Clean up Your Messes

Every “mess” in your life creates additional stress.

I define a “mess” as any incomplete task, obligation, or other unresolved commitment.

Think of each “mess” as a program running on your computer.

Dirty dishes piled up in sink after a party

As you know, if you run too many programs at once on your computer (even tiny ones), eventually the computer slows down. It begins to perform at less than optimum levels.

Sometimes it even crashes.

Your brain works the same way. Keep too many programs open simultaneously, and at best your mind slows down. You become forgetful, edgy, irritable.

At worst, you “crash”.

When human beings crash, it shows up as depression, anxiety, and dysfunctional relationships. It shows up as totally irrational decisions that are self-destructive.

If you want to reduce the likelihood of a crash, one of the best things you can do is to clean up your messes.

Here’s one way to do that:

First, write down all your messes. You cannot clean up what you are not aware of. Write down everything that you think of that qualifies as a mess. It could be the book you promise to drop off at your brother’s house, the oil change you need to have done your car, or the argument you had with your parent that you need to apologize for. Big or small, a mess is a mess.

Now write down what needs to happen to clean up each mess. There’s no need to write an essay for any of this. A few evocative words will do wonders and serve the purpose. For instance, if the mass is something to do with an argument you had with your mom, and you know you need to apologize, your entry might be as simple as “apologize to mom”.

Then start cleaning up your messes.  I recommend starting with the small, easy ones. Getting a few quick victories under your belt gives you emotional momentum. If it will take less than two minutes, clean the mess up right now. The more of these messes you can clean up, even if it’s several tiny ones, the better you will feel. You’re probably not aware of how much bondage you are under to these tiny psychological “programs” that are running in the background of your mind.

If it will take longer than two minutes, schedule the cleanup of each mess in your calendar. Putting it in your calendar as an appointment dramatically increases the likelihood you will actually do it. And once you’ve gone through the entire list in either cleaned up the mess, or schedule the cleanup, you will feel incredibly light. The burden will have been lifted.

This may sound silly, and even a bit “touchy-feely”, but if you just trust me on this and give it a try I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Question: How many messes can you clean up today?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Great thoughts, Ray. Love the computer analogy. I find that when I lett messes pile up too high, I end up managing my commitment to each one rather than making progress on any of them.

    Great challenge for today! Time for some Spring Cleaning 🙂

    • I’ve been doing a little spring cleaning myself, Justin. Thanks for stopping by.

  • Outstanding Post, Ray… I’ve cleaned up many a ‘mess’ over the years, and since helping to clean up after the demise of others, my father and brother included, and especially after ‘I’ nearly ‘checked out’ last November… I now do my best to keep in mind whether or not I am ‘Good to Go’… whether it be to Go Out, or Go on a Trip, or to ‘GO’… to ‘The Other Side’… because one thing’s for certain… Any ‘mess’ WILL require cleaning up… the question is Who will do it and do I Really want to Leave it for Another to do? The sooner we clear our messes, the better because None of us are guaranteed Tomorrow AND with Less Mess, we are More Free … I think I can hear Richie Havens’ ‘Freedom’, now 🙂

    • Jim, good thoughts, especially the question of leaving messes for others to clean up. Thanks!

  • This is such a great post, Ray. It’s amazing how much these messes weigh us down and keep us from moving forward. And the more we slow down, the more messes we have to deal with. It’s surprising how much just writing them all down helps.

    With the bigger messes that are especially overwhelming, I’ve found that it helps to say to myself, “If I was going to spend just five minutes on this project, what would I do?” I’m not even saying that I WILL spend five minutes, but IF. And naturally, when I come up with that little piece of the task, it’s so simple, that I often go ahead and do it. And then I may as well do the next five minute piece of the task, etc.

    Having said that, I have several messes that I need to clean up, so I better go make that list!

    • Rebecca, that is such a great distinction. Thanks for sharing it.

  • William McPeck

    Nice of you to show us a picture of the kitchen sink in the RV Ray. It goes well with the message!