Bound To The Past

Leftovers from yesterday, last week, last month or last year clog up your space and keep you from living in the present moment. Clear up the open loops from past projects and you are better able to deal with your current projects and activities. Live in the present moment, not bound to the past by items cluttering your space and your life.

Holdovers From The Past

Here is a thought that occurred to me the other day as I contemplated the stacks of papers, files, books, and other detritus covering my desk and work space. This clutter, these holdovers from the past, keep me from living fully in the present.

The unfiled papers, the books that haven’t been put away, and all the other clutter and debris keep me bound to the past and make it difficult to function in the present moment. As long as those stacks are there, I have open loops [1] — unfinished business. It is difficult to remain in the present moment, in the Now, with so many open loops.

Clutter Saps Willpower

Add to that thought the fact that working in a neat environment has been shown to boost self-control and willpower.

In one study, a group of participants was interviewed in a clean, uncluttered lab. Another group was interviewed in a room that would have gotten a teenager put on restriction.

The first group showed more self-control in such things as postponing an immediate reward to gain a bigger reward in the future. Or when offered a choice of snacks, they frequently chose fruit over sugary junk food.

The group in the messy room typically opted for the smaller immediate reward. And they chose the junk food. [Baumeister and Tierny]

As Within, So Without

Third, I remembered the “As within, so without” law. This principle tells us that our external world is a reflection of our internal world.

If your external world is peaceful and ordered, then your inner life is peaceful and ordered. If your inner life is chaotic, your external world is likely to be a mess.

Bound To The Past By Clutter

I now had three very good reasons to clean up my act. This gave me the push I needed to start cleaning up some of these ties to past projects that were keeping me bound to the past and unable to fully function in the present.

Here are the techniques I’ve learned and use to help me bring clutter under control.

Start Small & Throw Out The Trash

Start small. None us wants to give up a whole day of our life to the drudgery of organizing. Consequently, we don’t do it. Give yourself an hour or two to organize your closet, garage, desk, or whatever. You can do more later.

Begin with one section of a room or a closet, or one corner of the garage, or one desk drawer. Whatever you choose, pick an area and begin. Just getting started in one small area can give you the momentum to carry the job through to completion.

Throw out everything that is obviously trash. Real trash; broken toys, electronics, tools, etc.; outdated papers, catalogs, and magazines; any weird gadgets that you have never used and will never use; clothes that are ragged or torn and can’t be mended.

Divide And Conquer

Get three big trash bags. One is for any trash that you didn’t find in your initial “trash run”, one is for the things that you will give away (or sell at a yard sale or consignment shop), and one is for the things you want to keep. You don’t have to use actual trash bags, but you need some way to separate the three areas — throw away, give away, put away (i.e., keep).

As you fill the bags, boxes, or whatever you are using, move the “throw away” and “give away” bags out of the house. Put the throw aways into the garbage and put the give aways into your car to drop off at the donation center or to take to the person you are giving them to, as soon as possible.

Keep Clutter Under Control

Once you get all the clutter out of the house and out of your life, you can begin the process of organizing the things you plan to keep and use.

Finally, once clutter is under control, keep it under control. A rule of thumb: When you bring in something new, get rid of something old. Make a habit of tossing junk mail as soon as you bring it in the house, and throw away newspapers more than 3 days old, or magazines more than 6 months old.

Free To Be Here Now

Don’t allow leftovers from yesterday, last week, last month or last year to clog up your space and keep you from living in the present moment. Plan in clean up time after you finish a project or activity.

As you clear up the open loops from past projects, you find yourself better able to deal with your current projects and activities. You are living in the present moment, no longer bound to the past by items cluttering your space and your life. That is embracing the Excelerated Life™!

The Organizing Excelerator is a tool that can help you become “well enough” organized. The Organizing Excelerator consists of ten areas where organization is beneficial: Home, Office, Personal, Financial, Paper, Time, Clutter, Storage Areas, Computer, and General. Each area has ten principles, strategies, and actions to help you become better organized in that area. The goal is to become “well enough organized” so that you can find what you need when you need it and bring more order into your life. The Organizing Excelerator is available free of charge to newsletter subscribers.

Excelerated Simplicity™ — freeing yourself from unnecessary complexity — is one step in creating your Excelerated Life™, a life of flourishing and well-being, meaning, and purpose.

Read more about the Excelerated Life™.


[1] My understanding and use of “open loops” comes from David Allen’s i-Getting Things Done. (See Resources.)


Allen, David. Getting Things Done. New York: Penguin Books, 2001

Baumeister, Roy F. and John Tierney. Willpower – Rediscovering The Greatest Human Strength. New York: The Penguin Press, 2011

bound to the past by clutter

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