Podcast 092: Being present

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This is Podcast 92. Last time I announced my group coaching program for productivity, time management, prioritizing, procrastination and decluttering. The format will be virtual so it doesn’t matter where you are in the world, you can still join in. I’ll conduct a live one hour session once a month about a topic, like procrastination.

Students will share what they are working on and I’ll offer real time help and accountability coaching. There will be a private Facebook group and email check ins. I’m launching this program with a special price of $99 a month with a three month commitment. Registration starts next Wednesday! Go to my website, cluttercoach.net or email me for the link at Claire@cluttercoach.net.

Today’s podcast is about being present. In several podcasts, like the one about emotional clutter, that was #47, I’ve talked about this concept. The present is the place where you are okay. Where life is happening. If you’re not in the present, you’re missing out. Plus, you’re often in a negative emotional state.

Of course, we all have lots of good memories of the past and exciting plans for the future that make us happy. Those aren’t the problem. The problem is when you get stuck in the past too much and start feeling depressed or sad or regretful. Or you get stuck in the future and are full of fear and anxiety.

How does this tie in with organizing and decluttering? One thing I’ve noticed with my clients is that they go on fun vacations and then get bummed out all over again by their disorganization when they get home. On the surface, it would seem that the main reason for this is that the clutter just wasn’t in front of them to worry about while they were traveling.

But another reason is that while they were away from all their things, all their lists, all their worries about not getting things done, they realized they were happy. Happy not to be burdened by all that stuff. Most importantly, they were fine without all that stuff. They were living in the present, enjoying each moment on the beach or each new discovery with loved ones.

They were in the present, without their stuff, and they were fine. Let that sink in a bit. If you could be absolutely fine without all your stuff, what would you do?

Having stuff around causes anxiety because you’re trying to be prepared for events that may never happen. Too much stuff around is stressful because you have so many objects and thoughts (yes, I mean mental clutter too) vying for your attention. Too much in general takes up your time and energy and takes out of the present moment.

Here’s a situation that came up with one of my clients. She has a lot of stuff, particularly clothing. Next month she’s hosting a themed dinner party and the theme is Chinese. It happens that she has 10-12 Chinese jackets to choose from. She joked that each guest could choose one; there are enough for everyone.

Then she started thinking about them and realized she wasn’t sure where each one was. She panicked a bit worrying that she wouldn’t be able to find one of her favorites. She remembered regretfully that a few didn’t really fit anymore but she wasn’t ready to give them up because they’re so beautiful.

Then she felt anxious thinking that none of the guests would dress up and she’d feel out of place. THEN she felt weighed down by having all those jackets in the first place.

A whole cascade of negative thoughts could take her away from simply being with her guests and enjoying the party. Being with people she cared about and who cared about her and who didn’t care what she was wearing.

Being present is a handy cure for procrastination and multi tasking too. Back in podcast 26 I talked about the work of the Procrastination Research Group. All the five reasons for procrastinating that he found have to do with worrying about the future and wanting to control the moment. Incorrect time estimates are usually due to the negative emotional cast the task at hand has for you.

Believing that there’s a particular state or mood you need to be in to get something done comes from not checking in to find yourself in the present moment, where you can be peaceful and free of the anxiety and worry and also free of the need to be in a heightened state too. Forgive me if I’m sounding overly Zen here, but being in the present is about being peaceful, not wildly happy.

Practicing being present gives you a safe place to come back to where you can calmly do what needs to be done to solve your organizing and clutter problems, one step at a time. When you’re present, you can truly see what’s in front of you; the clutter won’t be hiding in the background where you can ignore it (but of course you know it’s there). When you’re present, you aren’t feeling crummy about whatever story you tell yourself about why you’re disorganized. That doesn’t matter anymore.

What you can do now: Mindfulness is a great way to get yourself into the present. You can find tons of ways to practice mindfulness online. Keep it simple. Even just paying attention to your breath for 20 seconds helps.