We are now in the fourth week of social distancing here on Long Island, NY in order to stop the spread of COVID 19. As we’ve been settling into this new reality that will likely continue for weeks and maybe months, my friends and I have begun to experience a new combination of emotions: Boredom and restlessness intermingled with a sense of stress and being overwhelmed.
In my last article about maintaining a sense of serenity during the pandemic (Cool, Calm, and Collected during COVID-19: A Strategy) I said that one of my personal strategies was to maintain a sense of self discipline. I’m doing my best to balance work and rest, limit social media and news interaction, exercise and get outside as much as possible, and enjoy creative pursuits. (I started a sketchbook, which I am loving.) All Good! But truth be told, I can’t completely escape sudden pangs of boredom during in-between hours, or the feeling that the walls are closing in on me and I can’t breathe! When the weather is nice, my spirits soar and I fill gaps in my day by taking sunny solo strolls. On the days that we’ve had those classic April showers, I’ve turned a cathartic alternative to pass the time.
My plan of attack involves the continuation of a project I started last summer as a means of developing my personal mindfulness practice. How does one live more fully in the present moment, free of the burdens of past and fears of future? DECLUTTER… EVERYTHING… And what better time to tackle this behemoth than now? You can’t run off to the mall to avoid the job, people. It’s time. Let’s crank the music up and clean. Now although closets are a good place to start, they are not the only storage spaces of our lives creating useless distraction and keeping us from living serenely in the now. Consider the following:
The closets are, as I said, a place to begin. As a simple rule, if you haven’t used it or worn it in over a year, ditch it. Since this isn’t the time to donate belongings due to the virus, I have put items into different, labeled donation bags and I put sticky notes on the larger things I plan to give away or donate (some exercise equipment that I bought thinking it would miraculously make me fit, not considering the effort needed on my part!) Visual clutter is the next to be tackled. Charming sentimental items here and there on walls and shelves can be very hygge, but overdone, can also create a feeling of claustrophobia and distraction (and extra dusty surfaces. Eew!) If you really can’t let go of those “tchotchkes” for good, rotate them. Free up shelving and mantles of half of these objects for now and swap them out in a year.
No, you will not go back to those emails… ever. Seriously. If there are over a hundred read and unread messages in your inbox, you’ve got work to do. Google let’s you delete in bulk from single senders. Or if you really can’t let go, create settings that push certain messages into folders. Next, dive into your Google Drive or other storage and treat it like your email; delete what you can and put the rest into digital folders (or folders within folders). And before you shut down your computer, get rid of all the nonsense on your desktop. Do you regularly click on all that appears when you log on? Your cell phone is another hot spot for distracting clutter. Delete old text threads and clear your voicemail box. And now the difficult part: contacts. Will you (or should you) ever call that ex again? No? Delete.
“Personal” Space and “Head” Space
Think social distancing on an energetic level. It’s not easy to let go or steer clear of people in your life who don’t appear to be particularly harmful on the outside, but it is important to protect yourself. Energy vampires are real. In the same way you need to stay six feet away from people who may be asymptomatic carriers of COVID-19, you need to protect your energetic self from people whose attitudes instill fear, panic, or the “poor me’s by ceasing or limiting contact with them. Clear your “head” space by tackling grudges, resentments, regrets, and worries. Take out a pen and paper and begin writing as a means of physically drawing them out of yourself and either burn them or toss them out with the trash. And finally, meditate, meditate, and meditate some more.
Clearing space in your life is an ongoing task. As we continue to live and have new experiences we continue to scoop up objects and people and memories and resentments. All are necessary parts of our path which help us to grow. They make up the intricate fabric of our lives, like colorful threads in a woven blanket. But even though a blanket can keep us cozy, warm, and protected, it can also become stifling, hot, uncomfortable, and distracting. Decluttering keeps us at a nice, neutral temperature, physically, mentally, and spiritually. You’ll sleep easier.
Now get to work!