10 Ways to Banish the Overwhelm

I drew this when I was feeling emotionally overwhelmed. It soothed.

I drew this when I was feeling emotionally overwhelmed. It helped me escape and soothed my pain.

 

Never before have we lived such comfortable and affluent lives. Australia has the third highest average wealth in the world, behind Switzerland and Norway.  We make up 0.36% of the world’s adult population but account for 3.78% of the world’s top 1% of wealthiest people. (source)

But this comes at a cost, on many levels. The African proverb ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ still remains, yet the village has gone. Everyone is out working, or taking their kids to gymnastics, swimming, athletics, scouts, karate, football, cricket. Or volunteering in the class room, on the sports pitch or up at the school. Or preparing for dinner guests, kids parties family get togethers…it never ends.

There’s no doubt we have very full lives. Often too full. So full, in fact that many of us feel that our day to day lives have become an avalanche of events and we are like a pack of hounds chasing our tails in a frenzy of FOMO confusion. (FOMO, for those who don’t know, is an acronym for Fear Of Missing Out). [Read more…]

Drowning in a sea of stuff, and other first world problems.

In the lead up to Christmas I felt overwhelmed, mostly by the state of my house. I felt that no matter how much I tidied up at the end of each day, I still felt overcrowded, suffocated by the clutter and that the walls were closing in on me. Part of that feeling was because there was little I could do about it at the time.

The month of December is so incredibly busy – before November was finished, every single weekend in December was booked up with events and social engagements. Not just the weekend either, week nights we getting busy to. I was feeling suffocated not just by the clutter, but also by the schedule. Why do we do this to ourselves and our families every year? (That is another story, for another day.)

In my despair I vowed that once Christmas was over I was going to declutter with a vengeance. I’ve written about decluttering before – you can read it here. My news feed on social media leading up to Christmas was saturated by articles about decluttering and how freeing the experience has been. I was keen to tap in to that, I needed a bit of ‘freeing’.

So I gave myself Boxing Day off and then started. My target was my wall unit, which was predominantly holding books. I love my books; make no mistake. I love the way books look on a shelf, I love to look at other people’s book shelves (I think what people read says a lot about a person). Certain books remind me of certain times in my life, so it’s fair to say that I’m pretty invested in my books. BUT I do think they were part of the problem, perhaps just the beginning. Why did on hold on to so many books, for so long? (Again, another story for another day!)

I sent, at a guess, around 150 books to the charity shop – along with bags and bags of baby toys, cot linen, bed linen, clothes from my wardrobe, my husbands wardrobe, my three children’s wardrobes. The whole boot of my car was full of things for the charity shop. When I looked in the boot of my car I was exasperated by the volume of all this ‘stuff’. For all the clearing out I’ve done, I still have that feeling of being crowded out. So I need to keep clearing, and be a bit more ruthless, so I can get back some breathing space.

My post-new year news feed was filled with articles about new years resolutions; how to make them and how to keep them. I felt like until I cleared the way, and made some space (both physical and psychological) I’d be frozen in to inaction regarding planning and executing plans for 2015.

One of my lovely friends was not so ‘stuck’ with her new years resolutions and one promise she made to herself was that she planned to consume less, of everything. Her decision not be drowned out by over-abundance really resonated with me, in light of my struggles with ‘stuff’ at home.

She borrowed Not Buying It: My Year Without Shopping by Judith Levine from the library, and set out creating some boundaries for her consumption. One of her boundaries was that if she wanted to buy something, she had to sell something first. On first hearing this I thought it was a bit ‘bah humbug’, but actually in light of my overflowing house, it makes a lot of sense.

Then, a few days later I read an article by Georgina Dent, on the Women’s Agenda – ‘Why I’m not shopping for six months’   and this sentence struck a chord with me: “I am looking at my resolution as a personal challenge that will save me money and time, and force me to be more creative.” Saving money, time and becoming more creative are things that I actively seek. Could the simple act of not shopping help me achieve them?

On pondering this article and my friend’s resolution I realised that all the ‘decluttering’ I was doing was of no consequence if I didn’t stop buying stuff. I’m not a big ‘shopper’ as such, but I can’t resist a bargain and I don’t need most of what I bring home. Also, for many of us, shopping, the act of purchasing, is habitual and often much more complex than seeing something that you like and buying it. It can be an escape for some, a comfort, filling a void or chasing an, often unobtainable, dream.

So I’m not making a public declaration per se, that I’m not shopping, but I don’t see the sense in expending so much energy in clearing out the crap from my living room, only to make space for more. I’m still struggling with the clear-out, let’s say it’s a work in progress, so if you have any tips on what works for you, please share them.

If decluttering has brought you that elusive ‘freeing’ feeling that I seek, I’d love to hear about it.

If decluttering has brought you that elusive ‘freeing’ feeling that I seek, I’d love to ut it.