I am not busy.

image //  via

image // via

If you looked at my calendar, you'd think I should be having a pretty relaxing day.  

Certainly there were a number of quotidian household duties -- preparing for guests tonight when another just left this morning, navigating household finances, grocery shopping and so on -- and then just writing.  A joy!  Every artist's dream day!  

So why was it that as I went to refill my mug (with fair trade locally roasted french-pressed coffee and adorable glass bottle local Idaho farm half and half) that I exhaled loudly like someone who was so stressed?

Because busyness is actually not just a product of the things we need to get done -- it how we feel about what we're doing.

If you looked at my computer, you would see that I (shamefully) had 8 tabs open.  Tabs to find a good flight deal on my upcoming Thanksgiving travels.  A tab to track the status of our first mortgage payments.  A tab with my favorite writing site open (750words.org) and a tab with New Minimalism's site open.  Then another 3 or 4 open to videos of people celebrating the CUBS WORLD SERIES VICTORY last night (my favorites are Kris Bryant making the winning catch, the man listening to the game at his father's gravestone and everyone of anyone over 90 celebrating -- you are welcome.).

But seriously guys, I was doing it to myself.  

I fell into the classic busy-hole of attempting to multitask and instead ended up distracting myself beyond measure as time flew by.  When it was all of the sudden lunch time and all of my most important tasks were still undone?  It made me feel scattered, unaccomplished and *gasp* even busier.  Which is the great paradox of feeling so busy -- you often feel it the most when you are not actually getting things done.

Bodhi knows how important sleep is.

But sometimes you just ARE busy, right?

On the flip side just this Monday I woke up early, lit a candle, turned on the classical station and drank my tea as I wrote thousands of original words for our book.  All this before the sun rose (to be fair, it rises suuuuper late these days in Boise).  

I then took my dog for a long walk and made Cam and myself a nice lunch.  After lunch I tackled a group of daunting emails and then navigated personal and work financial to-dos for the month.  I felt like I was getting everything done -- and that relaxed me. 

Heck, in college I was the captain of a division 1 team, worked a side job, wrote an honors thesis and graduated a term early and I rarely felt busy.  I was always just focused on the task right in front of me.  At the pool, I swam.  In the library, I studied.  In the lab, I worked.  I was proactive, scheduled thoughtfully, got a good night sleep for sure.  But then I just sat down and got shit done.  My college self (and even Monday self) would have laughed at my today self being such whiner pants.

The good news is it's easy to turn A busy day around by doing these two things:

1) Stop doing everything and start doing one thing.
Make a list and start checking things off.  Do not, I repeat, DO NOT open another browser tab until the previous task is complete.  Relish your feeling of accomplishment.  

2) Tell yourself you're not busy.  
Literally, say it aloud: "I am not busy." That's what I ended up saying to myself as I reheated my coffee, just after I startled myself with that exasperated exhale.  Hearing myself say"I am not busy." helped me to settle into that sensation.  Instead of rushing back to my computer I took 3 seconds to lean down and smell my coffee and then to look out at our fall yard.  My schedule is full, but my mind determines how I feel about that.  And, I am NOT busy.

Ending the Cycle of Busy

Image // via  Steep Ravine

Image // via Steep Ravine

One of our stated principles at New Minimalism is to break the cycle of busyness.  

Busyness has become among the most pervasive and relentless dis-eases of our modern culture because it gives to us a few things we value so desperately: the sensation of accomplishment and the appearance of importance.  

But what this constant, frantic, frenetic busyness actually represents is a profound lack of clarity.

Busyness happens when we stop saying no to things -- actual physical items as well as relationships, commitments of our time/energy/resources.  It arises when we lose track (or have never clearly uncovered) what is most important and most desired in our lives.  

Why, as Declutterers and Designers, do Kyle and I care so much about how people spend their time? Why do we worry about busyness when we ought to be worried about stuff?

Because busyness and clutter are inextricably tied to one another -- they both are the root cause and result of each other.  

1) Clutter is the result of busyness.  

Clutter is deferred decisions -- things we put off for the future because we don't have time to deal with them now.  Clutter is physical manifestation of all the things we need to do.  

2) And clutter is the cause of busyness.  

Having too much stuff for your space requires constant maintenance, which takes time.  Whether that maintenance is direct (managing things, searching for items, storing and maintaining them, purchasing new objects) or indirect (distracting yourself with other forms of busyness instead of dealing with them), it fills our time.

The whole point of having a clutter-free life is that the time + energy you save not managing and dealing with stuff is time + energy you can spend actually living life.  

You know, doing things like:

  • being in nature,
  • snuggling with the people/pets/blankets you love,
  • taking photos,
  • meditating,
  • learning languages,
  • building machines, 
  • writing books,
  • composing songs,
  • knitting hats,
  • eating oysters,
  • laughing with your favorite people,
  • being an activist for your most important causes,
  • hanging with your kids,
  • volunteering in your neighborhood, or
  • making the world a better place by just being pleasantly not-busy while wandering about.  

So how to end the cycle of busyness and all the nasty-ass clutter that comes with it?  

1. Take the time to figure out what you love.  

It's hard time saying no to things when you don't know what you want to shout YES! to.  But when you know how you want to feel, you know immediately, at your core, if this shirt or work commitment or relationship makes you feel that way.

Marie Kondo uses the standard of “spark joy” which is a great place to begin.  Even more powerful?  Taking the time to choose those feelings you personally desire most

2. Say no to relationships / events / objects / experiences that do not support you in living your most desired life.  

Clarity turns the process of decluttering -- which otherwise can feel like a painful parting with things you used to love and items you might need someday -- into an empowering, dare I say enjoyable, exercise in shedding the things that are not adding to the life you want to create.

It’s a self fulfilling prophecy, a positive spiral.  When I know how I want to feel, I can easily identify which things help me feel that way.  Which allows me to experience those feelings more frequently, with greater depth, and with greater clarity.  Which makes it that much easier to determine if something is in fact aligned with those desires.

So, please tell me, how do you most want to feel in your life?

Look, I want to love this world
as though it’s the last chance I’m ever going to get
to be alive
and know it.
— Mary Oliver, "October"

Want more?  

The Desire Map by Danielle LaPorte

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo (and our review of that book here)