, which helps "remind" me to be "mindful."  Since Christmas, I have been consistently practicing mindfulness and meditation.   I have worked to be more "present" and working to not allow myself to get carried away in thought streams.   I practice for about 20 minutes each day....sometimes all at once and sometimes broken into two shorter meditation sessions.  I have used guided meditations to help me along the path.  I have found guided meditations available on Amazon Alexa, which makes it quick and easy to find something new and interesting.  However, earbuds help keep me zoned in if external noises are making my focus difficult.   Practicing meditation at defined times and taught me, and allowed me, to be more mindful and present at all other times.   I can now feel myself slipping into a negative thought process and take a couple of deep breaths and come right back in to focus.      There are tons of free resources online, and plenty of books available that will be helpful to you if you should decide to give this a try.  Further, you can find local "Meet Ups" where there is low or no charge to join a group of meditators in practicing your craft.    If I can be of any help or offer any assistance, please don't hesitate to drop me a note.

Three things....two very simple and one involving more effort... have had a profound impact on decluttering my mind and bringing me more focus, peace, and happiness.  I would encourage you to explore ways to remove the "unimportant" in an effort to make more room for the cherished things in your life. 

If you have techniques that you have used to successfully declutter, please take a moment to comment so that I and other readers can learn from your advice and wisdom.  Many thanks.


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