How Simplifying My Life Tranquilizes My Executive DysfunctionsPosted: 2011/09/11 | |
When I began the minimalist quest that eventually initiated my blogging experiments in mid-2010 (and ultimately led to this blog), my goal was to pare down my physical belongings to eliminate the clutter in my environment. I felt overwhelmed and frustrated by the loosely ordered chaos of my living space, and had found measurable but limited success from the suggestions of the ADD self-help books I’d read over the previous year (see links page). I had no idea, when I Googled “minimalism tips,” that what I found in the results of that search would profoundly alter my world view and change the way I did things in every aspect of my life.
As I have gradually pared down my stuff over the past year and three months, I have noticed some pleasantly unexpected side effects that have mitigated the frustrating aspects of my ADD and made it easier to implement the suggestions of the aforementioned books. Because many people, such as Top 25 Blogger Leo Babauta, have already articulated the basic tenets and benefits of minimalism for the general population, I will not regurgitate this information; the same Google search I made will yield a plethora of results for anyone who wants to know more. I will, however, explain how implementing the philosophy has tranquilized my executive dysfunctions.
The foundational lesson of my personal revolution was this: Clutter is not just physical/environmental. Clutter exists in my mind, in my schedule, on my computer, in cyberspace, in my interpersonal relationships, and in my emotional life. When I de-clutter my life — my entire life — clarity and focus are the ultimate results.
Some other benefits are:
1. Less Clutter = Less to Keep Track Of. This automatically reduces the potential for overwhelm, a lethal problem for the ADD brain (Nadeau and Kolberg devote an entire chapter to this phenomenon in ADD-Friendly Ways to Organize Your Life.). When I have less to keep track of, my life immediately feels more manageable and navigable, and the threat of overwhelm is reduced from lion-sized to kitten-sized. Also, it is much easier to find a misplaced phone or keychain when its possible hiding places aren’t obscured by piles of 50 other random items.
2. Cutting Out the Non-Essential Makes Prioritization Possible. In my mind, it is extraordinarily difficult to prioritize because everything seems important; thus, when I look at a list of 50 (or even 5) things to do, I lack the natural intuition to determine which should come first. When I reduce my commitments to what truly is important, it relieves much of my anxiety that I will choose the wrong thing to do. Additionally, in the editing process, I begin to learn how to prioritize.
3. Getting Down to Basics Keeps Me Focused. Without the extra clutter in mental, physical, and digital space, I have fewer distractions when trying to accomplish any task, be it paying a bill, writing a blog post, or taking crucial steps toward my impending move across the world. Of course, I still have to watch out for distractions and implement strategies (one of Nadeau and Kolberg’s “Three S’s”) to avert them, but minimizing their potential is a cornerstone of that strategy.
4. Editing Teaches Me How to Do Maintenance Tasks. In the words of Baubuta, the last of 5 minimalist principles is “Edit, edit, edit.” This means that the process is ongoing, because more “stuff” will always come into my life and I will always have to sort it out. The concrete nature of this in the case of physical and digital “stuff” helps me to implement a purposeful structure (another of the “Three S’s”) in place of the executive function that regulates ongoing procedures (a.k.a. maintenance tasks). Thus, as I continually edit out my clutter, I also learn how to do other maintenance, like keeping my house clean or scheduling medical checkups.
These are but a few of many results I have experienced from the (ongoing) process of simplifying my life. I will elaborate on some in upcoming posts.
For a thorough explanation of the minimalist philosophy, check out Leo Babauta’s e-book Simple Guide to A Minimalist Life. It comes in PDF form so you don’t need an e-reader to view it, and offers thorough, digestible, actionable advice on simplifying your life. Plus, it’s only $9.95 (half of which, if you purchase through this link, will go to yours truly as an affiliate – so you can support my work as well as Leo’s). For the financially challenged, his other blog offers bite-sized pieces of personal experience and advice for streamlining your stuff. Adam Baker‘s blog Man vs. Debt is another excellent resource, as is his Sell Your Crap system for turning your clutter into income (for which I get no perks; I promote products I believe in, period).
How do you think simplifying your life would help you? What results would you like to see? Please answer in the comments!