I get asked this question often, so I thought I’d share my response to an email I received. Hope it helps you get unstuck and decide where to start agilizing, too. Continue reading
In the age of ridiculously abundant information, it’s so easy to develop infomania and feel like you can’t stop researching and learning more about a topic.
Nurturing and protecting your ability to create is more important and more difficult than ever.
Falling in love with the power of no helped me learn to focus. Instead of feeling like I’m giving up, I’ve taught myself to connect my power to say no to a feeling of freedom , liberation and power. I think of saying NO as actually enabling me to say YES.
My power to say no to something “interesting” is what makes it possible for me to say YES and devote time and energy to what I’m truly passionate about.
“Stop. I’m not going to take any more input until I’ve made something with what I got.”
– Merlin Mann
How do you get people to understand ADHD and how it affects your needs?
I get asked this question a lot. Here’s a few ideas to help you agilize advocating for yourself in a gracious, undemanding, yet confident way.
After being diagnosed with ADHD at the age of 48, I went through a phase of trying to get people to understand what ADHD is and sharing with them how it explained so much of my whole life story. People’s responses ranged from
- “ADHD isn’t real” to
- “ADHD is just an excuse – it’s BS.” to
- “You don’t have ADHD. How could you? You’ve accomplished so much.” to
- “I could have told you that. My kid has it and I’ve always figured you might have it.” to
- “I have it too! No wonder we always got along so well”
The reactions were quite mixed. But one thing became clear very quickly. Continue reading
UPDATE: I’ve been blogging since 2005 and I’m in the process gradually reviewing and editing the content to decide what is worthy of staying and what has become clutter.
I found this article I wrote in 2007 and decided it was worth keeping. It’s actually a great example of how mental agility works.
Getting unstuck and cultivating agile thinking habits was one of the most significant ingredients in healing my traumatic emotional attachment to things.
Becoming able to release things that were clutter up my home (and my heart) and has enabled me to function with greater ease than ever before in my life.
My things no longer have such intense power over my emotional state. Although I will always have a certain amount of “strategic” clutter, inability to let go of things does not keep me from being able to use my home the way I want to. I am willing to take care of the things I keep and I let them go easily when I no longer need them.
Resolving my PTSD related traumatized attachment to things and the chronic indecision I had about how to organize the things taking up space in my heart, mind, home and office spaces is among the most liberating and educational experiences I’ve ever had. My journey isn’t over, I’m still learning, but the progress is beyond what I ever dreamed was truly possible for myself. And it feels much different than I thought it would. I never expected to give birth to AgiliZen in the process of healing my life and in helping over 1000 clients and program participants heal their relationship with things and resolve the inner conflicts that lead to chronic disorganization.
I hope you find my story inspirational in your journey to making peace with things.
Things I had to UnLearn so I could Let Go of My Clutter
Like many of you reading this, I have had a tendency to hold on to things long past their useful life as far back as I can remember. Especially sentimental things, books, clothes, furniture, gadgets and paper. Okay, pretty much everything. When I was 30 years old, I still had most (95%) of the clothes I had ever owned and I had over 1000 books. Out of an un-questioned need to document my life, I was accumulating photo albums and souvenirs at an alarming rate. I had outgrown all my storage and was using any available surfaces and spaces to hold it all. In my journey to let go of the massive clutter I’d collected I had to “unlearn” lots of habits and beliefs that caused me so much stress and anxiety.
Here are a few beliefs I had to unlearn [2102 Note: I now call this “relinquishing or updating default settings] so that I could experience the freedom of living with less stuff – or better yet, just enough stuff to function with ease.
UNLEARNING my need to take responsibility for the ultimate fate of the things I own – as if they were people and had feelings.
This is what I now think of as the “earth mother” syndrome. I couldn’t let go of things unless I knew they were going to good homes where someone really needed them. I couldn’t throw anything away that was still in usable condition. (Kind of like leftovers. I also used to not be able to throw away food unless it was already rotten.) Once things were destroyed, it was a lot easier to put them in the trash.
I even kept a lot of broken things thinking I would fix them someday. I have to admit, I still have broken watches and necklaces in my jewelry box but I’m working on it. : )
I unlearned this belief to some extent by realizing that my approach was basically turning my home into a junkyard full of rotting stuff.
Why was I doing this to myself? That’s a whole other story I won’t get into here, but I will say that PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) had much to do with it.
I started learning how to donate and began to give things way like a pro. But there are things you can’t donate, so I had to make peace with the fact that sometimes I have to throw away things that still “work” simply because no one wants them and I AM NOT RESPONSIBLE for the fate of all things.
Things do not have feelings and ultimately, everything has to return to the dust it came from. It’s only a question of when. My updated belief? Some things have to be sacrificed so that I can have a home I love being in. My well-being is, for the first time in my life, worth more to me than keeping stuff just so the STUFF could have a good life. Seriously, I would never have said things were more valuable than a human life, but i was treating myself like they were.
UNLEARNING my fear that if I got rid of things I would never be able to replace them.
This one was really hard to get over because some things truly can’t be replaced. The solution for me was to question the fear itself. I had to ask “So What?”
My time and energy can’t be replaced either!
So what if an item can’t be replaced? Does that mean I won’t be able to go on living? Will my life be irreversibly damaged? I will have to get used to the fact that the item is no longer available. I have done it before. I will have to do it when I die. I will have to learn to fulfill the need for that item in some other way or just learn to live without it. It can be done.
It’s amazing how we as human beings can adapt to whatever life throws our way. I had to unlearn this self-limiting belief that because something can’t be replaced it’s importance is magnified. By practicing this thought process over and over, like an exercised muscle, I’ve gotten so much stronger. I still have thoughts like this from time to time, but now I can stop myself, course correct, and make better decisions. Some items I keep, but not if they are detracting from the quality of me life.
UNLEARNING my feeling that things I owned were a part of me and if I let them go I was letting go of all the hopes, dreams and feelings I had when I was still using those things.
It may sound weird but I honestly felt that by letting go of a book I had read, I would also be letting go of the experience of reading the book and in some weird way, what I learned from the book would be gone too. In effect, I’d be losing a part of my identity.
In my defense, I actually do have a tendency to forget the past. My personality type is ENTP – creative, sentimental, interested in many things, spontaneous and future-oriented. A personality type shared by many people who are disorganized and have a lot of clutter.
I’m always thinking ahead, and tend to take a long time to recall trivial things like the names of movies I’ve seen and titles of books I’ve read.
Keeping things was my way of remembering what I’d done and staying connected to who I used to be. I was an idealistic teenager of the 70’s who wanted to make the world a better place and didn’t want to become part of the bureaucratic machine. I swore I would never lose touch with that part of myself. I didn’t want to grow up to be just another cog in the wheel of the machine.
What I finally realized was that this part of me was so strong I could never forget it. It IS me. I will always be me, stuff or no stuff. After letting go of so much of the stuff, I realized that I will always remember the truly important things that shaped me and make me who I am today. Whatever I do forget was probably not important anyway.
The BIg AHA Paradox
Oddly enough, I came to realize that keeping too much stuff actually makes it harder to remember things.
How can you distill your experience when you are immersed in so much stuff that the important lessons can’t be noticed?
Eventually, I adopted a kind of “So What?” attitude toward forgetting. We are designed to forget things for a reason. Let’s face it, why do we have to remember every detail of our past? Who really cares? What’s really important to remember about the life you’ve lived anyway?
Is it really important what the date of that trip to Disney World was? Or is it more important to become the best person you can be and make a contribution to society and the world?
Clarifying my values and looking at my things with a fresh perspective required a lot of “unlearning” my need to document every aspect of my life. Not to say that I don’t still take photographs or acquire souvenirs when I travel, etc. But I do take far fewer photos, and sometimes my only souvenir of a trip is a postcard. I no longer spend excessive time and energy creating a museum of my life.
Instead I use that time to learn, write, travel and help other people. I relax more and enjoy my vacations more instead of worrying about documenting them so much. If I can contribute more to the world by writing. Isn’t that a much more valuable legacy than a photo album or a collection of stuff?
I hope you find inspiration in questioning your own attachment to things that clutter up your space and drain your time and energy.
© 2007-2009 Ariane Benefit, M.S.Ed.
Ariane Benefit, M.S.Ed, Agile Lifestyle Design Coach, ADHD Coach, Organic Learning and Performance Strategist offers hope to creative, gifted, neurodiverse people, people with ADHD and anyone whose quality of life is impaired by chronic disorganization and time management challenges. She guides people in clarifying priorities, prioritizing, making difficult decisions and learning the tools needed to heal and agilize their relationship with clutter, change habits, and regain self-confidence. She is the author of a best-selling home office organizing book “Neat & Simple Guide to Organizing Your Office” on Amazon, and the popular organizing and decluttering blog, Neat & Simple Living. She offers a free Agile Life Design toolkit at www.ArianeBenefit.com
Cultivating the power of habit is the ultimate productivity tool. Learning how to shape your habits is like learning how to fly a plane — once you know how, you can go just about anywhere you want to go — much faster. But first, you’ve got to learn how to fly the plane.
The thing about habits is they have different characteristics and ingredients.
How you cultivate them requires understanding the features of the habit and using strategies and tools appropriate to that habit. For example, habits range from simple to extremely complex. Some are easier to change than others.
Some habits are composed of many smaller habits and so can’t be changed all at once. Some were learned on purpose, most are learned by accident, without you even being aware you are learning them. Most habits can’t be learned on a time schedule. In fact, putting time pressure on yourself to learn them actually makes them harder to learn. That old adage that it takes 21 days to establish a habit is actually a myth. Continue reading
How do we learn to procrastinate?
We are waging a cultural war against procrastination and inner resistance as if they were evil itself. I believe it is time to STOP the War and START negotiating a peace treaty with yourself. Persistent patterns of procrastination are the outer manifestations or signposts of inner conflict and resistance.
Procrastination is the result you get when one part of you is trying to get the rest of you to do something using tactics like: ordering, coercing, pressuring, tricking, or even bullying yourself to do it.
Resistance can only exist when there is some kind of pushing, pressure, or force trying to get you to do something you don’t want to do, or aren’t ready or willing to do at this time for some reason. Continue reading
Agile Life Lesson: Bouncing Back is the Key to Self-Confidence
There will ALWAYS be setbacks. Our greatest accomplishments are in the moments of bouncing back. Our self-confidence is the trust that no matter how frustrating and horrifying our challenges may be, we can and will bounce back and rise to the occasion with a new design or strategy. It’s the only thing in life we can count on really.
Agile Life Lesson: Acknowledging Yourself is the Key to Bouncing Back
Every day that you keep trying and making steps, even though they are so microscopic it can feel excruciating, YOU are worth acknowledging.
Those teeny tiny steps are what add up to the bigger accomplishment. Acknowledge yourself and they will keep adding up.
Self-acknowledgement is the difference between stuckness and progress. It’s what puts the gas back in your tank.
Great presentation. Fits very nicely with my AgiliZen approach to designing and changing habits. I’m working on my own version of this to add 10 more to this list. : )
This is NOT a recipe for how to end a compulsive or hard to stop habit like eating sugar, interrupting people, etc. Strategizing how to change unwanted habits is much more complex and custom to the individual.
If you are “neurodiverse” or tend to be impulsive, compulsive or suffer from chronic procrastination, anxiety, depression, PTSD, etc. this information is helpful, but not “everything” you need to know to start a new habit. In particular, learning more about trigger design, self-acknowledgement, and iterative systems design so that you can design your environments to support the changes you want to make is crucial.
5 Steps to Cultivating the Power of Habit – The Agile Way : )
Mythbusting: Are New Habits Established in 21 Days? (from my NEAT & SIMPLE LIVING blog)
Is it worth trying to change your habits? If so, how can you make it easier to change habits? (NEAT & SIMPLE LIVING)
Updated: April 29, 2014, July 17, 2014, December 2014, May 2015
Personal Agility is about having a sense of EASE with rolling with life’s curve balls – whatever the source.
Personal Agility enables you to live in the Agile Zone of optimal functioning – feeling relatively in charge, secure and confident in your ability to ride the waves that come with living the unpredictable, uncontrollable creative life.
What is the Agile Zone™ of Optimal Functioning and Peak Performance?
The Agile Zone™ is what I call your sweet spot of optimal functioning – the place where you experience life without feeling overwhelmed or powerless – where you feel hopeful, capable, and able to get things done. It includes your high energy, peak performance and creative flow states, as well as your low energy states where you still can get things done. Your Agile Zone includes