Summer can be hectic. Summer can run long and hot. In the Disney movie Finding Nemo there is a little fish named Dory with a short-term memory problem. Can anyone else out there relate? I don’t want to say how often I walk into a room and then forget why I am there! To stay calm and to keep going in spite of the forgetfulness that sometimes makes the world a very frightening place, Dory regularly chants, "Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming." Dory is absolutely right.
When long summer days still don’t seem to offer enough time, I think of Dory and many of us who want to be more like her. Is your clutter weighing you down? Though it would be nice to be naturally slender, talented, or well organized, that isn't the real answer. The real solution to life's frustrations isn't a solution. It is a process and it requires only one thing–persistence. Dory is persistent. Persistence is an underrated but much needed quality these days.
I often seem to be working on body clutter, especially before and during swimsuit season. The first few pounds come off pretty easily, but then it becomes more and more difficult. In fact, there have been some weeks when I have gained weight rather than lost it. When that happens, I become frustrated which simply leads to more emotional eating (substitute consumption if you're thinking clutter here). When I haven't been successful, I just want to quit. Then it hits me, the point to getting rid of weight or clutter, isn't to "be the best," it is simply to just do it. "Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming."
I won't be able to say I lost a lot of body clutter in record time this spring and summer. In fact, I am behind schedule and my original goal may not be realistic, but that isn't the point. To achieve success, I simply stick with it. I can work on being persistent. I can keep recommitting. The same thought applies to household clutter. We don't have to make our homes perfect in a weekend. Most of us probably couldn't do that anyway. What we can do is to recognize that clutter clearing is a process and that things will improve if we simply continue to stick with it when we can little by little.
One book that helps me to stay on task in many areas of my life is Rick Warren's New York Times bestseller The Purpose Driven Life–What On Earth Am I Here For? (Zondervan, 2007). Warren's Christian book suggests that self-help can't always be found with navel gazing and internal analysis. He says since moods and emotions can fluctuate frequently, we would be wise not to base our long-term beliefs, decisions, and life behaviors on them. Rick Warren states that if we know God's purpose for us, then decisions become simplified, stress is reduced, and we can achieve greater focus in our lives.
In spite of trying to practice voluntary simplicity and pursue a minimalist sort of life, I am great at getting distracted. The ideas in Warren’s book help me to remember to regularly ask myself if my thoughts, words, and deeds are matching my long-term priorities.
My ninety-nine-year-old grandpa phrased it another way, "It doesn't matter if you lose the battle; you want to win the war. In fact, you can lose every battle, and it doesn't matter, as long as you win the war." He was talking about this in the context of creating a long successful marriage, but I think it can apply to all relationships and virtually everything else in life, including dealing with household clutter, paper clutter or weight loss.
This approach allows for flexibility and moments when we stumble. It keeps us focused on the long-term goal while working away at our clutter in small bites. As I have said before, we can tackle our clutter in small amounts of time or work in small areas at a time. The trick is to slowly develop the muscle or willpower to keep going back to the task.
Willpower to practice persistence is a skill we can all learn or improve. It is hard develop this in our rapid-paced instant-gratification society. When we can have answers in seconds by “googling it,” it is hard to develop stick-to-it qualities like stubbornness or persistence. It is worth the effort, whether tackling clutter or other life goals.
It is okay to momentarily quit. It is realistic and so very human to have lapses. The point is that we can pick ourselves or our clutter back up again and continue. Don't quit when the piles re-appear on the kitchen counter or the table disappears under the paperwork. Keep whittling away at it and you will succeed!
Barbara Tako is a clutter clearing motivational speaker and author of Clutter Clearing Choices: Clear Clutter, Organize Your Home, & Reclaim Your Life (O Books, 2010), a seasonally organized book of clutter clearing tips that readers can pick and choose from to fit their personal style and needs.
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