Note: This is a guest post from Allie Casazza, author of Declutter Like a Mother.
If you’ve ever watched the reality show Hoarders, you probably wouldn’t question that the owners of those homes have real inner issues that have manifested in their physical spaces. Their homes are chaotic because their inner world is in turmoil. And vice versa—their inner world is in turmoil because their homes are chaotic.
I’m not pointing fingers in pity or disgust because less than ten years ago, my own world was in a constant state of chaos. My home wasn’t necessarily Hoarder-level, but it was overwhelming. I was overwhelmed.
Unnecessary and even useless items filled our home, and I didn’t have the mental clarity to sort through the clutter. The mess led me to feel even more anxiety, which led me to allow more things to take up space in my home, which led me to feel even more stressed out. It was an endless cycle.
I was barely a fraction of the woman I knew I could be. I wanted to live without the burden of physical and mental clutter. I wanted to have the white space in my home, calendar, and mind to pursue my dreams, passions, and goals. It was figuring out how to do that that kept tripping me up.
I didn’t give up, though; I figured it out. And today, I’m living life unburdened by mental and physical clutter, and I’ve built a business teaching other women how to do the same.
One of the biggest weapons against overwhelm in your life is to declutter not only your physical space, but what weighs heavy in your life.
Clutter can be physical items; it can also be metaphorical. It can show up in your calendar, your mind, even your heart.
How you are with one thing is how you are with everything, so it makes sense that when we have clutter in one place, it echoes in the others. But how do we get rid of clutter, both physical and metaphorical?
Maya Angelou famously said, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”
I believe knowledge is power, so in the spirit of self-empowerment, allow me to give you five steps to move you from overwhelmed to unburdened:
1. Clear the clutter.
Clutter is simply unmade decisions. When you look at it like that, it can seem kind of silly that you have so much stuff taking up space in your home. You make hundreds of decisions every single day. You should be a pro at this, right?
Well, yes and no. Decisions can be conscious or unconscious, and most of the time, we live life on autopilot, not really even thinking about the decisions we’re making.
But when we’re not aware of our choices, it can cause us to lack the confidence we need to decide whether we want to keep great aunt Ida’s hand-painted vase (that we kind of hate) for future generations or if we want to give it away to someone who will cherish it more than we will.
On the other hand, when we make conscious decisions all day long, that can lead to decision fatigue. Decision fatigue is an actual, scientific condition where your brain is so tired from choosing all day that it cannot make another quality decision.
So, what do you do? Start in the bathroom. That room is usually full of easy yes or no items. Set a timer for thirty minutes, go in there, and start sorting. As you make more of these easy decisions, you’ll gain the confidence you need to move on to more significant items.
2. Rewrite limiting beliefs.
A limiting belief is exactly what it sounds like: a belief that limits you and keeps you from moving forward in life. If you think there isn’t enough to go around, you will live out that thought. You will hoard your possessions, time, and energy out of fear that you won’t have what you need when you need it. But if you rewrite that thought and you live out of the belief that there is more than enough, you will live a life of generosity toward yourself and others.
Limiting beliefs don’t have to keep you stuck. You can rewrite them. Remember, you’re in control of your thoughts and beliefs. If you don’t like something, you can change it.
3. Stop playing the victim and take ownership of your life.
Just like you are in charge of your thoughts, you are also in control of your life. If you live as if circumstances and situations are constantly happening to you, then you will continuously live as a victim.
But you are more. You are an action-taker and a problem-solver. You are the CEO of your life. Does the CEO of a company react to every problem thrown her way? No, she responds.
Instead of reacting (probably negatively) to all the balls life throws at you, you need to live in response mode, ready to identify root problems and brain-dump solutions.
4. Live with intention.
There is a Proverb that says, “Where there is no vision the people perish.” I love it because it’s rung so true in my life. If you don’t have anywhere to go, you won’t go anywhere at all.
I have a simple little question that I ask myself whenever I want to figure out what it is I want from life, whether in my marriage, my motherhood, my career, from my body, and that question is: wouldn’t it be cool if…?
Wouldn’t it be cool if I had my own business? Wouldn’t it be cool if we had another baby? Wouldn’t it be cool if we moved across the country? Wouldn’t it be cool if I went totally plant-based in my diet?
Play around with that question and see where it leads you. See what vision it gives you for your future. Then, start brainstorming how you can turn your vision into your reality.
5. Set boundaries.
If we don’t learn to set boundaries, we’re only hurting ourselves. Saying no can be hard, but it is a gift to yourself and to the people who mean the most to you. Protecting your time, energy, space, and mental health isn’t selfish. Bitterly living your life obligated to other people and activities is selfish because you cannot give your best self to the world.
It’s not easy, but you can do hard things. Set boundaries around your time and energy. Put them in your relationships. Set them in your calendar. Learn to say no to certain things so you can say yes to the most important things.
Allie Casazza is on a mission to eradicate the “hot mess mom” stereotype by empowering other women. She is the author of the new book, Declutter Like a Mother. She is also the host of The Purpose Show podcast.
The only change I’d make is: for people who are overwhelmed, depressed, etc., setting a timer for 15 minutes rather than 30 is more doable.
Susan, great comment. I agree 100 percent!! I suffer from depression AND anxiety. It is chronic, and it is DEFINITELY overwhelming most of the time. There are days where I cannot function well at all. However, there are days where I CAN do some things – 15 minutes at a time is about the maximum. Then I need to take a rest. Even 5 minutes is good! Keep it doable!