I is for Irritants

An irritant is any agent — biological, chemical or physical — that stimulates or elicits a harmful or negative response. Irritants range from a loose button to a dripping faucet, from a ringing telephone to over-stuffed file cabinets, from dirty dishes in the sink to running late for appointments, from smudges on the coffee table to cobwebs in the corner. I could go on and on listing life’s little irritants that take up a good deal of time and energy, and I am sure you can add to this list. The strange thing is that irritants tend to have a negative impact on our mood dragging us into a downward spiral. They are constant jolts that remind us of just how much we didn’t accomplish today.

Take note of the physical and emotional reaction to the little annoyances in your life, then designate ten minutes every day to rid another pest from your life. If you are not affected by a cluttered environment, an overloaded schedule, the unattainable commitments or the small tasks left undone, then these things cannot be classified as irritants. However, if you experience exasperation, weariness or discontentment with seemly insignificant or unimportant issues, then maybe you have an irritant that needs to be addressed. Irritants tend to destroy contentment and inhibit productivity.

The first step is to identify your reaction and associate that response to an irritant. This simple step is the catalyst to begin eliminating nagging annoyances whether it is spending a few minutes to mend a hem, file the papers, or discard a pile of magazines. Once handled, these pesky irritations are gone and your time and energy is free for more important things in life.

Most irritants do not take very long to accomplish, yet we tend to push them aside or drag our heels until we have mountains rather than molehills. Learn from Nike’s slogan, “Just Do It!” Get in the habit of quickly abolishing little nuisances. Just do it quickly! Pick up the toys quickly; empty the dishwasher quickly; scrub the kitchen sink quickly; file those papers quickly; take out the trash quickly; place the phone call quickly; answer that email quickly… Do each task as fast as you can. Some things do not need to be done perfectly; thy just need to be done. Make good, good enough.

Eliminate Irritants

  • Be cognizant of the physical or emotional responses to trivial matters.
  • Identify the annoying irritant.
  • Set aside ten minutes every day to abolish one more annoyance.
  • Reward yourself for every small step.

Beware of the Domino Effect

Too often my clients start the decluttering process in one area but quickly encounter a roadblock because something else needs to be done first. Soon they are off on a tangent and forget about the task they started.

There is a Murphy’s Law that addresses this domino effect.

“Regardless of what needs doing, something else must be done first.”

So, how can you sidestep this maxim? Plan, plan, plan.

  • Deciding what not to do may be more important than deciding what to do
  • Take a moment and think how you will feel when this particular project is completed
  • Plan your attack on paper
  • Breakdown large projects into bite size pieces
  • Schedule sufficient time to accomplish each task that will move you forward to reach your goal
  • Stick to the process