Overwhelm is the condition of Too Much – usually Too Much To Do (which is what I designed the Quicksand handbook to relieve).
Sometimes overwhelm shows up as Too Much To Feel. Other times it shows up as Too Much of the Unexpected.
This winter I discovered another form of overwhelm: Too Much of the Old.
It has a lot in common with the Overwhelm of Too Much Stuff. But it’s less about clutter and more about ignoring what has changed, what is no longer needed, what has outgrown its usefulness.
It started with realizing my plans for the current year wouldn’t arrange themselves into something pleasing because what I was trying to shoehorn into my calendar was my 2010 dream for 2012, not this year’s vision.
And noticing that my website didn’t reflect how I think about Time anymore. At all. And that I was resisting sending out a newsletter because I couldn’t suggest even once more than anyone “get in gear.”
And then realizing I rarely worked in my office anymore because both my computer and my physical space were filled with the detritus of the past three years.
I noticed that half my inbox was filled with subscriptions I didn’t read anymore. And that half my overhead was going to services I don’t use anymore.
Dealing with the office soon led to the realization that I’d also have to deal with the basement (because how can you archive, say, your tax records when you can’t get to the file cabinet?) – which just turned out to be a way-back machine to the 90s.
( In hindsight, I can see it actually started with wanting to be like that tree. )
My surroundings had become uncomfortable not because of Too Much Stuff, but because much of what I held on to – sometimes carefully, sometimes carelessly – was well past its best-used-by date.
Filled with relics, my space mirrored back to me who I was then, not who I am now. In many ways, it mirrored my fears and losses more than my hopes and gains. And with no room for anything new to come into my life, it couldn’t mirror who I am becoming.
Of course, these were not the conditions I set out to create. I know better. It’s just that in giving phases other than the dropping off that follows any creative cycle priority for several years – sometimes because I had to, other times because I felt I had to – things… accumulated.
I can’t say in hindsight that those were poor choices then. All I know is that continuing to put off a thorough purge was the wrong choice now, because all that old had become crushingly overwhelming. I had reached the point of being paralyzed by all the anachronisms in my life.
Here’s the thing about anachronisms: they keep you out of alignment with the present. And when you are out of alignment, it’s hard to move.
It’s not unlike your spine being out of alignment. Every step, every action hurts – which makes it nearly impossible to do anything. And the pain doesn’t go away until you bring those bones back into their proper relationship. In the case of Overwhelm of the Old, nothing gets better or easier until you remove what doesn’t belong in the present.
So along with my sweetheart, I have spent much past month purging my stuff. By the gigabyte. By the dollar. By the curbside recycling bin. By the carload.
I’m stunned both by what I’ve saved and the sheer quantity of it. Yet it explains a lot of things. I’m learning heaps from letting it all go. (There has been much note-taking – notes that will likely find their way into future posts and programs.)
I wish I knew how much it all weighed.
Because with every load that leaves our house, I feel lighter. Freer. More in alignment. As these relics flow out, so does the pain – and new ideas and opportunities are flowing in. New energy. New optimism. New confidence. New excitement! [squee! I'm building an Atelier!]
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The next time your are feeling overwhelmed (maybe that’s right now) – ask yourself what specifically you have Too Much of. Is it too many activities and commitments? Too much stuff? Or are you coping with Too Much of the Old?
Removing the anachronisms in your business and life – not just your worldly belongings, but digital files, accounts, subscriptions and the like, maybe even a relationship or two – can shift what needs doing now from feeling impossible to doable – without having to rethink what needs doing now.
Removing what’s no longer in alignment with the present changes the circumstances in which you work and live – and that automatically shifts the relationship with your current activities.
You don’t have to undertake a comprehensive purge like I have. Just clearing one small area can lessen your sense of overwhelm. Start with the easy decisions. Handle the oldest messages in your inbox. Pull some old clothes out of a closet. File some papers. Donate a stack of books. Close a few accounts for services you don’t use anymore. Pass on the materials for that unfinished project to someone who is into that thing now the way you were then. Release an unused domain name. Find whatever is starting to make your refrigerator smell bad and throw it away.
Like me, you may feel you have more important things to do first. But if Too Much of the Old lies in the way of What Needs Doing Now, then it needs removing now – especially if you are feeling stuck or blocked. Movement – any kind of movement – begets movement. And releasing the Old allows the New to flow in much more easily.
My challenge to you: today, right now, identify and remove one anachronism from your business or life and see what happens. And if you like, share your results in the comments below.
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