Have you ever been on a road trip, driving down a long stretch of highway, and suddenly become mindful of where you are and what you’re doing? You don’t know where the last few minutes went, but you are instantly aware that you had zoned out for awhile. You weren’t asleep; you just weren’t alert or present to the task at hand.
I’ve been on the Metro and had a similar experience. I’ve ridden past my stop because my mind was focused on something that had happened earlier or wasn’t focused on anything at all. I was absentminded because I wasn’t mindful of what I was currently doing.
When we operate on auto-pilot in our lives, we cease to be aware of what is happening right now. A man on the street will hand you a flier for a shoe sale, and you’ll put it into your pocket without thinking twice. Then, the flier clutters up your coat pocket for days, maybe weeks, because you don’t even remember it is there. Had you been mindful when you were on the street, you wouldn’t have taken the flier in the first place.
A significant amount of clutter in our homes could be eliminated simply by being more mindful in the present. Mindfulness helps you to make significantly fewer impulse buys, you throw out junk mail before bringing it into your house, and when you spot clutter already in your home you take care of it immediately (recycle it, trash it, put it in a donation box) instead of pushing it aside and letting it continue to bother you. I’ve also found that if I’m tired, I’m more likely to be absentminded. (There is a direct correlation between how many typos make it onto Unclutterer and how much sleep I had the night before I edited the article.) Keeping up energy levels helps a great deal with being mindful.
If you’re not in the practice of staying mindful, consider temporarily putting up post-it notes around your home or office that say “What are you doing right now?” A note on your computer monitor, one on your bathroom mirror, another near your mailbox, and another one on the door of your microwave are good places to start. A second idea might be setting a timer on your computer with a recorded voice saying “What are you doing?” to sound every 15 minutes. Also, keeping up your energy levels is a plus.
What do you do to help you stay mindful in the present? I’ve tried the post-it note idea and had decent success with that strategy. However, I found I needed to change the post-it note every few days (switch up my handwriting, change to a different color of paper, and move the location slightly) so that they continued to grab my attention.