Mental decluttering, big life changes, and the magic of getting your shit together
We all have our Oh shit moments.
They can happen when we compare the balance in our bank account to the balance on our credit card and find out what “overdraft protection” was meant for, or when we pull on our favorite pair of pants and realize they didn’t fit two sizes ago. Or maybe when we wake up next to our formerly favorite person and realize he or she didn’t fit two years ago.
My most recent one of those moments came when I realized that the reason I was so unhappy all the time was because I didn’t love my job anymore — and not just that job with that company, but really an entire career I no longer wanted to devote my life to. It wasn’t pretty. And it was followed by a bunch more moments of “What the fuck am I going to do?” and “How the fuck am I going to do it?” before I was able to get out of my rut and start making a few Big Life Changes.
Now I’m here to show you how you can make some big changes too. Or small ones. Whatever you need to do to be happy.
Honestly? You just need to get your shit together.
I’M NOT JUDGING. It’s completely understandable why change (of any size) hasn’t yet made it onto your to-do list. It’s one thing to have an Oh shitmoment, but it’s quite another to actually do somethingabout it. Especially if you’re the kind of person who has no idea where to start. Or maybe you have no trouble getting started, but you tend to lose steam before you finish — there’s too much to do and not enough time to do it, and even if you could do it all, for fuck’s sake, how do you avoid driving yourself crazy along the way?!?
I assure you, it’s possible.
Getting, having, and keeping your shit together enables you to experience potentially life-changing realizations and then move forward to the “doing something about them” and “not going crazy” side of things. It’s kind of amazing. And none of this stuff is as hard as you might think — all it takes is a different way of thinking about and doing shit than you might be used to.
A better way. An easier way.
And it works whether you’re an overwhelmed underachiever or a high-functioning basket case. Believe me, I know from experience.
A couple of years ago I was so depressed that I could barely get out of bed in the morning. I dreaded the prospect of walking out my door to get on the subway, because the subway took me to a place that had started to feel less like an office and more like a Temple of Doom. I’d had these feelings for at least a year before that, and they were translating into Major Daily Freakouts, but I’d spent fifteen years clawing my way up the corporate ladder — I couldn’t jump off it now just because I was feeling a little blue, could I? I had to stay committed even if I didn’t love it anymore, given all the time and energy I’d already put in…right? (Hint: NOPE.)
It took me far too long to figure out that there was so much more I could be doing with my life, if I could only stop worrying about what I should be doing.
And I would consider it an honor to save YOU a bunch of time fighting with yourself over staying in bed (or in credit card debt, a bad relationship, or elastic-waist pants) instead of facing reality. Because once you face reality, you can start bending it to your will.
That’s what happens when you have your shit together.
Once I identified what I really wanted — to work for myself and attend precisely zero meetings per day — I never looked back. Not only did I quit my safe, steady corporate job to take the risk of going freelance, I had another realization: that being a freelancer would allow me to “commute” from anywhere. Not just my couch in Brooklyn, but perhaps by the side of a pool in the Caribbean.
And oh, wait, maybe I could just move to the Caribbean. That would be nice too, wouldn’t it?
So I did it — and in part I of Get Your Shit Together, I’ll show you how it all played out.
But listen, I don’t want to scare you off. Those were some 100 percent Certified Big Life Changes, and my book can help you make plenty of smaller ones too.
For example, do you ever find yourself stuck at the office, or even just glued to the sofa, when what you really want is to be leaving work on time (for once), getting to the gym (at last), and then getting started on that “someday” project that’s been hanging out on your to-do list since, oh…the beginning of time?
We’ve all been there. We’ve all reached the point where we just can’t do any more work or face any more smug Pilates instructors or conceive of working an Intro to Portuguese class into the only free afternoon we’ve had all month.
Of course, we also all know people who seem to breeze through life effortlessly kicking ass and taking names; who always have a plan, and are laser focused on the details, and whose to-do lists exist in a perpetual state of done, done, and diggity-DONE. Nine of them are probably superhuman robots built by the government, but I’m willing to bet the rest could use some help getting their shit together too.
In fact, maybe that person I just described — the one with a jam-packed calendar full of high-power lunches — maybe that’s you. And maybe you’re starting to realize those long hours aren’t worth the ivory card stock your fancy business cards are printed on. That the company softball games and charity 10Ks that have consumed your weekends for a year are why you haven’t eaten dinner with friends in about as long as those same friends have had “learn Portuguese” on their to-do list. (They all hate you a little bit, but they don’t know you’re struggling too.)
What would you say if I told you that there’s a path straight down the middle for all of us, leading right to the lives we want to live? It’s true! The book has something for everyone:
Tips for becoming better organized, motivated, and on time? Check.
Tricks for saving money, setting boundaries, and having difficult conversations with friends, family, and colleagues? Double check.
How about advice for transcending everyday bullshit so you can finally focus on big-time dreams, like changing careers, buying a home, or just moving out of your parents’ basement? You. Are. In. Luck. It’s all here.
I know what you’re thinking. How could so much goodness be contained in such a compact volume?
This is a valid question. The answer is: I’m not here to teach you how to do a million separate things — there isn’t enough Purell in the world for that kind of hand-holding. I’m here to show you how to approach all the different stuff in your life so you can get it done in your own way, on your own schedule. My methods apply to all kinds of shit, and as it happens, I’ve had some success helping people make changes in their lives using simple advice, a bunch of expletives, and the occasional flowchart.
My first book, The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a Fuck, was about how to stop spending time you don’t have with people you don’t like, doing things you don’t want to do. The New York Times deemed it “the self-help equivalent of a Weird Al parody song” and the Observer magazine anointed me an “anti-guru.” Probably none of this was what my parents had in mind when they sent me off to Harvard, but that’s where we are. People all over the world felt the burden of too many fucks, and I helped lift that burden by showing them how to give fewer, better ones. Success!
Of course, I also said things like “Sometimes it’s okay to hurt people’s feelings” and “Wear a gimp suit and sequined heels to your performance evaluation and immediately become the Mayor of No Fucks Given.” So, yeah, I guess anti-guru suits me just fine.
Anyway, if you’ve read that book, you know about my crusade for mental decluttering. If you haven’t read it, or need a refresher, please enjoy the following primer:
Mental decluttering 101
Like decluttering your physical space, mental decluttering takes two forms: discarding and organizing. In order to give fewer, better fucks — to get the most out of your limited time, energy, and money — you have to discard the obligations (or things, events, people, etc.) that annoy you, thus making room for the ones on which you are delighted to spend all your time, energy, and money. That’s called “making a Fuck Budget,” and I highly recommend it.
Getting your shit together is organizing what you have left (in the form of time, energy, and money) and deploying those resources wisely — not only on things you need to do, but on those extra bonus-level things you want to do and just can’t seem to afford or get around to. Big change, small change, whatever. It doesn’t start with cleaning out the garage. Change starts with cleaning out your mind.
Fortunately, tidying your mind is a solo mission. If you live in a home with family or roommates, their physical clutter becomes your physical clutter. You have to compromise about how many limited-edition Pez dispensers get displayed on the mantel and which ratty old hotel slippers qualify as “keepsakes” from your honeymoon. Whereas with mental decluttering, you don’t have to sort through or trip over anyone’s shit but your own. Even if you live on a Disney cruise ship with 7,000 other people (which I sincerely hope you do not), you have complete and total dominion inside your own head. You are judge, jury, and execution — er, on second thought, you’re the boss. You are the Tony Danza of your mind. (Or the Judith Light? I don’t actually know which one of them was the boss.)
Okay, so, my new book takes you deep into that all-important second step of mental decluttering. Because needing or wanting to give a fuck about something is not the same as actually being able to do it.
For that, you also need to have your shit together.
For example, you may give a fuck about taking a ski vacation and be willing to devote your time and energy “fuck bucks” to the cause, but if you don’t have your shit together, you may not have any actual bucks to pay for it. You can clear your calendar of less appealing obligations all you want (Who gives a fuck about “Take Your Child to Work Day”? Not you!) — but without funding, you’ll be spending your vacation playing old-school Nintendo Slalom from your futon.
Or maybe you’ve decided that what’s really important in life is having a deep-soaking tub, and you’re ready to say “Fuck that skinny shower stall that forces me to shave my legs like a contortionist flamingo!” In this hypothetical, you have the funds with which to make your Calgon-scented dreams come true, but you lack the gumption to get started. You allegedly give a fuck about ease of use, comfort, and bubble baths — but the soaking tub situation is going to require a full bathroom renovation and you don’t have the wherewithal to start a big project (hire a plumber, choose a tub, make arrangements to pee somewhere else for two weeks while the work gets done). Instead, you just keep banging your elbows on the shower door every time you reach up to shampoo your hair.
We can work with this. Get Your Shit Together covers:
Who needs to get their shit together, and why
Three simple tools for getting (and keeping) your shit together
The Power of Negative Thinking
How to get out of work on time and save money while you’re at it
Managing anxiety, avoiding avoidance, and conquering your fear of failure
Making Big (and small) Life Changes
Tons of other awesome shit!
And although I will tell you how I did it (because it’s an instructive example of getting your shit together), I promise this isn’t just a thinly disguised guide to quitting your job and moving to the islands — I’m not sitting here trying to push my life choices on you like some goddamn vegan.
You might be someone who enjoys “steady paychecks” and “the rustle of autumn leaves” and whatnot. Or you may be working toward smaller changes, or more amorphous ones. It’s all good. I’m just here to help you access the simple, universal wisdom of getting your shit together, for which I happen to be a convenient and willing conduit. (Hey, it’s worked on my husband; I see no reason it can’t reach a broader audience.)
Finally, one more thing to note — in my book, “Get your shit together” is not an admonition.
It’s a rallying cry.
I admit, sometimes I find myself muttering those four little words under my breath in a somewhat, shall we say, exasperated fashion. You probably do too. For me it’s usually at people who show up late and offer completely transparent excuses; at friends who complain about the exceedingly predictable consequences of their terrible life choices; or at fellow passengers who think I guess I’ll just sit wherever is a viable strategy for ticketed airline travel.
My book acknowledges that most of us are those people — if not always, then at least once in a while. I mean, you should have seen me trying to file my taxes last year. It was like the blind leading the blind leading a drunk toddler. Mistakes were made.
But ultimately, I have my shit together about 95 percent of the time (my comprehension of federal tax code notwithstanding), and you can too. Before now, you may have been too busy getting in your own way, but I assure you, the potential and the tools are there. I’ll show you where it is and how to use them.
When we’re finished, you’ll have your shit together — and then maybe you can write a book about how to file your motherfucking taxes like a goddamn adult, and I’ll be first in line to buy it.
Fantastic. Let’s do this shit!
In case you hadn’t guessed by now, this has been an excerpt from the introduction of my new book, Get Your Shit Together, which publishes in two weeks. TWO WEEKS! AHHHHHH!!! If you liked what you read and are committed to getting your shit together in 2017, I sure would appreciate you pre-ordering a copy.