The 15 Minute Miracle
I'm changing a massive amount with a minimal time commitment: my ability to focus, my organizational systems, the energy in my home, how I approach my business, my emotional and spiritual health. I'm changing all of this and more in just 15 minutes, 3 days a week. It's a literal crazy miracle. Here's how it all began...
I bought a course in intuitive development last fall and have been slowly working my way through it. At the very beginning of the course, instructor Beau Maxwell (creator of the SAGE Method) mentions the mental cost of clutter. I glossed over the information; I'm already aware that clutter is a sneaky thief. I'm naturally organized. This. Does. Not. Apply. To. Me.
This resistance should have been my first clue. Anything you're tempted to dismiss out of hand is a big red flag, waving at your internal fighting bull. There is pawing and snorting going on, without a doubt. But even a pro misses the signs from time to time. I didn't note the resistance, so I went on gaily waving my flag, ignoring the hot bull breath on the back of my neck.
Fast forward a few lessons and Maxwell again mentions how costly clutter is to intuitive development. She uses the analogy of hamsters on wheels. Every single item your brain has to keep track of is like one hamster, running on its own wheel. The more hamsters, the harder your brain has to work to keep track of them all, spinning like tops all day long. In order to "hear" your intuition, you have to quiet some of the noise from those hamster wheels. And guess what creates hamsters faster than their own natural breeding practices?
Here, further into the course, Maxwell offers an exercise for reducing clutter. It's so simple. Almost too simple. So simple that it's easy to dismiss (I know, because I did). She suggests making a complete list of every single thing you need to do to declutter your space. Then work through your list, 15 minutes at a time. When I read this, I gave the idea a bit more thought than I had originally. But I didn't write anything on the list provided in my study guide.
However, in spite of my continued resistance, the seed was now firmly planted in my mind. I'd walk into my office and see my messy bookshelf and think "I wish that was cleaned up." The sun would shine in through the living room windows and highlight the dust on my ceiling fan and I'd think "I really need to find the time to clean that." I'd climb the stairs to go to bed and see the pile of clothes that I've been meaning to post for sale (for about 9 months) and think "I really need to get rid of that stuff."
The hamsters were popping up everywhere! Running ever so fast on their little wheels. Maybe they saw the bull I was ignoring?!
Here's my real, actual truth: I am a tidy, organized person. All of my papers are filed in my file cabinet. Which hadn't been cleaned out in so long that I actually had to lift the files out of the drawer to add to them. I clean my house every weekend. But the deep cleaning (hello, ceiling fan) hasn't been done in a couple of years. There are no clothes in my closet that I wouldn't wear. But there were a ton (3 garbage bags, as it turns out) that I don't wear.
And now that I had started noticing these things, I was also noticing a pretty strong desire to do something about them. In truth, the desire was always there. Every time I opened the file cabinet. Or walked by the pile of clothes at the top of the stairs. Or noticed the dust on my baseboards, the recipes that need to be added to my book, the clothes in my closet that never got worn. These things were pulling at my attention. I was just choosing to ignore the drain on my mental and spiritual energy.
OK, so there IS a red flag here. I AM being stalked by a large animal mass. It's not really a bull. It more like bull$#!+. It's all these things that I need to pay attention to! And they truly are affecting me.
Fine. [Crosses arms and huffs]
So...I made the list. Just as Maxwell suggested. I literally walked from room to room in my home. I stood in each room and wrote down every deep cleaning and decluttering chore that needed to be done. I filled five pages of paper with the chores I'd been ignoring. And then I started committing three 15 minute sessions each week to doing them.
I finished my list and began working on crossing off items on February 21st. I am beyond mind boggled on how impactful this has been! First, I've crossed off several major items already: my dresser and closets are completely cleaned out. As I mentioned, I filled three trash bags with clothing to donate. I filled a corner cabinet in my office with actual things--photos, books, mementos. Before it was filled with...dust. It's been in that corner for 7 years! With nothing in it!!! My filing cabinet is nearly empty. I tossed a huge stack of papers and put literal pounds of records in storage in the basement. I have to be careful when I open the drawer now; it's so light that I yank the cabinet across the floor if I don't pay attention.
And I've started many other projects. The messy office bookshelf has been partly emptied. I posted some of those clothes at the top of the stairs for sale. I cleaned out two cabinets in my kitchen. I've started going through my jewelry, tossing broken items that can't be repaired, giving away what I don't wear, and making a pile of things to be fixed.
But it's not the completion of the tasks that's been miraculous. It's what I'm learning as I complete them. Starting with the life altering idea that you can actually get massive projects accomplished 15 minutes at a time. Please give this Type A girl a moment to find the pieces of her skull...
Seriously. The idea that I could begin a project one day and complete it another is earth shaking for me. Even more skull splitting? I can work on other things in between! Perhaps you were always able to operate in this fashion, but not me. I AM organized, perhaps to a fault. I tend towards rigidity. My old tendencies would have had me put the list in some sort of order and then complete it that way--in order. Start Task A. Continue uninterrupted until finished. Begin Task B. Continue uninterrupted until finished. And so on. To find that I can still get things accomplished with ZERO structure in my approach is one of the most liberating realizations of my life.
I actually look forward to these 15 minute interludes. And whether or not I complete any specific task, I feel accomplished, relieved, and lighter when my timer goes off to say I'm done for the day. This quarter hour is often the most satisfying part of my day!
I have no idea how long it will take to get to the end of the list. The reality of cleaning tells me that, by the time I get to the end, things I cleaned early on will already be due for another wash, spiff, or polish. But it doesn't matter. Because now I understand the value of small action. I'm free to begin, stop, and begin again at any time. It's clear to me that big things can be accomplished in tiny increments of time. Now I see the miracle in 15 minutes, and that has changed everything.