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Linda Samuels, CPO-CD®

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« Ask the Expert: Erin Rooney Doland | Is Clutter Global? »

Internal Clutter

The list is long. The day isn’t long enough. External and internal demands are abundant. Self-imposed expectations are high. This combination can cause mind clutter. After being away for a few days to celebrate our youngest daughter’s college graduation, I’m experiencing a lot of noise above. I know it won’t last forever. It’s just the confluence of the long list, available time, responsibilities and expectations. To help declutter my brain I focused on a few simple things.



Take care of the basics. Eating and hydrating let me restore some energy. Taking my daily walk helped me feel mentally refreshed as I enjoyed the sunshine, fragrant spring air, and colorful blooms. Simply stopping to breathe in the sweet aroma of our white irises encouraged calmer thoughts.



Focus on doing what you can do. Recognize which expectations are self-imposed. Allow some slack to adjust the moveable deadlines so they work with the available time you do have. Reassess the list. Be willing to shift some items off today’s list if needed. It’s not a failing. It’s reality.



What’s most important right now? What is your next small step? Let go of overwhelm. Stay focused. Think singleness. Think mindfulness. Do what you are doing now. Do not rush ahead. While there are more productive hours left, it’s also essential to stop at a point. When stopping time arrives, go there joyfully. Let go of the guilt. Embrace relaxation. Tomorrow is another day. Rest so you can greet it with a rejuvenated self.


Is your brain feeling cluttered? What works for you to untangle the thoughts? Come join the conversation!

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Reader Comments (14)

Linda, I know exactly how you feel. As I expressed in last week's blog, "Sometimes I get overwhelmed too. After all, I am human. When I’m overcome with busy and stress, I become short-sighted and cannot see beyond that moment. I tend to get lost in detail. I can easily feel defeated with too many things to deal with and admittedly, cannot see the forest for the trees."

Life can get busy and can sometimes feel un-manageable. Taking a step back and looking at the big picture is always helpful. It allows you to put some distance between you and the internal clutter. Break it down and keep it simple. I love how you suggest to do whatever you can, and be grateful for even the small bits of progress.

Often when we are in such a hurry, we are rushing around so much, we fail to notice what’s going on around us. Stop and smell the roses, trees and forest included. Linda, you especially do that well as you understand that nature's beauty is a great source of calm. We are both very similar in that regard :)

May 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterNancy Borg

Yes, I can relate! I've already been experiencing a bit if trepidation about the email and work that's going to pile up while I'm in Phoenix. Thanks for reminding me that I don't have to deal with it all as soon as I'm back home, and the importance of taking care of ME.

May 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJanet Barclay

I know sometimes is not easy going through life at our own pace, so when we can, we must take advantage. It's common wanting to have the whole world in the hands but it's not realistic at all. Instead of having the whole world, I choose having just a tinny piece and enjoy it. What's the point of running toward a place, getting there with a pounding heart and almost having a heart attack; is more pleasant walking, seeing what's around and arriving relaxed and not catching the breath up.

May 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterNacho Eguiarte

Love this post! As organizers we have high expectations! It's in making a list, pacing ourselves, self care and prioritizing that we accomplish our best work.

May 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterEllen Delap

Wonderful to "hear" all your encouraging voices. It's nice to know that I'm not alone in the clutter upstairs. That's one of the things I treasure most about this community. Such great sharing and support.

@Nancy- Totally precious…"After all, I am human." It's a great reminder that while we might strive to be superhuman, in fact, we're not. I love the connection we both have to nature and its restorative powers. It's amazing how grounded we feel with even five minutes enjoying nature's gifts each day.

@Janet- I hear you on the "trepidation" your feeling about being away for so many days and what will await you upon your return from Phoenix. I often give myself a "catch up" day after returning from conferences and Board meetings to help with the "stuff." And yes…always important to be good to yourself.

@Nacho- Enjoy the tiny piece rather than having a heart attack…that just about says it all. It's easy to get pulled in many directions, but narrowing the focus helps us enjoy what we're doing in a more relaxed, grateful way.

@Ellen- Thanks so much. I think you're right that "high expectations" is a common trait amoung organizers. And there's nothing intrinsically wrong with that. However, at times it requires some negotiating and letting go so that we can unclutter, be less overwhelmed, and as you say, "accomplish our best work."

May 13, 2014 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

Getting the clutter out of my brain and onto paper helps me a lot. If I can see everything I need to do, and then take the time to schedule when I will do it all, that helps me a lot. Even if I don't get everything done as planned, I can always reschedule it. At least this way I don't fear that I will forget something important. I also agree about the water, walking, and I might add sleep:)

May 14, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSeana Turner

Just like physical clutter, internal clutter is real and can be a real obstacle to getting things done.
For me mind clutter management revolves around four key things - sleep, exercise, working from my 'islands of competency' (Robert Brooks term) and awareness. Knowing when mind clutter is about to rear its ugly head is half the battle. Manage mind clutter and you sidestep overwhelm and TBS (Total Brain Shutdown).

Linda - you bring up some great stuff here especially around perspectives and expectations. Who ever said you have to clear 'the list' by sun fall?

May 14, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterCameron Gott

So great to have you with us for the mind clutter conversation. I love your additions!

@Seana- The getting "clutter out of my brain" part is essential. Like you, the "list" is the anchor for me. But it can also cause overwhelm if the "to dos" are too big or plentiful for any given day. You talk about flexibility with the list…also key. And an emphasis on getting enough sleep. The brain needs rest. Sleep gives a much needed reboot.

@Cam- I like your word choice, "obstacle" to describe how mind clutter can interfere with productivity. You have such clarity around mind clutter and identifying the elements that help to manage it: sleep, exercise, strengths, and awareness. Fascinated by your term "TBS," which I hadn't heard of before. And of course you offer a wonderful question that reminds us that self-imposed deadlines are exactly that…activating flexibility and compassion are key.

May 14, 2014 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

Linda, this is wonderful! I am also a list maker. It helps me to work from my list, schedule the items and recognize which ones can be shifted to another time or day when 'life' gets in the way of completing my list. I love that you advocate stopping joyfully at the end of the day and letting go of the guilt. I believe it's important to celebrate what has been accomplished rather than worrying over what is left undone. Thank you for this great post.

May 14, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDiane Quintana

Diane- Great to have you with us! Happy to be in good company with another list making fan. It looks like you are great at exercising flexibility when it comes to your list. But in addition, you have a great perspective of celebrating accomplishments rather than dwelling on what's not yet done. And yes…guilt can overtake us. Learning how to let go of it and embrace the now "joyfully" takes practice, but has such a positive effect on us. Well worth the pursuit.

May 14, 2014 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

I loved this post! Particularly your tip about re-assessing which deadlines might be self-imposed ones and then loosening up a bit. Thanks for the tips; they're awesome!

May 14, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterClaire

Claire- Thanks so much. So glad that you joined us! Great to recognize when our self-imposed deadlines are causing undue stress. What a perfect time to activate our flexibility muscles!

May 14, 2014 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

Thanks Linda, this really hits home for me right now! Too much to do makes me anxious about not getting it all done in time. My daily self care routine is a lifesaver. First thing in the morning I exercise, get a healthy bite to eat and take a walk to drink in all of God's miracles. That usually does it for me. Great post!

May 19, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSally Morgan

Sally- So great to have you here with us! I love how you prioritize your self care routines right at the top of the day. That way even if your list is longer than available hours in your day, you know you've taken care of what's most important…YOU! What a wonderful and inspiring reminder you've given us. Thank you.

May 19, 2014 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

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