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Molehills, or Mountains?Following from my previous article about de-cluttering, I’m going back to how we often feel before beginning the task of turning back the tide of clutter.

Feeling overwhelmed is often the main reason why people avoid making a start on de-cluttering, and it can also be the main hindering factor in getting started on or continuing with a lot of other things.

It tends to start slowly and creep up on us, just as those unattended to things have crept up on us slowly.  Sometimes we might not even notice it, putting that odd, annoying feeling out of mind, until it has built up so much that we feel noticeably paralysed.

Yes, paralysed is a pretty strong word, but anyone who has ever felt overwhelmed will be familiar with that feeling.  There are different levels of severity, and the feeling may be only temporary and easily overcome with a bit of a push, or it can be something that seems insurmountable.

It’s very likely to be all tangled up with other issues of self esteem and general emotional levels (happy/sad), depression sometimes – either short term or chronic, and there is a chicken/egg thing going on about which is causing which. 

Well, it’s all feeding off each other of course, and improving any of these areas will improve the others too.  So of course anything you can do to improve your mood and your self esteem will be valuable.

Perhaps, like me, you’re very strong in some areas, and really quite sensitive in other, seemingly silly or insignificant areas.  This can add to the confusion, because clearly there is a conflict in how you see yourself.  These are very useful things to explore about yourself.

Perhaps, also like me, you’re very sensitive to the feeling of disorder, and if you feel clutter is building up around you, or you feel you are not getting things done that you want done, or you are in a messy environment, either of your own making or the making of others, it overwhelms you and paralyses you.

So how do we handle it and manage to get on, keep going, get through it, and not allow our whole little world to fall apart.  What if we really can’t allow ourselves the luxury of a quiet little nervous break down (yes, I know that is not really something that is within our control, and I don’t mean to cause offence to anyone – we are all subjected to different levels of stress at different times, and most of us choose to be as strong as we can possibly be, especially if others are depending on us).

Here are some point form, basic, hopefully practical suggestions:

- Keep going with something familiar and useful and practical and easy that we CAN handle right now.  Do the dishes, take the dog for a walk, make our bed, put a load of clothes in the washing machine, go out and do ONE errand, make a shopping list, have a shower and get dressed, take out the rubbish/trash/garbage, do an easy administrative work task….

- Don’t exaggerate the situation to yourself.  Don’t awfulise, catastrophise etc (terms taken from Choose to Be Happy by Wayne Froggatt).  Don’t make mountains out of molehills.  Don’t imagine people are thinking terrible things about you.  (How do you know what anyone else is thinking?).

- Don’t make any drastic decisions about ANYTHING while you’re feeling awful.  You’re not in the right frame of mind to do that now.  Do something useful, easy, practical, simple and familiar, where you can’t do any damage.

- If it is one particular task or item that is overwhelming you and freaking you out, does it need planning and breaking down?  If so, allocate half an hour, perhaps a few blocks of half an hour at a time, at a time when you’re feeling your most positive and relaxed, and sit down with a big pad of paper and a pen or pencil, and do some brainstorming.  See if you can come up with the first 3 steps you must take, each step must be able to be completed within half an hour to an hour or so.

- Allocate a good time to undertake the first step.  The first step should be a very small bite, just a start, just the very first action to be taken, and you should stop after you have done it, and you should already know what the second (small) step is.

- Consider, is the reason you are so freaked out and overwhelmed because there is a deadline of any sort involved?  Is there an essay due, a work report due, a party to be ready for?  Ok, but what specific things do you REALLY have to get done by then?  You don’t have to have your whole life perfect in every way by this deadline.  You just have to attend to certain specific things.  Just write your speech and choose your outfit, not re-organize your whole wardrobe.  Just complete the report and get it printed and delivered on time, not re-structure the whole report-submission procedure.  Just have the living room cleared out for the party, not totally de-clutter the entire house from top to bottom.

- Need positive things to imagine but you can’t ever seem to do that because you just keep going around in circles worrying about every little thing you haven’t done perfect yet?  Fake it!  Sit down with your computer or pen and paper and write up an imagined scenario of how you want things to be, how you want to feel.  When you’ve got it, print it out and keep it handy, and read from it, aloud if you can.  If negative thoughts start to creep in, read it louder!  Do not allow your nagging negative self to interrupt.

- Desperate?  Write down in point form what you are most afraid of.  What are the terrible things you imagine happening, and what can you really, actually do to prevent them.  Now, imagine this was somebody else’s life written down for you like this, and give them your best advice on which thing to do first, what they’re really going to get done, and what to accept and live with.

Above all, be kind to yourself.  You’re no good to yourself or anyone if all you do is nag, complain, criticize and tell yourself off.  Imagine you are your own personal assistant, but one who is extremely valuable, irreplaceable, and needs clear guidance and gentle handling.  Because that’s who you are!

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#1 Solange Gautier 2010-08-19 04:21
Wise, do-able, and a loving approach to oneself.
I am the better for these insights and see them working already!

Thank you.


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