“I read something, somewhere, about something…or maybe I watched it on the news. I can’t remember, but it was really good.”
It’s that time of year where we start evaluating the clutter in our homes and preparing the big black bags for trips to Salvation Army.
We try to keep clutter and “things” to a minimum at our house, but something is always sneaking in and more than once I’ve been caught trying to sneak those same things out.
Thus, the black garbage bags work much better than the white ones.
There’s a different type of clutter that doesn’t go in a black bag, though. It’s the type of clutter that causes us to forget what’s important and what matters most to us, and it’s a sad by-product of the 21st century.
Mental clutter. There is too much information available for my info-seeking-brain.
I was always the kid who read the cereal box in the morning. Written words attract me and even looking up a word in the dictionary can lead me to a rabbit hole, so I have to limit the input.
I have to limit the words I take in and pare it down to essentials, or my mind goes in too many directions at once and I'm lost to any earthly good.
So I unsubscribed from some blogs. I enjoy reading what others are thinking and doing and learning, but I have to have a limit or I always feel like I’m behind. My goal is to rotate my online reading material around and just focus on a few favorites at a time – maybe changing the list every month or so.
I also turned off my phone data and just use the Wi-fi at home, so that I'm not tempted to use that little bit of time waiting for kids at practice to read one more thing or research another great idea.
I may cheat from time to time, but I’m working on being more present and less distracted.
Kindle books are another form of mental clutter for me. So many books, so little time, right?
The attraction to the Kindle for me was all about simplifying: no more huge stacks of books beside the bed, no more books-as-decor throughout the house, and no more lugging 3 different books on trips because I never know just what I’ll feel like reading.
The books on Kindle are also much less expensive than print versions and many of them are free, which means that I can own more of them, and therein lies the problem.
My Kindle overflows with unread books now and all that mental clutter makes it hard for me to finish the books I’ve started. It’s a sad story and a waste of resources.
Then I realized that I don’t have to store every book I’ve purchased on my Kindle device. Voila! I’ve been removing books from my device and putting them back in “The Cloud,” which sounds ominous and techy, but it is saving me all that mental clutter and clearing up visual space for me.
Another area of mental clutter for me is calendars and to-do lists and plans. There are always things floating in my brain that need to be nailed down, and I’ve tried digital lists and planners because I am never without my phone and therefore, in theory, I’m never without my lists.
There’s an app for everything you need to organize.
The trouble is that my brain doesn’t see digital things as well as it sees hard copies. I also tend to defeat simplicity by trying too many methods at once.
I still use Google calendar, but I’m going back to the good ol’ days of paper planners as well. I enter things on my Google calendar that I know I’ll need reminded of, like dentist appointments and birthdays and sports schedules.
The day-to-day planning and scheduling goes on my paper planner, in pencil.
I make these kinds of changes several different times a year. I don’t feel bad about that – I’m learning that our schedule and our clutter changes with the seasons.
For now, this is how I’m cutting back on mental clutter. But for always, through every season, my focal point has to be on the Lord. If my mind is cluttered, it’s often a symptom that my focus is in the wrong place.
“You will keep him in perfect peace,
Whose mind is stayed on You,
Because he trusts in You.” Isaiah 26:3