Self-imposed Time Clutter

"Hi Brooks --

Can you write about time clutter? This time of year, I take time off of work to be with my son, but I end up filling the schedule with not-so-urgent errands and social "have-to's" that aren't really that important. I understand that they're not critical right now, but I also see that I act a little desperate when I'm defending them to my son. He just wants to "hang out" and have "down time" and it seems like I'm afraid of that for some reason! So what do you have to say about self-imposed time clutter?


A grateful blog reader."

This is a stressful time of year. Lots of people are especially anxious and agitated about getting everything done in time. It can feel like panic. It's hard because it becomes more of an obligation than a choice. It doesn't seem like there's an option to say no. And it's easy to get swept up in the desperation because it's in the air. You're not alone.

What helps is noticing that you are in pain. It's the first red flag of clutter. Something is making you uncomfortable. Sometimes we try and push this feeling away so we can get through it. But the discomfort from clutter is just as legitimate as the pain of a broken bone. It's a part of us that is saying, "This is not good for me, please fix this."

"Not-so-urgent" errands and social "have-to's" say a lot. It means they are not serving you. They're a hindrance because they are taking away your peace of mind. They are intruding on what matters to you, which is your relationship with your son. It takes away from your connection with him.

The why's of clutter are not important, the effects are. It's okay to say no to something that hurts us and takes away from the things that bring us joy. I've learned to say no to Holiday parties that don't feel like fun. I used to think that if I said no, the hosts would be upset at me. But then I'd find myself at a party wishing that I wasn't there and thinking, "This is a legitimate reason for the hosts to be upset at me."

Lastly you said you're afraid to hang-out and have down time. Maybe you're having a hard time with empty space. When we're left without distractions we become aware of our feelings and needs. That can be overwhelming if we're not used to the openness. But the more we take the time and nourish ourselves, it starts to feel normal and essential. We need rest. Kids are good at taking it easy. Your son is a good example. It's worth "hanging-out" with him and seeing how it feels.