A Week of Mental Decluttering
There are times when circumstance offers you a little chance to do a reset. You should try not to miss those opportunities. For me, it was my children being at their grandparents house for a whole week. If there is one thing being child free offers, it is the ability to get a little space into your brain.
So I decided that this was a perfect week to try to some serious mental de-cluttering. I love my children dearly, but they do not help the fluttering endless information loop in the data graveyard that is my brain.
Concentration is elusive. Focus is at a premium. Intention. Goal-setting. Planning. All are so often just out of reach as I juggle those loose ends that I can’t seem to be rid of no matter how hard I try, while answering endless questions such as “can I have some juice?” To have a temporary reprieve from a very significant source of focus sabotage for a week (I say this most lovingly) was a golden opportunity to refresh my brain a bit. I really wanted to take advantage.
My goals were pretty simple:
- Absolutely no reading the newspaper or watching the news
- No social media unrelated to Brooklyn Bread
- Social media limited to once a day
- Unlimited book reading
- Unlimited writing
- Unlimited watching of *good* television
- See friends for dinner
- Ride my bike
You can see I was not overly ambitious. But, in fact, for me, it was nevertheless a challenge — I was not 100% successful. But I was successful to varying degrees and it proved to me how even small healing actions for your brain can yield meaningful relief.
I did great with this one. Which is a big deal because I probably graze on the NY Times website a hundred times a day, including during one or both of my commutes. I went against a powerful daily habit and rocked it. I rarely watch the news on TV, so that was not as big an accomplishment. But to cut my umbilical cord to the Times and take a break from contemplating things such as… What has Donald Trump done now? What tragedy has befallen innocent children today? Who was violently murdered? How fast did the ice caps melt this summer? You mean Ryan Lochte didn’t really say “whatever” to someone holding a gun to his head?
OK, obviously I did contemplate that last one. Things do seep in via Twitter whether you like it or not. At least the headline was a far as I got.
The result? Wow, did I discover a treasure trove of time that I usually waste keeping myself way too apprised about way too many things that I do not need to be that intimately on top of. Huge win. Time. It’s everything. It’s the golden goose. I was wasting it. I can keep this up, limiting myself to just checking in with major stories on my morning commute.
No social media unrelated to the blog
This was not a big problem – I don’t check in too much anyway, and going completely dark for a week was not a big deal.
Social media limited to once a day
This was a bit of a fail. Not totally. But I did scroll through Twitter anytime I was on line, in a taxi, waiting to meet a client etc. That difficulty in rejecting even a moment of boredom, a moment of quiet is still with me. I struggle with it. I give myself a C+.
Unlimited book reading
I’m reading H is for Hawk and I love it. This was the perfect book to take me through a stressful work week. Instead of reading equally stressful news stories in my moments of distraction, I kept coming back to this book which is beautiful and contemplative and quiet, and though melancholy, it is lovely. It was a balm. I am obsessed with falcons and hawks and owls and I need to figure out a way to get myself to a bird watching walk at Prospect Park.
This was less than stellar, but not terrible. It is definitely a lot easier to write with my children not here. I am feeling like I will be in a much better place with writing when they are back in school. My little one is in school for a full day for the first time this year, so it will be a big change for me on the days that I am home. I’m sad he’s getting so big, but happy to have a little more time alone with my thoughts.
OK, this goal may sound less than aspirational, but by the time I get my kids to sleep, I have an hour at most to watch something with my husband. Often I end up surfing around for a half hour, then go off to bed to read. But I like enjoying something together with my husband that we can talk about – whether a movie, a book or a really good series. We were successful, mainlining Mr. Robot… we’re about to finish season one. This is important because it is a confusing show and it’s nice to be caught up so I can read the synopsis afterward. Our friends were also kid-less this week and they shamed us by watching all of Stranger Things in two days. They totally one upped us, but, it’s ok, we can’t all be Olympic gold medalists.
See friends for dinner
Ride my bike
My only unmitigated failure. I have just not been able to weave riding my bike into my days. I know this is because my mornings are devoted to taking the dog to the park. I need for my kids to get proficient in bike riding so we can all go in the evenings. But alas, that ship has sailed for this summer. Oh, well.
I am giving myself a B+ and, overall, and I am thoroughly pleased. I definitely cleared some junk out of my brain and I am inspired to go further. My final goal on my final two days without the children is to craft a good framework for an ongoing home to do list, including family goals for fall. I feel like I have just enough added space in my brain to work on this. I spent quality time with my husband, I laughed with friends, I got lost in a beautiful book and I can say that, aside from a shitty few days at work, my time on earth this week was well spent.
Mental decluttering… you should do.
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