From Clutter to Clarity | Kerry Thomas | TEDxAshburn

October 12, 2019 0 By Stanley Isaacs


Translator: Sanda L
Reviewer: Rhonda Jacobs Overwhelmed. That doesn’t feel pleasant
hanging in the air, does it? The word itself brings up
feelings of failure and isolation. It’s also the word, sadly,
that I hear the most from new clients. I have a friend and client
who is successful, runs a great business,
is very active in the community, and is, honestly, the most
positive person you will ever meet. And yet, at our first
coaching consultation, she told me that not only
did she feel overwhelmed, she felt paralyzed. When I asked her to elaborate,
she brought up words like shame, failure, fear, and isolation. I assured her that she is not alone. In fact, in homes, and businesses,
and relationships everywhere, “overwhelm” has become
our society’s dirty little secret. We fill everything. We fill our houses,
we fill our cars, we fill our offices, we fill our smartphones,
we fill our storage units, we fill our minds, and we fill our hearts
with more than we can manage. We think that the “more”
will lead to happiness, but all it does
is perpetuate the overwhelm. Because of this “dirty little secret,” the word “clutter” has exploded
in our nation’s vocabulary. From books to TV shows, to magazines, you can’t even check out
at the grocery store without seeing the word “clutter” plastered over every
single magazine cover. But what people don’t realize
is clutter is not just our stuff. It can be those physical things
that clog up our homes, but it can also be digital, mental,
emotional, or even spiritual. The physical clutter
is the typical that we think of: the closets that are overflowing,
the garages that can’t hold cars, the storage units that have become
a billion-dollar industry in this country. Digital clutter are things like the ten, twenty, fifty,
eighty thousand emails in inboxes that I see on a very regular basis. It’s also things like files
saved on your computer without naming conventions,
so you don’t know what you have, and you spend a lot of time
looking for things. Mental clutter can be fears. It can also be voices whether it be from a boss,
or a spouse, or the news, or just anything that bombards us. Emotional clutter can be from patterns, negative patterns that you don’t
even realize that you have. It can also be all those “I can’t” voices: “I can’t lose weight.” “I can’t quit my job
and go out on my own in business.” Now, spiritual clutter
isn’t talked about as much, but it can be caused from things like
a lack of forgiveness or a lack of peace. Those last two, the emotional
and the spiritual clutter, they can be very subtle;
those can also be the most paralyzing. Basically, clutter is anything
that keeps you from living the life that you were meant to lead, anything that keeps you from
living the life that you want to lead, anything that stops you from accomplishing
your work and enjoying your life. Now, it may not seem possible,
but all types of clutter, all the ones I listed,
have one main cause. I have a wonderful friend, mentor,
and business coach, Barbara Hemphill, and she trademarked a phrase
that sums up this universal truth: Clutter is postponed decisions. Think about that for a minute,
it fits in every circumstance. The physical stuff –
you walk into your closet, or if you can walk in,
maybe you try to walk in, and there’s a whole section of clothes. And perhaps the postponed decision is: “Am I really going to put forth
the effort or the time to try to lose that last ten pounds
and fit into this whole shelf?” Or perhaps the postponed decision is: “Am I going to clean out my storage area
so I can take these things, and put them in bins,
and then rotate by season?” Paper – paper’s a huge one
that I deal with. We pick something up, we put it back down.
We pick something up, we put it back down. One pile becomes ten piles,
and then your boss is coming in, or you have friends
coming over for dinner, and you push them all in a bag
and put them in the closet. Digital – you do the same thing with email
that you do with paper. You open it, open it,
but you’re not making decisions. Sometimes the decisions are easy,
just delete, or reply, or put in a folder, but for some reason, we postpone them, and then we get to the point we don’t
even want to open up our computer. Now, I always had a very
good handle on the first two, the physical and the digital clutter. And I understood how the other ones
worked with my clients because very often
there’s an underlying reason that things got to the point
that they did. But I didn’t truly understand
how those affected you in your life until I got stuck. In 2012, I had heart surgery. I had a valve defect
that I’d had my whole life, and I had been told
“You’ll live into your 80s, no medical intervention, go,
you’re fine, everything’s great.” Well, the year leading up to my surgery, my father was diagnosed
with pancreatic cancer, given a very short time to live, and my oldest son was hospitalized
for suicidal thoughts. My heart figuratively
and then literally broke. So by April of 2012,
I was in heart failure and I had surgery. Now, I flew through.
I was the model patient. I was only in the hospital 48 hours,
I was up walking, I was doing fun things, I completed a half marathon
11 months after heart surgery. So everything looked great
and I was getting a lot of compliments, but I was stuck. I had massive amounts
of mental and emotional clutter. My mental clutter was fears. “What if it didn’t work?” “What if it breaks again?” “Why am I having these stupid,
crazy disease spells?” “Why do I still need a nap
every single day a year later?” My emotional clutter was guilt. “Why am I still here
and other people aren’t?” And let me tell you,
those two roll together to make some really nice
spiritual clutter along the way. So, now don’t hate me
when I tell you this part, but my house is very, very neat
and clean almost all the time. And I had a client
who was quite the opposite. She was depressed by her townhouse. She hadn’t had people over in years,
except for me, to try to work on it, and we became very close very quickly. And so, one day I was commenting to her that besides this stuff
that was dragging her down, she had a vibrant life,
and she was doing fun things, and learning, and continuing
her education, and going on trips, and I sort of prompted her a little bit, and I said, “Imagine what you could do
without all this stuff weighing you down.” And man, did she zing me. Because she said, “Look who’s talking.” And she said, “You keep telling me about
ideas that you have for your business and things you want to do,” and she said,
“and you’re not doing any of them. You are staying stuck also.” So, we challenged each other, and I must say, she got through
her issues a lot faster than I did, but I started facing it, I stopped postponing the decision
to look at the fear, and postponing the need
to deal with that guilt, and so a shift was made. Now, I don’t know what all of your
postponed decisions are in some of those areas, perhaps you also have a fear
that you’re not facing. Perhaps there’s someone
that you need to give forgiveness and you haven’t extended
that forgiveness yet. But what’s the answer? The key is, make a decision, right? Some are easy: Two weeks from today
we are cleaning out this garage. Some are grand. I’m going to drop out of school,
move to California, and write a novel. Some are minuscule: Every week
I’m going to delete two sales emails – or unsubscribe from two sales emails. But the key is, it’s for you. Your clutter of any type
is not a moral sentence. Guilt is not going to help whether
from someone else or from yourself. So everything you do in these areas
needs to be for you and for your sanity. There’s a saying: “Change is a result of action,
and action is the result of a decision.” So that means that you have the power, even in the midst
of that horrible overwhelm, to the point of being paralyzed, you have the power to affect change
by making a decision. Now, it has to have an action,
just like with the physical stuff: you’ve got to box it up, bag it up,
take it to the donation center, take it to the curb, whatever. For the others, you need
to take an action also whether it’s talk to a good friend,
get out in nature and meditate, journal, whatever it is, but there needs
to be an action tied to it. I heard something years ago,
and I love how it applies here, and that is “Give God something to bless.” In other words, do something,
move forward, make a decision, take an action, even if it’s tiny, and the universe
will reward you with momentum. The bottom line is, ultimately, the quality of your life
is determined by the decisions you make, about your stuff, and about yourself. So do something, move forward. Some clutter is going to come back, both the physical kind,
the emotional kind, that’s called life,
it’s going to keep coming back. But if you make those decisions
along the way and don’t postpone them, you will ultimately move from overwhelm
towards what we all want: peace. Thank you. (Applause)