When I was a kid, my mom and I played a game. We hid a little rubberized clown named Bendable Buddy around the house in odd places for the other to find. Whomever hid him last often heard peals of laughter and knew instantly he had been discovered.
We tried to be clever with our hiding places. I tied him to the blade of the ceiling fan. Mom squeezed him in the egg carton. It was so much fun trying to outwit each other. Sometimes we caught each other in the act and had to abandon our plan. The hilarity continued for years.
I moved out when I was 18, but still lived in town. Mom of course was a frequent visitor and so was Bendable Buddy. She would sneak him in; on the lookout for a covert spot, me pretending I didn’t know what was going on. As soon as she left, the search began and still giggling over the cleverness of wherever he was discovered, I would call her so we could share the joy of our ritual. And then I always made sure he always found his way home to her again!
Bendable Buddy was quite the traveler too. His early journeys included Canada, around the United States and a Caribbean cruise, stowed away discreetly in my suitcase. I sent him to the Bahamas with her and dad. The search for him became as much of a game as hiding him.
I hadn’t thought about Bendable Buddy in a long while. He had been packed up with all my parents belongings that were stored in my garage when they moved to an Assisted Living Facility nearly a decade ago. Mom had been ill several years before that and no longer drove. The game had not been on our radar for some time.
After my parents passed away, most of their things were brought to my home, boxes and boxes of memories stored in our garage. I still haven’t been able to go through all the boxes. There are some memories I’m not prepared to deal with yet.
Then he appeared on day. I found him inside a drawer in a rolling cabinet in my kitchen that my dad had made, tucked in next to the silverware. The tears flowed and I broke out in a huge grin at the same time.
For weeks he sat on my dresser, his happy face greeting mine every day. Bendable Buddy may be just a toy to some, but to me he is a an important memory I shared with my mom. He reminds me of silly mother-daughter times, giggling and feeling loved. He helps me remember the twinkle in my mom’s eye and her beautiful smile and, how much I miss her.
Memories are powerful. They evoke so many emotions. But most importantly, they connect us to the people in our lives and the events we experience. They tell the tale of our past and shape our future too.
Our stories are composed of our memories. They are created with family or friends, or our own private journey. They bring joy, evoke tears and fill our heart.
Silly old clown. I’m so glad I opened that drawer.
Clutter. How do you define it? The drawer that needs to be cleaned out? The pile of shoes that hasn’t been put away and is blocking the doorway? The stack of old mail and junk littering the counter, or the stuff acquired over the years you can’t seem to let go of?
There can be business clutter too. Old office equipment that slows down the efficiency of your business. Ideas that don’t work any more but you stick with them because they feel comfortable.
Or relationships that have gone to the wayside for a variety of reasons. We all know people we are no longer in alignment with and whose energy brings us down.
Sometimes we have to get rid of those things that aren’t working any more in order to move forward with ones that are. Your clutter can actually be holding you back from your success.
Brain overload is clutter too. We have about 50,000 independent thoughts each day, all fighting for attention. Too much to do, to think about, to process and the sheer overwhelm can stop us in our tracks.
Cleaning out a drawer and replacing an old computer or printer are tasks that we can see and touch. They may seem more practical and easier to tackle, although there can be many layers of emotions tied to holding on to them.
But the other stuff, the non-physical, suck-your-energy-at-every-turn clutter can’t be packed into a box and stored or donated.
When I have too much on my mind, I can’t sort through what I need to be doing next. My thoughts overtake my day and I don’t sleep well because I can’t find the off switch to my brain. I end up rehashing the day’s events, thinking about tomorrow and tossing and turning all night. I’m a wreck the next day.
Can you relate?
Time to purge the jumbled mess in my head and the most effective way I’ve found is a writing process I learned from my business coach Dixie Gillaspie, called a Brain Dump.
Writing down absolutely everything that is whirling around in my head for me, is in essence, a deep cleanse. It is the chemical-free Drano that unclogs the goo that keeps me stuck. It calms me down and soothes the wild energy going on upstairs as my thoughts, words and incomplete sentences fill the page.
Here Are My 3 Essential Steps to a Successful Brain Dump.
1. Secure Your Environment
Find a place where you are not distracted. If you use a computer to do your writing, stay off social media. No TV. No conversations. No interruptions.
2. Unleash the Beast
Write. Whatever is on your mind, write it down. Free flow your thoughts. No editing. No organizing. No judging. No holding back. Just write.
3. Wash, Rinse, Repeat
As you purge and open your mind and the page begins to fill, new ideas may crop up. Write those down too.
When the pressure from the floodgate has subsided as words fill the page, you can examine, sort and massage the information into projects or categories as need be. Without a multitude of other ideas fighting for attention in your head, you should be able to work on those you committed to writing with more clarity
And hopefully, like me, you will enjoy a great night’s sleep.
Previously appeared on The Huffington Post