By Tiffany Waddell Tate (’07, MA ‘11), Associate Director for National Engagement in the Alumni Engagement Office at Wake Forest University
Tiffany Waddell Tate is also a career coach & professional development consultant, passionate about helping others develop themselves while adding value to organizations and the world. Stay connected on Twitter @tiffanyiwaddell or at www.tiffanywaddell.com to continue the conversation.
Recently, I participated in a 30-day decluttering challenge on social media. The charge was simple: take action each day on a small task that would streamline your physical, mental, and digital space. It seemed pretty simple, since each task promised to take only 15 minutes or less, all designed to eliminate clutter in your life or refresh your daily routine in order to maximize each day. As I embarked on the challenge, I was also preparing to pack up our home and transition to a new professional role and city. As a full-time professional, wife, and mom to a high energy two year old…Let’s just say I was hoping to create more space in our lives for clarity, fun, and peace. Now that the dust has settled and I reflect on the process, I am happy to share that what I found on the other side of the experience was even sweeter than I had imagined:
Space to Think
An early task on the challenge list was to walk our house with a trash bag (or two) and collect empty bottles, old receipts and papers – and be ruthless on the quest to eliminate unnecessary items at home. Generally, I’m not a pack rat and I kind of dig minimalism (though I continually fail at building a capsule wardrobe, regardless of how many Pinterest boards I create for inspiration…) During the early days of college, I learned pretty quickly that I do my best work in visually appealing spaces with lots of natural light and not a lot of “stuff” (read: junk) to distract me. If you check out my desk at work, you’ll find a few touchstones that have deep meaning to me – but generally speaking, everything has its place. This was my approach to home life, too…but as many of you may know from personal experience, many things change when you throw partners and tiny humans into the mix. Shifting priorities as a parent is not always a bad thing, but I was excited to re-focus my energy on assessing our home and getting rid of anything that didn’t need to follow us to our new home! The result? Less items to pack and move, less items to clean, and more organized spaces to promote visual/mental calm – just the recipe I needed to kick start my creativity and close one chapter to start fresh on a new one.
One of my favorite tasks on the challenge was filtering through my email box and unsubscribing from email lists you are no longer interested in. Random retail store digital coupons, anyone? No thanks! Unroll.me was the tool I leveraged to help me do this efficiently. After unsubscribing from 149 (and counting) email lists, and rolling 14 others into a daily digest that gives me the highlights from the subscriptions I’m interested in – my personal email inbox is manageable once again, and my response time to important emails is much faster. An additional benefit to decluttering digital spaces is that you eliminate the number of micro distractions you have each day, which limits distractions and anxiety or mental strain associated with an overload of (unnecessary) information. The same can be done for social media accounts that you follow – if it makes you feel bad about yourself, or you spend way too much time looking at it, delete it. You can curate and control your digital experience and the way it impacts your day to day.
Room for Growth
I was pleasantly surprised as I worked through each day of the challenge that some of the tasks were already part of my daily practice to maximize time and efficiently juggle home, work, and life. However, there were many tasks on the list that reframed how I thought about “life hacks” that make it easier to navigate busy or stressful seasons in your life. Did I mention we have a toddler at home? Not only does that lead to unpredictability at times – she is also a major motivation for me to create enough margin in our lives to live in the moment and enjoy this season with each other. While I want her to grow up and appreciate the value of hard work, and see that she has two parents who love her deeply…I don’t want her to grow up and only remember her parents as workaholics or neat freaks. I don’t always get it right, but I am grateful to have taken this challenge and identified pressure points that require tweaks so I can be fully present wherever I am throughout the day.
This challenge reminded me that balance is important – and priorities are key. Throwing a load of laundry in before our daughter wakes up for the day, and tossing it in the dryer before we walk out the door to school allows me to finish something on my to-do list, and maximize my time with her while she is awake. This example isn’t earth shattering – but for me, it matters more than anything right now. I have room for growth, and I’m looking forward to creating and embracing a clutter free approach to life ahead.
What strategies do you employ to clear the clutter from your life?