Noise and Clutter

 ©EmilyScott

©EmilyScott

Lately, I have been talking about the noise and clutter that exists in the world and its distraction from what we need/want to pay attention to.  The ruse of loudness and the promise of possessions has let our eyes and minds veer from our priorities.

I have a vivid memory of my mother standing in the doorway of my teenage-trinket-troll-laden bedroom asking, “how can you think in all this clutter?”   She was right, my mind wandered and my eyes surveyed not the homework I was to focus on but on the ‘stuff’ that surrounded me.

Recently a dear friend, Alan Storey, who describes himself as a gospel story teller, said in his Sunday sermon, “the devil is the cacophony of noises within ourselves.”  He went on to explain that the word devil in Greek means deceiver and that we are wrestling within ourselves for the truth.  

People who can jump from “point A” to “point Z” faster than the rest of us have always impressed me.  Those who can laser focus on the details that are important to move towards a solution, for example, and ignore the clutter of unnecessary information.  Those who can read the math test questions that are story problems and quickly determine the needed facts to arrive at the answer while the rest of us consider how many people are sitting on the train.

For adults with disposable income, the opportunity to attract and attain noise and clutter is even greater.  For many of us, we race to yoga and meditative practices for mindfulness and health, which seems to be somewhat paradoxical.
 
Years ago, a friend and I were shopping and she found a sweater she liked. When she asked, “do I really need this, “my response was, “we passed need a long time ago.”

When you don’t ‘need’ to do something – create a budget for example – what compels you to act?  I would offer that perhaps the need is not for the obvious, determining how your money is spent, but to quiet some of your own noise and clutter.

Given my work, I thought about this in terms of what I facilitate for clients and what I hear from them.  Nobody wants to spend money foolishly, at least no one I have met.  The reluctance of balancing statements, creating budgets, financial planning/learning comes from another place.   I know very smart people whose eyes cross when I ask about balancing their checkbook.  Yet these same people have told me that they, too, have a fear of running out of money.  

The lack of understanding your financial picture, when that unknowing weighs on your mind, generates excess noise in your life.  Our inner bag lady feasts on noise and clutter as she spins the wheels in our heads.

Between my tinnitus and my bag lady, I have way too much noise in my head; even before the rest of the world descends upon me!

  Multi-Messages | Photo credit: Emily Scott

Multi-Messages | Photo credit: Emily Scott

How often have you walked into a grocery store without a list, roamed the aisles, and walked out with more items than you expected to buy. Creating a budget, reconciling your accounts is very much like creating your shopping list.  You allow yourself the time to think about what you want and need.  You check your pantry for what you already have and what is almost gone or is already missing.

On some level, it is not more complicated than that.  In the quest to declutter and quiet, I offer some helpful ways to reconcile wants versus needs, and reduce the bag lady volume: 

  • Invest in a program that can track your spending and your accounts (ex. Quicken, MINT). For a small fee, you can begin to create a history of how you spend money.  If you want to go old school, keep a spending journal.  

  • Ask yourself - without judgement - do you “want” or “need” whatever you are buying?  If it is in the want category, ask if you really want it.  If your answer is an emphatic yes, go for it (assuming you can afford it)!  If your answer is not as confident, give yourself the luxury of time to think about whether or not you want to purchase.

  • Think about your values and if the way you are spending your wealth is in concert with them.  

  • Are your financial platforms and spending habits sustainable? An accountant or financial planner can help forecast your financial life plan.

  • Take a look at your account statements.  Financial institutions keep modifying their statements to make them easier to read and understand.  Statements are a synopsis of your finances.  Knowledge is a wonderful thing!

  • BREATH.  I know, sounds easy.  It is amazing how shallow our breath becomes when the noises get loud.