The story of The Hammer as told by Paul Watzlawick in his book, ‘The Situation Is Hopeless, But Not Serious (The Pursuit Of Unhappiness)’ goes like this,
A man wants to hang a painting. He has the nail, but not the hammer. Therefore it occurs to him to go over to the neighbor and ask him to lend him his hammer. But at this point, doubt sets in.
What if he doesn’t want to lend me the hammer? Yesterday he barely spoke to me. Maybe he was in a hurry. Or, perhaps, he holds something against me. But why? I didn’t do anything to him.
If he would ask me to lend him something, I would at once. How can he refuse to lend me his hammer? People like him make other people’s life miserable. Worst, he thinks that I need him because he has a hammer. This has got to stop!
And suddenly the guy runs to the neighbor’s door, rings, and before letting him say anything, he screams: “You can keep your hammer, you bastard!”
Besides being hilarious, this story is enlightening! My sister read it to me a couple months ago and it gave me a crystal clear image of a mentally cluttered person. Clutter being the junk that floated around in the man’s head, causing him to jump to conclusions about his neighbor.
Mental clutter is like that, illusory and deceptive, causing us to believe the worst. It’s what keeps us fearful, anxious and pessimistic, trapped in a web of our own making.
What Is Mental Clutter?
What is the trash we hoard in our minds? Mental clutter.
Mental clutter is the stuff that keeps us stuck in self-sabotage, suffering, struggle, stress and separation. It is the stuff that makes life hard and complicated. It is the stuff that puts us at odds with everyone else.
Hidden where eyes can’t see, mental clutter lurks wherever peace and love don’t. As long as we’re cluttered, we’re resisting the flow and ease of life.
If you are not experiencing clarity, peace and love, you have mental clutter. It lives exclusively and elusively in your thoughts. It starts as headfog, cloudy and misleading, and evolves into something much bigger.
Clutter composes the stories we tell about ourselves that cripple our potential and attack our well-being. It says we can’t, we shouldn’t and we won’t. It gives cause for doubt and mistrust, leaving us feeling helpless in the world.
Clutter tells us lies of limitation and lack, rather than the truth of abundance and wealth.
When clutter builds up and blinds us to the ultimate Truth of who we are—without the limiting beliefs—we are the man in search of a hammer spiraling down the rabbit hole of story that says we aren’t good enough, we don’t deserve to be loved and we’ll never have what we want.
Truth is what’s left when we clear away that mess.
The Symptoms of Clutter
How do you know if you’re cluttered so you can begin to declutter?
Answer: whenever you notice in yourself any of these 8 symptoms of mental clutter:
Confusion is a lack of clarity and understanding; uncertainty. It is being unclear about something. It feels like being scatterbrained and out of sorts. It is the onslaught of worry and fear.
Chatter is the ongoing narrative in the back of our heads. It is noise. It is the jibbering, jabbering and everyday inner dialogue. Chatter feels like incessant mental dialogue, droning on in the background, curious and impatient.
Chaos is the complete disorder, disarray, disorganization and disruption in our heads. Chaos amounts to mental anarchy. It feels like having no order or organization amidst dissenting ideas and beliefs.
A condition is defined as a stipulation, prerequisite or requirement. Conditions are also the factors influencing the progression or outcome of a situation. They are the demands and expectations we place on ourselves and others. They feel like rules, boundaries and limits.
Collections are the gathering and grouping of objects. They are the stockpiling of prestige, security and comfort. They feel like trophies of acknowledgement and validation.
Comparisons are the formation of comparative or superlative judgments. Comparing is deliberately taking two things and pitting them against each other for the sake of choosing a preference, a winner. It feels like searching for bigger and better, like chasing faster and stronger.
Commitments are when energy is allocated to different causes or activities within a certain timeframe. We commit with both attention and action to all sorts of things: family, work, money, diet, dates, meetings, appointments, projects and more. It feels like filling the calendar with appointments and obligations.
Control is the power to influence behavior or the course of events. Through control, we seek to commandeer the performance and behavior of life and other people in order to reap our preferred outcome. It feels like managing and manipulating circumstances so that we are more comfortable.
The Goal of Decluttering
Clearing mental clutter and its 8 attendant symptoms is like peeling an onion.
Imagine we’re trying to peel off every layer to get to the innermost bulb. That’s what decluttering does for the mind; peels back every thought, every concept, every story. We peel away that which our cluttered thoughts made us believe (make-believe) to get down to our Truth.
We’ve all experienced moments of profound peace and love, clarity and connection—when all the layers are peeled away. Those moments of are glimpses of being clutter-free. Who doesn’t want more of that?
Yet we spend so much time focused on the body, getting it in the right shape, the right health. What we put in our mouths and how it affects our hips.
We spend so much time focused on work, productivity and output. What we can get done in a day and how it affects the bottom line.
We spend so much time focused on other people, how they’re helping or hindering us. What group of friends will fill our voids.
Meanwhile, we neglect our minds. But each area—body, career and relationships—hinges on the health of our minds. If we aren’t spending quality time nurturing the mind, clearing away the clutter and making room for clarity, we aren’t nurturing our health, our work, or our loved ones.
The ultimate goal of decluttering is clarity and peace. It is with clarity and peace that we move about with ease, excitement and freedom. We return to a state of innocence and presence, free from the burdens of stigma, dogma and drama that don’t serve the authenticity of who we are.
Our true potential, without the fear, the lack, the lies, is underneath the clutter. Underneath the junk that separates us from our neighbor.
Underneath the junk that keeps you from having any hammer you choose.
Includes excerpts taken from ‘The Declutter Code: 10 Simple Steps to Clarity’.