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The Future Self & The Toddler Mind

Updated: Mar 19

How to inhabit our own minds as a tool for decluttering.

When I was a teenager and in my twenties, I was a relentless abuser of my body - crashing down ski slopes, smashing my head on ice while teaching myself to snowboard, drinking and smoking (the heavy stuff and unfiltered), and shunning all veggies except iceberg lettuce and potatoes. And that's just a bit of it.

Occasionally I'd joke to friends, "this is going to hurt when I'm 40," but that was sooo far away, you know?

Well, I'm past 40...and it hurts!

But it could hurt a lot worse, my house could be a lot bigger mess, and my ailments could be a lot more intense.

Somewhere along the way I connected with my Future Self, the one who will either pay the price or enjoy the benefits of what I do each day and each moment.

Each moment we have the opportunity to help our Future Self enjoy more freedom and time...or give them more work to do.

When we leave our dishes to do later, we add to what our Future Self has to do.

When we set the mail down to deal with later, we make the piles bigger for our Future Self.

When we eat the crap food, we add to the weight and subtract from the health of our Future Self.

I'm no perfectly organized, healthy saint! I haven't completely changed my ways...

But I inhabit my own mind a lot more often now, and I work with my decluttering clients on practicing this, too, as not being present is a major source of clutter and frustration.

Rather than let my mind constantly spin on it's own with no direction, I tune in more often to what I'm doing, like zooming in on a camera.

It's fascinating to watch what my brain does when I'm not paying attention - it's like watching a toddler toodle around the house.

She grabs one thing, plays with it for a couple minutes, sets it down, stuffs some cake in her mouth, picks something else up, moves it to somewhere else, gets distracted by this thing over here, then goes in that room, does a something over there, stuffs some more cake in her mouth, then sits down and zones out to a show while punching away at little buttons on a phone.

And she's exhausted at the end of the day but doesn't want to go to bed!

I don't have kids of my own, but I've been a preschool teacher and have worked with kids much of my life - it's uncanny how closely my unmanaged mind matches the behavior of a toddler.

So how to get this toddler to put her toys away, pick up her room and NOT eat all the cake without being the mean mom?

Redirect, redirect, redirect.

First, I don't keep cake in the house anymore - I keep a bowl of fruit and a jar of salty seeds on the counter instead. The toddler in me can't resist the temptation!

And while working with toddlers, I felt like I was constantly redirecting, just like I do in my mind when I'm decluttering...

"Nope, we're not playing with the phone right now, we're picking up our toys..." (as I smile and swap a toy for the phone in their hands).

"I understand you want to play right now, but right now we're picking up our toys - I promise we'll get to play later!" (as I hold their hand and lead them to where we're picking up)

To get things done, just like keeping a child safe and focused on what I'd like them to do (or not do), I watch and redirect my mind.

Am I always present? Definitely not.

Do I try to be? Absolutely.

Do I need to just check out sometimes to rest my watching brain? Yes, but I plan my when my down time will be and use it as a motivator.

A major part of not allowing clutter to rule over our lives is learning to choose our actions in each moment, rather than blindly doing whatever jumps out at us or moving by rote habit.

If you've tried meditating, you know how challenging it can be to sit for even two minutes and focus on breath or a thought.

I felt like there must be something wrong with me for years! But I've learned this is a human challenge, not a personal one.

Our brains have evolved to multi-task, to manage many things coming at us at once, to use both hands to do something while our minds think about something else.

It takes effort to manage our minds and focus, to finish what we start.

And it takes focus to do one thing at a time so we can complete something rather than do many things partway.

It's so much more satisfying when we complete something, right?

  • A completely clear sink feels a lot better than a partially clear sink.

  • A fully organized drawer feels better than a partly organized drawer.

  • A fully empty dishwasher is a lot easier to load than a partly empty one.

However...the completely eaten cake doesn't necessarily feel better than the partly eaten cake, so I guess this idea can't be used for everything!

I challenge you to watch your mind and see what it's up to as often as possible throughout the day.

And I challenge you to see if you can finish something you've wanted to finish today without mind drama.

Redirect, redirect, redirect. Gently, kindly, encouragingly.

What we see around us and feel within us now are the results of past actions and experiences.

What will you do today to help you feel better tomorrow, and tomorrow, and five years from now?

Good luck, have fun, and let me know how it goes!

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a toddler brain to catch...

(Yes, this is me as a little girl)



PS - Please remember that I'm here for you! Reach out if you have questions and/or you feel stuck.

There's no need to struggle with clutter anymore - you're not alone and I can help you feel better right away.

For inspiration and organizing tips in your in-box, join my e-newsletter, Illuminations. Inspiration only, no spam, I promise.

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