I often wonder if life would be easier if there was a bit less stuff in it. Or maybe a bit less noise, or even a bit less nonsensical nonsense. By this, I actually don’t mean the monkeys. Their nonsense often makes more sense than a lot of the grown up nonsense going on all over the place. This month I am following the Blurt Foundation who recently shared a great article Decluttering: How it boosts your mental health. Here’s how I am taking on my clutter.
It is strange to think that life’s clutter has such a profound effect on me really. As one of five siblings I grew up in a busy, noisy and cluttered world. We referred to our family home as organised chaos. There was always lots of stuff. Books everywhere, numerous pictures on every wall and cupboards and drawers full of all sorts of weird and wonderful stuff. My parents still live in the same house and the monkeys love to visit. Every time it is a new adventure even though much of the clutter is now reduced as, one by one, it’s occupants have grown up and moved away.
Things changed when I met Mr LMR. He came from a more organised and straight forward world. Everything had it’s place and you didn’t have to compete for your dinner or air space to be heard. In many ways our coming together was a good balance. He embraced a more flexible and adventurous world, where as I found some peace in a place of organisation and consistency. A place where your scissors and nail clippers are still in the drawer you put them in.
Craving less mess
Although our marriage brought with it a balance, it still came with a large amount of clutter. I moved in with Mr LMR with a van full of books, clothes, fancy dress items, knick knacks and paperwork that I didn’t need anymore. When you come from a world of clutter it is often difficult to let go of things. You never know when something might be useful. Things changed drastically, however, when I became a parent.
From the word go, we were overwhelmed by the amount of stuff that came with a baby. Not just the basic stuff but the things people give you. Numerous gifts, often in duplicate. Clothes in varying sizes. Too many for any baby to wear. Stuffed bears and plastic toys. The volume was not dissimilar to a tidal wave. At times I felt drowned by it. Suffocated by the generosity of others. Surrounded by it all, without the space to store it all. I craved less mess. More order, less chaos.
It took me a long time to work through my feelings on clutter. I struggle to throw away things in good condition and guilty when I give away items that were gifts. Sometimes I will fill charity bags and boxes then fail to take them to a charity shop for weeks. I just cannot bear to let them go. Just in case. I realise now though that, too much stuff makes me unhappy. It is impossible to get to the things I need to do because I am moving around things that have no purpose in my life. If I find something I have forgotten I have, why did I need it in the first place. Just let it go.
Another element of decluttering, which does not seem that obvious, is noise. However, since boarding the Monkey Train of Madness my days are often filled with a lot of noise. There are monkeys fighting, constant demands and needs, tv, radio and iPads. Amongst other things. It is therefore not a huge stretch of the imagination to consider the impact all this noise is having on my stress levels.
For example, the other day, whilst trying to tidy up before moving on to getting the monkey herd together and out of the door, all three monkeys arrived together in my presence and created a wall of sound. Little Miss was having an “I’m tired” winge and the boys had fallen out about something. MM was wailing with raw emotion and TM was protesting his innocence. At one end of the kitchen the small TV was blaring out kids shows and, at my end the radio was on. As I clung on to a small strand of adult input into my life. The cacophony of noise was overwhelming and I could feel myself getting angry.
I took a moment to pause and thought about how much noise was cluttering the situation. Then I deciphered which noises I could eliminate easily. I switched off the tv and the radio, then picked up LM. Instantly, the senario was improved. Then I could go on to dismiss the nonsense the boys were fighting about and, I could diffuse the situation with 30 minutes screen time. Guaranteed further quiet time for me to deal with Little Miss.
Following on from a head full of noise is a head full of doubt. A mind full of negative thoughts with no room for positives. How often do we follow a positive statement with a negative one? “I can do this, but I don’t have the time to do it properly”. “It will be rubbish because I cannot commit fully”. I’ve a list of relatively simple to achieve tasks, that I am afraid to do because I am worried that my lack of time will result in me doing it wrong. For example, I failed to submit our meter reading for almost 6 months because the gas meter was behind a pile of monkey nonsense in the cupboard under the stairs. It was a reminder that I was useless and reading the meter would mean I would have to tackle the mess. So I just ignored it.
I find myself currently, stunted by my cluttered mind. My return to work only a matter of weeks and days away. I’m anxious about how it will work. How the monkeys will cope and how I will cope. I worry about not getting enough sleep then being required to make important decisions. Feeling as though I am only able to commit 50% to being a parent and 50% to being an employee and colleague. I am not feeding myself properly and I am not running. I am trying to prepare everybody but instead I feel like I am running around in circles.
So it’s time to declutter
This is how it is going to work. In my 31 days of self care I am going to declutter. I am going to write a list of all the things I need to do this. Then I will prioritise that list. There is no point stressing about tasks that are not that important. I’m going to simplify my plan and set achievable goals. I will undertake three simple steps. Firstly, chose an area of irritation that is physical, for example the cupboard under the stairs, and tackle it. Secondly, I will endeavour to remove noisy and distracting technology from my life at moments when my attention should be on my monkeys. Thus making it quieter overall. Meal times stand out as one of the more obvious occasions.
Finally, I will endeavour to declutter my mind. I will start to factor in some runs, just a mile at a time, to clear my mind. To make sense of the nonsense and have a kind word with myself. I’m worth it after all.