Mental Decluttering Collection

The Newspaper team reflects in their own struggles and hacks into decluttering their lives for their own wellness

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By: Jacob Himmelhoch, Natalia Zambrowicz, Corrina Fowlow, Frida Mar

Jacob Himmelhoch (Illustration Editor)

It’s about time that I admit that I have some habits and pastimes that are quickly becoming cancerous to my time and, more importantly, my personal development. In the face of severely harrowing emotions and all-time mental health lows, addictive social media and video games are a means by which I am finding myself unconsciously attempting to stay completely numb for as long as I can get away with. Most likely, I spend the majority of my day either absentmindedly glued to my Twitter feed or feverishly playing any video game designed to ve played endlessly and distracting the rest of my consciousness with the pleasant din of a podcast to ensure I cannot think or feel anything. Cyclically pivoting between these two utter wastes of time, my days float by without a modicum of progress made towards myself nor towards actually confronting the problems paining me. However when It’s time to go to sleep, and there is nothing to numb the pain, it all comes back to me almost with a vengeance, and this nightly reintroduction catapults me back into a desperate need for that numbness. I reenter the cycle until I’m too tired to even continue, fall asleep before I can think about it, and wake up to the sun setting, missing all my lectures and any reason to escape my room. Day in and day out this has continued, and what was once innocuous comfort has become insidiously problematic. I desperately need to break this cycle, so, this week, I’m cutting both video games and social media out completely.

Day 1

Didn’t spend a second of today on a video game or on social media. To be honest I feel a lot worse than I do with my old routine, although I can easily attribute this to the fact that I spent my entire day writing a tedious essay. I feel a powerful MALAISE. Even if I finish all this work that’s piled up, I don’t even know what to do instead. But that’s a bridge to cross when I get there. For now, I’m drowning in papers. At the very least, I’m actually managing to be completely productive, which is very new.

Day 2

I have almost immediately caved on half of the goal here… I relapsed on video games. In my defense, my hobbies are artistic, and to be artistically productive it helps to not be completely swamped in time consuming readings and essays, which is my current situation; the only form of stress relief I can really find when I’m too tired to make art is something I can jump in and out of, like a game. I went back because yesterday, when trudging through an assignment, I realized I was just sort of depriving myself. Twitter though? I don’t need it, and I don’t really miss it.

Day 3

To be honest, I’m happier now that I’m allowing myself to do something relaxing instead of forcing myself to write essays all day. But I’m still having a hard time stopping myself to go back to work, mostly just because… work sucks. Video games eating up my time is starting to be just as problematic as before, but at least I’m actually enjoying that time to a certain extent. On the other hand, the time I used to spend scrolling through twitter was essentially being thrown into a cosmic garbage can, and now that I’m off, I can fully recognize that. I’m appreciating all the time that would have been wasted on Twitter coming back to me. I have literal hours back in my day that I am now putting more towards things that improve my life (i.e. religious skincare research and recipes).

Day 4

I’m settling very comfortably into a twitter-less lifestyle. I do still have a problem with video games, but I’ve decided it’s at the very least a better way to spend the time I inevitably will procrastinate than Twitter was. Also I’ve been able to give myself more time to work on music without absentmindedly relapsing to internet browsing in the midst of progress like I used to. My projects are becoming less scattered, and I finish more in a sitting.

Day 5

More of the same, but I’m noticing that I feel like I generally have more time to focus on trying to find the solutions to the things that were making me anxious. I’m much happier doing that, for obvious reasons. I might actually make progress instead of sinking into a website for the rest of my life.

Day 6

I’m thinking about how much of our life we end up wasting. In high school, I used to spend a lot of time on social media. I could have been working on hobbies and doing things that I really loved to do like taking advantage of being young and having free time. Instead, I scrolled through Facebook and all I have to show is a big folder of memes that have aged poorly… I’m imagining how much more productive my life could be if I just stopped wasting so much time on stupid things like Twitter.

Day 7

Dropping social media has a lot of advantages, but at the same time, I’m starting to feel like I’m missing out on things. I keep getting tempted to go back just so I don’t miss out on some cultural developments and look like I live under a rock if they come up in conversation. I feel like a lot of the things that keep this generation connected happen on the internet, and not being there feels alienating in a sense. Is social media necessary for social inclusion? There’s a fear of missing out in life when I use social media a lot, and a fear of missing out when I cut it out… Is it best if it’s used in moderation? How can you moderate something that’s so easy to get sucked into?

As much as I would have liked to cut out all my “vices” and spend my days completely productively, the truth is I think we all need something mind numbing to do once in a while. Burnout is real, especially when you have schoolwork hanging over your head at all times. But you can’t just numb your mind all day, either. Social media was a problem for me, and cutting it out was great. I had more time in my day and I was able to spend that time working more towards things that I really need to do with my life; look my anxieties in the eyes, so to speak. But at the same time, I feel like it’s become a part of the collective human experience that can’t just simply be completely eliminated without some consequences. A good majority of people, especially younger generations, know a lot of what they know through the internet, and most importantly through their social media feeds. There are things that people have never met can connect to each other about, and those things are all found on social media. Without it, you’ll be missing out on a lot of what connects us as a species. I’ve decided that, like many things, moderation is key. Scrolling through social media is completely fine, and even a healthy part of contemporary social life, as long as it’s not done to a point where it starts to take away from your more immediate needs and responsibilities. Cutting out social media completely was a massive perspective shift, and one that I really needed. It showed me what it has been adding to my life, and more importantly, what it’s been subtracting.

Natalia Zambrowicz

I watch a lot of Youtube videos. From video bloggers to celebrity interviews, I find myself glued to the screen until the late hours of the night. The idea of mental decluttering came to me What do I put into my brain and therefore what is produced by it? It started with feeling tired of falling prey to my procrastination problem. As much as one I can remind myself NOT to procrastinate or vouch to STOP procrastinating, identifying the root of the problem is key to fighting any addiction. Oh yes, I have an addiction. Don’t we all?

There is constant talk of our generation being addicted. To our smartphones, social media, marijuana, and many other substances. Addiction can best be described as a state of being enslaved to a habit or practice. Heavy drug addiction is an emergency. This is not debatable. But why do we talk about technological addictions with a sort of nonchalance as if this kind of enslavement is not as harsh, serious or detrimental? Strange. So I embarked on a short one week self experiment of quitting watching Youtube videos. The challenge is hich is logged below for your viewing and contemplative pleasure.

Day 1

I don’t get to my phone until around 2pm. I’m making coffee and open Youtube through Safari. Not having the app is supposed to create an extra obstacle to wasting time but the strategy most definitely does not work. I click on a travel video – a guy is talking about the Israel – Palestine conflict whilst being in Jerusalem. I contemplate what he says only briefly. I have completely forgotten that I’m supposed to be documenting my time away from Youtube. Day one, fail.

Day 2

Running from class to work there is little time to waste. No Youtube today. No headphones either. I do some assigned reading on the subway, use the 20 minute commute to read a few chapters. I come to class prepared for once.

I remember that a while ago my boss gifted me a book by Cal Newport titled Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World. I have a strong distaste for any sort of self help book but the chapter titled Quit Social Media catches my attention.

Newport is convincing. A few things stick out to me. There is talk of justification. How do I justify my time on the internet, watching videos, that I know take time away for the practice of other pleasurable pastimes?  I want to read the books that have been piling up on my bedroom floor. I want to do my own research into Jean Paul Sartre’s writings and philosophy. I want to take more walks. I want to see films at TIFF. I want to go out after class and not schlep home only to spend the next three hours in a Youtube spiral of waste.

Day 3

I make a list of justifications for watching Youtube. It comes out shorter than expected.

  1. Watching Vlogs is a reward for doing all my work and going to class, and working.
  2. I watch these videos because they are funny. Laughing is good for you and humour brightens life.
  3. I sometimes learn something from these videos that I didn’t know before.

After formulating this short list I look at it for a while. All three reasons sound idiotic when read out loud. And I know that they are only half true.

Cal Newport writes that although social media, the internet and (for myself) Youtube, can contribute positive aspects to one’s life, one must look at them as tools as use them only inforsar as they equal out to be net positive. So, as much as watching Youtube videos may help one to relax or provide humour, this can be found in more meaningful, useful and fruitful ways, outside of the online medium.

Day 4

Over breakfast I plan my spare time for the evening, my usual time for online video musing. I line up my books and make note to read them in my free time. A thought comes to me. Isn’t reading only going to strain my brain and feel like work?

The evening rolls around and I crack open my reading of John Stuart Mill’s Utilitarianism which discusses higher and lower pleasures. How timely! I have forgotten, in the midst of watching countless videos that beyond the screen lie a vast array of other forms of entertainment and that reading is so far from being work.

When the evening arrives and I am about to lie down and turn on my phone, I trip over the stack of books I had conveniently placed near the couch. I crack open my current read, Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex and upon flipping to the next page, forget that Youtube even exists.

Day 5

I feel good today. I give myself credit for not having had stayed up all night watching senseless videos. Maybe that is why my head doesn’t ache. I have my coffee whilst sifting through my latest copy of Apartamento, which I’ve abandoned for quite some time. Later whilst on the metro, I dive into the first chapters of an assigned reading. In the evening I lie for an hour whilst listening to music. I call a friend and we chat for a while. I have lunch with my mom, and I tell her about staying off Youtube for the past week. She responds with a question that puts this whole week into a great perspective, as she sips on her tea and asks, “What the hell is there to watch on Youtube?” I would say “retweet” but then again, I’m not on Twitter anymore either.

Corrina Fowlow

As Tidying Up With Marie Kondo infiltrates the Netflix accounts of thousands, widespread movements of decluttering have followed suite, all in her trademarked name of ‘sparking joy.’ With thrift stores reporting record level amounts of donations, it seems her show has catered to common feelings of suffocation from the accumulation of things. I can’t help but wonder, however, how permanent an effect her show will have. Does she have the power to change our society’s consumption habits? Though not physical, watching her show is itself consumption – how strong a correlation is there between mental and physical clutter?

As a relatively minimalist person myself, I have purged my closet and journaled my feelings and brought reusable bags to the grocery store. I’m committing to making more sustainable and simple choices in my life. Yet upon the arrival of the new year, I found myself in a spiral that I’m sure many can relate to – an obsession with YouTube. From a simple Friday night binge, a week later I still found myself neglecting my sleep, nutrition, and work for the opportunity to watch all the videos put out in the past 3 years by newly found ‘influencers.’ They became friends as a relationship grew that took little commitment; they would provide joy whenever I had the time to sit and watch their channel. Investment without reciprocation – easy, but dangerous and, ultimately, unsatisfying. I was hoarding moments that were not mine, collecting minutes turned to hours of others lives, and I knew I had to declutter.

Mental clutter is a peculiar concept. It’s not quite the same as simply being distracted or overwhelmed, rather a more chronic fixation with things that do not have relevance or value and consequently alter behaviours or attitudes. Where the complexities that come with being human cross over into something toxic is a hard line to define, however it was safe to say that in my case, the persistent pervasion of thoughts about people I had no relation to was enough for me to take action. For me, I knew I couldn’t employ a gradual distancing from watching, and so I decided to block Youtube completely from my computer, vowing to not watch a single video for the next week. The hardest sacrifices were during meal times and the weekend, when I was not preoccupied and found myself wanting to sit back and consume my food and media. There were some strong cravings that had to be curtailed by quickly finding something else to do. By the end of the week, however, my reliance had dwindled, and while I still watch the occasional video, that week reset my habits to create a more healthy relationship with YouTube.

While drastic measures such as straight elimination are not always the answers to decluttering, especially when what you are trying to get rid of is a personal enjoyment, my experience taught me that the first step is recognizing when a step back is needed. Most importantly, clutter is not just in physical space, but exists within our mind as a relative indicator of mental health.

Frida Mar (Arts and Culture Co-Editor)

I have a confession to make.

I too, have succumbed to Marie Kondo’s cleaning cult. If anything I have doesn’t spark joy or meaning to my life, then I won’t hesitate to chuck it out of my window.

For me, mental decluttering exists along the virtual plane of the social media platforms I use, much more so than the physical plane of my bedroom. I spent the majority of my time cultivating my own virtual world on Instagram and Twitter. However, I’d rather spend that time connecting with my friends and family, and to cope with my feelings of loneliness. I’ve realized that sometimes my feelings of loneliness emerge from relying on social media to comfort me with superficial relationships that rely on the quantity of “likes” and messages on my page. Over the last month, I cleaned my Instagram account following and reduced my social media limit to one hour via the iPhone’s new tracking tools to avoid unnecessary thoughts and to avoid spending time on things that no longer spark joy for me. Here are my personal struggles and solutions to decluttering social media:

Last semester at Cat’s Eye Lounge, my friend Zach commented on how I followed 800 people on instagram. “Do you even know that many people?” He asked, bewildered by the endless list of random people that I followed. Of course I didn’t know 800 people. He had a point: I needed to clean my following count. So I decided to unfollow 5 people every day, beginning in the month of January 2019. On Instagram, I now prioritize my close friends, regular friends, nutrition and exercise education, edgy niche meme accounts about possums and dragon hentai girls, as well as art inspiration. Adios basic sorority girls and Victoria College student council members! Farewell Girl Whom I Met on the First Day of British Literature and Don’t Remember the Name of. None of the people I unfollowed sparked joy or meaning to my life, and now I feel less anxious while tapping the shiny Instagram icon to see what cool, new things are happening in reality. I have now bravely unfollowed 200 people since I’ve started in January. My feed is cleaner, less anxiety-inducing, and now I can catch up with my friends more easily and get inspired by beautiful art across the world. Overall, decluttering my virtual space on instagram was a healthy decision.

Another tip that I have for decluttering on the virtual dimensions of Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook is to check on your mood and thinking patterns every time you log on. Do you still follow your ex or any of their friends? Block them or mute them at the very least. It can be healthy to slowly let your mind cleanse itself from past relationships that were not conducive to your own self-growth and wellness. In my opinion, social media promotes connectedness with your loved ones at its best, and deteriorates your sense of self-worth and esteem at its worst. And no matter if you end up unfollowing 800 random people on Instagram at the end of your mind decluttering, remember to prioritize yourself and your support system on both virtual and physical planes above all.

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