So Many Interests — How Do You Choose
An active mind is a common cause of clutter and overwhelm: A passion for learning, a wide variety of interests and hobbies, lots of great ideas, and overflowing creativity. Because you still want to live and enjoy your life but not be buried in paper, information, materials, and regrets, the answer is not to change who you are but to establish boundaries and rules. Just thinking of this topic got the ideas flowing, and I had a desire to write a chapter or maybe even a book on the subject. Instead, I went back to the boundary I established from the beginning. Keep this article as short and sweet as possible. Here are strategies to use.
Set Boundaries & Rules
Establish and enforce physical boundaries to confine and control the information and materials associated with your interests.
Use a basket or container to provide a boundary and a visual indicator. When the magazine basket overflows, it's time to clear it out.
Use the file folder as the boundary. When it looks overstuffed, clean it out. Don't wait until you can't add another piece of paper.
Establish clutter free zones. If you need your desk clear for work or your table for eating, make those boundaries a priority for everyone.
Set general rules for allowing things in or letting stuff go.
Bringing Things Home
If you go to a home show or fair where you collect informative brochures, establish a Read By date. If you haven't read it by then, it goes. No questions or doubts — it's out.
If there is a book you want to read, first see if it's available through your library. If it's absolutely something you want to bring home and will refer to often, then you buy your own copy, otherwise borrow it.
Bringing home a new hobby? Establish where you'll do it and where you'll store it. And clear the time in your schedule to enjoy the hobby.
Letting Stuff Go
If you haven't read it yet, use the Rule of 6 to decide when to let it go. The news in a daily newspaper is old after 6 days. A weekly is old after 6 weeks. A monthly magazine is old after 6 months. For more on the Rule of 6, check out Manage the Paper Clutter in Your Life.
If you bring one item in (clothes, books, toys, hobbies, etc.) let one thing go. Keep in mind that 1 in and 1 out is maintenance. 1 in and 2 out is progress.
Now, Later, Next Year
Rotate your interests When you have lots of interests and hobbies you don't have time to work on now but you aren't ready to let them go, sort them into Now, Later and Next Year. The items in the Now group are interests you have time for right now. Please be realistic and make the space in your schedule to enjoy them. The Later pile is for those things you may want to play with in 6 months or so. This is great for seasonal sports & hobbies. Pack them up and store them. The rest are for Next Year or 12 months out. Box these up and put them in storage as well. Play with and work on those interests in the Now category, keeping only as many as you honestly have time for. Anytime you want, you can bring in one from the Later or the Next Year category, just remember to rotate an equal number out from the Now pile (unless, of course, your schedule miraculously opens and you have more time to focus on more things). P.S. Label all containers with the current date. If 3 years from now you still haven't rotated an interest into the Now, then maybe it isn't a priority and you can let it go.
When you come across a great article, idea, possibility or opportunity that interests you, but you know you're not ready to act on it yet, use your IDEA box. Check out Storing Ideas and Possibilities for details.
Refuse to Choose is the book to read if you're struggling with numerous interests. Barbara Sher introduces the term "scanners" and gives you permission to start numerous projects without finishing them and then encourages you to let go of those unfinished projects to allow new interests the space in your life. It is available from Amazon (that's where the image will take you) but before you buy, check it out from your local library. If you buy, buy it from your local book store if you can.