Helping Nonprofit Leaders Transform Conflict

Leadership Coach and Mediator

After 38 years, I finally donate the prom dress that I made 38 years ago to Austin Creative Reuse. It is a gorgeous dress designed by Nina Ricci. I started tucking it in after I lost weight, but I never finished the project. It is highly unlikely that I ever will.

I also give them the handspun Irish wool that I bought at the Aran Islands in 2004. Three times I unraveled the sweater I had started to knit. I hope that someone else will use it to make their dream sweater.

But I am gonna keep the rest of my yarn and fabric: just looking at them brings me delight. And my crayons and watercolors. My books and precious objects. And of course, practical stuff like clothing and kitchen utensils.

We are packing to move to a rental 60% the size of our current one and I have no excitement to schlepp around stuff that won’t fit in our new space. Let alone pay for storage. So it’s Konmarie time: keep what sparks joy and give away what doesn’t.

Moving is a wonderful opportunity to let go of projects, plans, and intentions that don’t have the excitement they once had. As a result, you end up with only those that do.

Research says that creating order reduces the stress hormone cortisol and helps with focus, self-esteem, relationships, health, and well-being.

But decluttering can be hard, especially when you get older, are a perfectionist who has trouble starting and stopping projects, or a people person who would rather spend time with and for other people.

If decluttering physical possessions is hard, mental decluttering is even harder. We cannot take our unuseful or ugly thoughts out of our head and put them out on the curb. And who would want them anyway?

That’s where cognitive defusion comes in handy, a term coined by Stephen Hayes, the founder of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. It is a practice to notice our thoughts without being defined by them.

Instead of thinking “I am not enough”, we label it as “I have a thought that I am not enough.” It is much easier to let go of what we have than who we are. 

When we de-identify from our thoughts we can start our mental decluttering. We ask ourselves which of our thoughts bring joy, which don’t, and which needs are being met or unmet by them.

The only tricky thing is that many of us confuse needs with strategies. And then the answer to those questions becomes murky. If you want to read how to stay in the clear, download my whitepaper about needs here.

P.S. Thank you Andrea and Gene, Jill, Jim, Matt, Michael, Miles, and Tom for helping with the schlepping around. We couldn’t have made it without you!

P.P.S. Read more about Stephen Hayes and ACTP.

P.P.P.S Read the New York Times article about Mental Health Benefits of Decluttering.

%d bloggers like this: