#026 Life’s Clutter: Six Steps to Reclaim Your Power

My typical reaction upon entering my children’s rooms has often been, “This place is such a mess! You guys have got to clean this up! Now!” And so many times, with such a sense of urgency, I meant now. I would quickly work with them to get some layer of clutter cleared before I could commence with whatever it was that I had come in there for in the first place.

It was the same around the house where people kept leaving their dirty socks, games, dishes, etc. around. I felt like I was constantly after them: “Guys! Remember, dirty socks belong in the laundry bin, not the floor…..Please put each game away after you play, so they aren’t all out at the same time with mixed up pieces….and….It saves you time to do your dishes before you leave the kitchen because no one has to call you back….”

We are still working on this, but something has changed.

A Shift in Focus, A New Outcome

It occurred to me that while there were areas of the house where I had less control over other’s actions, at the same time, there existed areas that I could control, and that by changing these, I could positively influence my dilemma of clutter in the house. I decided to start with my bathroom drawer, figuring that this would give me an immediate and achievable win. I couldn’t wait to get started.

As soon as the kids were in bed, I headed straight for that drawer and got to work. I cleared out bottles of stuff–some of which had been in there more than a decade.  (I am one who tends to hang onto things, thinking, “What if I need this someday?”) The image of that clean drawer gave me a lift each time I thought about it. The next night, I tackled the bathroom cupboard.This starting-projects-late-at-night habit is something else I’m working on, but that’s another topic for another day.

What happened when I shifted my focus to areas under my control? My need to fix other people’s clutter lessened, and the clutter itself lessened. I had taken back my power, and with it, came a greater sense of peace.

I found myself walking into my kids’ room, being unaffected by the clutter and being able to focus on the person with whom I came to interact, instead of the mess. And when I did ask my children to clean their rooms, the request came free of the sense of desperation that previously accompanied such “requests.”

My children sensed this shift and their resistance seemed to melt away to the same place my anxiety vanished. They now found the mental and physical space to move forward on their own, and the results were astounding.  They actually took initiative to clean their own desks one night instead of going to bed.  (I know what you’re thinking.  They’re following my bad example of staying up late to start a project.  We’ll have to tackle that issue separately.  I promise I’ll work on this and let you know how it goes!)

Giving Away My Power and Taking it Back

The point I want to make here is that in blaming an external factor, I gave my power away, when all along I had the power within to change my situation.

It sounded something like this:

Giving Away My Power: “I just can’t keep on top of all the clutter in the house because my kids leave their stuff everywhere.”

Taking Back My Power: “I can organize my own areas, which is changing the clutter situation in my home as well as my reaction to it.” Despite the existence of factors beyond my control, when I put the focus back on me, and the things that are within my control, I can change my situation.

Confront Your Excuses and Reclaim Your Power

Where are you giving away power that is actually yours to use?  Here are a couple of common excuses that you may have heard from others or even, possibly, yourself.

Giving Away Your Power in health: “I have diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or this ______________(fill in the blank) condition, because it runs in my family.

Taking Back Your Power in health: “My lifestyle choices have an even greater impact than my genes do on whether or not I develop conditions, even genetic ones. I can make some small lifestyle changes, knowing that most conditions are reversible or preventable and that I can turn genes on or off  through my lifestyle choices.”

Giving Away Your Power in exercise: “I’m so busy with work and family that I don’t have time to exercise.”

Taking Back Your Power in exercise: “By making exercise a priority, I gain back time during my day, and over my lifespan. Studies show that exercise promotes energy, alertness, and concentration, increasing the productivity and quality of the remainder of my hours in the day.”

Seven Steps to Take Back Your Power

Here’s my challenge for you this week.  Follow these seven steps to take back your power:

1. Get Curious: As you go through the week, observe yourself with curiosity: What situations do you wish could be different?  Where are you blaming factors or people outside of yourself for this situation? Write it down.

2. Focus: Pick one, only one, situation for now. Write it down.

3. Identify: Get creative and pinpoint one thing within your control, not dependent upon outside factors or people, that you can do differently in this one situation. Write it down.

4. Experiment: Do that one new thing.

5. Assess: How does this one new approach change your situation and your feelings about your situation? Write it down.

6. Repeat. Introduce one more change in the same situation, or identify one new situation in which you can make one new change.

It’s time to confront your excuses and reclaim your power.  By doing so, what new reality can you make possible in your life? Let us know how it goes! You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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  1. It kind of works the opposite for me. When others are making chaos I find it hard for me to stay assigned to my cleaning tasks. For example. If I go in the living room and find jello cups, coffee cups, garbage, etc. – it makes me feel like Oh HELL NO, I want my living room to stay clean!! Then I feel like to hell with it, I’m going to my room and feel hateful. There is a small difference in our situations – My kids are grown and messy and don’t live here on the regular. I guess me doing all the work, especially cleaning at night, to make everything sparkle has made them turn into messy adult pigs. I’m going to try to look at it from your angle and see if that makes me less angry 🙂 Thanks.