One Bag Nation

Clutter & All or Nothing Thinking

Posted on: June 8, 2008

You’ve finally decided to tackle the clutter weighing you down. You’re standing at the door of your closet, staring at the piles, and you suddenly decide: “I can’t do any of this if I can’t do all of it – right now!!” but you don’t have time to do all of it – so you give up entirely.

That’s an example of All or Nothing Thinking – and it can derail us from achieving all sorts of goals.

Many of us are (sadly) very familiar with this kind of thinking related to our food and fitness plans. One cookie, or one missed workout – and we give up – and we often fall off the wagon in a big, bad way.

“I ate one cookie and blew my diet so I might as well eat 10 more”. OR, “I didn’t get to the gym this morning so I might as well abandon my exercise program”.

Don’t let All or Nothing Thinking get in the way of creating some order for yourself! If you’re facing a big organizing job, make peace with the idea that it will take you a while to complete it. While it’s true that the mess may get worse before it gets better, if you keep at it – even in small bursts of work – you will get it done. So much better than the alternative of working like a fiend for two hours until you can’t stand it anymore, and then never going back to finish the project because it was so miserable! Or giving up completely before you’ve even started.

Clearing clutter can feel completely overwhelming; I know because I’ve been there. I used to set aside whole weekends to “get my house in order”, but it didn’t work; I just couldn’t sustain my energy or focus. I still have some piles of paper and files from my last marathon session – at least three years ago.

But now I practice what I’m preaching: I work for short periods of time (sometimes just 5 minutes) and I stop when I feel paralyzed and can’t make good decisions anymore. Slowly but surely I’m clearing out the clutter and gaining order, serenity and peace of mind.


11 Responses to "Clutter & All or Nothing Thinking"

HI Ann,

That’s what I’m doing now too. I’m getting ready for a garage sale (in July), and take a drawer or cabinet (whenever I have some spare time), and throw into a box, that which I no longer have a need for.

I’m thinking of the $$$$ I’ll make, so it’s easier to let go of stuff I don’t use, or haven’t used for a long time.

My husband can’t stand doing yard sales, so I’m going the consignment and Craig’s List route!

I think this is a great way of handling it.

As always in life, seeing things as “black or white” or “all or nothing” tends to be counter-productive.

You’re right, Vered. “Black and white” thinking is limiting and unimaginative at best, and it’s downright harmful if it prevents us from reaching our goals and living fully.

I really like this post and I should tape the message up somewhere, so that I will remember it. I tend to give up to easy.

Sandra – I like the idea of taping the message somewhere – and I’m flattered! But don’t be too hard on yourself – our culture and lifestyle seem designed to make us feel that we should be doing more, faster, better all the time.

Be kind to yourself, break your projects down into manageable pieces, and see what happens.

And by the way, I’ve peeked at your blog and you seem like a very productive and creative person – not someone who “gives up”!

I hear what you’re saying… I agree with what you’re saying… I just can’t actually DO what you’re saying.

I’m a total all-or-nothing girl.

It’s my natural inclination too, but it hasn’t served me very well.

Becoming a mom has helped somewhat because I had to learn how to tackle projects in small bits of time. Then I discovered flylady, and now the blog is helping.

I’m far from cured, but there’s hope!

By the way, I’m a FlyLady fan as well. I don’t follow her steps exactly, but she has certainly given me inspiration. Isn’t it amazing what you can accomplish in 15 minutes???

I’d really be in trouble without flylady. I don’t follow it exactly either (by any stretch) but the 5-minute room rescues, meal plans, desk day and a few other tricks are lifesavers.

[…] little steps add up to something big. This is a major shift for me; I’m much more prone to “all or nothing thinking”, despite the fact that it does’t really work, in any areas of my […]

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