Is your Desk Cluttered?
Is Your Bedside Table Hidden Beneath Clutter?
I have recently found a book entitled, "Is your clutter making you fat?" You must admit the title is interesting. I have never seriously considered that my clutter could be the culprit I have been looking for! From the beginning, the book’s messages are clear; "Organize the clutter and you will feel better. Living in outward clutter is indicative of inward clutter." Though the messages are simple, they are provocative and caused me to look deeper within myself.
It seems my pile of magazines on the coffee table, my closet floor with a mixture of winter sweaters and summer sandals, and my kitchen desk are tangible images of things/projects/activities I feel I should do and am not. I have also noticed that when I speak of needing to organize my closet or clean my kitchen desk, I consciously preface my conversation with, "Once the kids are out of school, then I want to...." Or, "Next week, I want to ...." Of something else along these lines of "I can’t do this cleaning and organizing now because (there are a vast a sundry of reasons) ...later when I am able I want get my closet organized and find an organization system that works for my desk papers." I am living in the future, waiting for some event to occur, before I am able to take responsibility for my life.
I am reminded every time I walk past my kitchen desk of my logic (or illogic) for not being able to do start something now because there isn’t enough time to complete the task now. I will go through phases where I simply can’t find the time to clean off my kitchen desk and sort through the papers. I will place papers on top of papers until one stack slides into the other. I can’t find 10 minutes to file my nails!
It’s an easy process of determining which papers need to be kept and filed for later reference and which papers need to be recycled. It would probably take me 20 minutes to complete this task. As simple as this cleaning process is, I just can’t do it. I justify not starting to clean my desk because I don’t have enough time to finish the task. At first, I have myself convinced that time is really the big issue, and meanwhile, as the clutter builds slowly I really don’t pay too much attention. Then, it begins to nag at me every time I walk by my desk and I can no longer ignore it. The piles have slipped into one chaotic, disorganized mass of papers. However, I still am unable to clean my desk.
Recently, I have realized that there is a direct correlation to the clutter on my desk and how stressed I am feeling. Yes, you guessed it! The more clutter on my desk, the more stressed I am feeling. When I am unable to find 20 minutes to clean my desk, I have completely surrendered to my stress and circumstances and my stress and circumstances are managing me. My life running is on autopilot.
There is also a relationship between my cluttered desktop and myself image... in my mind, both require time that I do not have... or so I perceive I do not have the time. For me, this pattern of thinking has deeper, significant roots. I begin to feel stuck, stuck in a maze that I cannot escape. This pattern of thinking is very draining for me and before I know it - it has invaded all areas of my life and my attitude becomes negative and critical. I become critical of myself and impatient and less tolerant of others. To put it simply, my cluttered desk is a constant reminder of what I am not attending too and it begins to negatively affect my self-esteem.
Its been said that if we receive ten compliments and one negative comment, we will focus only on the negative and dismiss the nine compliments as untruths. The constant reminder of my cluttered desk is a visual reminder of the one negative comment that I am falling short, and not taking care of business.
My critical thinking has a direct negative impact on my attitude. I allow myself to become overpowered by my cluttered desk and all that my cluttered desk represents to me. My outward clutter is a mirror image of my inner clutter. My inner clutter keeps my mind extraordinarily busy with unnecessary stories and details. I feel pulled in many directions at once, without any time to call my own. My internal busyness makes it difficult for me to seek God and hear his quiet voice. I have realized that it is Me making Me feel stuck and without any time to call my own.
What is your cluttered desk? What is making you feel stuck?
Taking the steps to clean our outward clutter can feel overwhelming. So overwhelming, that it is difficult to know where to start. It’s easier to rationalize not having enough time to start and finish the task than it is to actually begin the task. "Why start cleaning now, if I can’t finish the job?"
The first step is the hardest... I have to take action steps to break the cycle of negative thinking, which in turn feeds my negative attitude and influences all aspects of my life. First, I make myself sit quietly so I can find the stillness within. I remember Psalm 46:10, "Be Still and Know that I am God." I will read this sentence to myself a few times and if I am not beginning to calm, I will read this scripture out loud to myself emphasizing the words. For example, I will say, "BE STILL and know that I AM GOD." Or "Be Still and KNOW I AM GOD." I will continue to say this scripture repeatedly until I begin to feel calmer. Once I begin to settle myself, I will focus on my breath.
The second step is all about breath. Slowly and deeply inhale and pausing to hold my breath for a few seconds. Then, slowly exhaling all of the air so my lungs are emptied. In order, to feel the emptying of my lungs, I forcefully blow the last of the breath out with a "whoosh" sound during this slow exhale. Research has shown that intentional slowly; deeply inhaling and exhaling will positively decrease heart rate and blood pressure.
Once I am centered and calm, I will begin the third and final step. I will begin to pray a prayer of gratitude. I always begin by giving thanks to God for his unconditional love and for those people I am most grateful for, my family and my mentors. From here, my heart begins to feel more grateful and my prayer continues on.
During your prayer of gratitude, it is important not to let your thoughts get involved with the story of your prayer. For example, ‘I am thankful for my friend Maze because she is always there for me. When I called her last week, she stopped everything to talk with me. I hope I am as good a friend to Maze as she is to me..." This is an example of allowing your thoughts to become involved with your prayer.
Your prayer of gratitude is exactly that, a prayer of gratitude. I am grateful for my friend Maze, proceeding without going into the story details. Be very specific for the people and things for which you are grateful.
If I am feeling extremely out of sorts, I may repeat this three-step practice every day for several days or even several times a day. I may practice this three-step process in the car, waiting at the Dr. office, or in a long check-out line at the grocery store.
Slowly, my inner clutter begins to dissolve, my attitude begins to shift, my heart begins to soften and feel grateful. I am able to find God’s stillness within. I begin to feel more hopeful. With these feelings of hopefulness and gratefulness, come the gifts of being able to be still and quiet. Consequently, within the quiet and stillness, there exists a perception of having more time. I am practicing being present. Being present requires that I am living in the moment. I am living here and now.
I am not waiting for a future event to occur before I am able to start my task at hand. Nor am I reliving or blaming a past memory of what was as the reason for me to be without time and able to clean my desk.
It is only after removing my inner clutter, taking responsibility for my life, and forcing myself to sit quietly, expressing my gratitude that I am able to tackle my outward clutter.
For me, cleaning my cluttered desk is an outward symbol, that I am managing my stress and circumstances. I am taking responsibility for my life. I am reclaiming my life. I am being present in my own life.
Consequently, a positive shift occurs and I begin to see things differently, with more hope and gratitude. I am able to receive the gift of time from the quiet stillness.
"Time isn’t precious at all, because it is an illusion. What you perceive as precious is not time but the one point that is out of time: the Now. That is precious indeed. The more you are focused on time-past and future-the more you miss the Now, the most precious thing there is."
- Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment
"When I am anxious it is because I am living in the future. When I am depressed it is because I am living in the past". - Author Unknown