Yes, just that simple. If you want to think more clearly, or creatively, take a walk.
And, as with her decluttering claims, author Jessica Singh backs up this advice with results of scientific studies.
“According to a study conducted at Stanford, creative thinking improves while a person is walking and during the short time after they return from a walk.” Walkers were compared with sitters, and with themselves, and their creative output while walking increased 60% over when they just sat.
It doesn’t even matter much whether you walk outside or inside. Or if you’re by yourself or with a companion—although walking with a work colleague can add the benefit of furthering your business together. Both Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerman became well-known for their “walking meetings” where great ideas were born.
The concept, however, is not new. Note these famous quotes from the past:
Thoughts come clearly while one walks. ~Thomas Mann
“Me thinks that the moment my legs begin to move, my thoughts begin to flow. ~Henry David Thoreau
“I only went out for a walk, and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in. ~John Muir
“I have two doctors, my left leg and my right. ~G.M. Trevelyan
So… down in the dumps? Or, down on ideas? Or in need of a physcial uplift? Take a walk!
Jesus told the rich young ruler (in this past post) to sell what he had (which I think means the whole pile) and give away the money (which I think also means the whole pile), then come follow him
—and we struggle just to reduce our load of clutter by a fraction!
Peter declared that he and the other disciples had left all to follow Christ
—and we seem to have hands of glue that can’t let go of this, or that, or anything much.
What can we do about this? A couple sets of wisdom about clutter that I happened upon in the past year might help.
The one proves decluttering offers unexpected benefits for mind, soul, and body. The other gives a novel decluttering method that I have found to be the best approach ever!
Part One: The Advantages of the Clutter-Freed
This “found wisdom” came from this whimsical-looking book I picked up on another bookstore visit. The word “joy” caught my attention, and the illustrations hinted at fun, so… how could I resist?
I’m so glad it got it, because it’s not all frivolity and springboards to get the creative juices flowing. It also contains fascinating scientific findings. One example? The “surprising psychological benefits” of decluttering. I quote:
“Whilst some studies point toward a messy desk as a sign of a creative mind, more often… clutter tends to be a source of stress and anxiety, bombarding our minds with unnecessary stimuli that draws our attention away from whatever we should be focusing on.”
A UCLA research team observing 32 Los Angeles families discovered all the mothers’ stress hormones spiked during time spent dealing with their belongings. Physical clutter affects the brain much like multitasking—“it overloads your senses, making you feel stressed, and impairs your ability to think creatively.”
“Another study…from the Johns Hopkins Cary Business School and the University of Illinois suggests that it’s scarcity rather than abundance that promotes creativity. They conducted a series of experiments to test the effects of having more versus less in terms of creativity. The pivotal dynamic is what the study authors call a “constraint mindset,” which is a mode of thinkingactivated by having less. The greater the constraint mindset, the more creatively a given person will make use of their resource. So all of this ‘stuff’ we’re accumulating could be having a direct impact on our ability to think creatively.”
Part Two: But how do we actually do the de-clutter?
I’ve seen so many ads promoting storage containers, systems, and gadgets supposedly designed to de-clutter… but I suspect all they do is invite us just to keep and rearrange the clutter we already have—in the additional stuff we just bought!
I’ve watched so many instructional pieces showing how to sort clutter into piles: the keeps, the give-aways, and the throw-outs, but these are seldom ruthless enough to make a noticeable difference.
Instead of starting with what you might throw out or give away, you look at your whole Mount Everest in whatever category (hers was crafts) and decide what you absolutely must have to do the job adequately. Separate out those essentials, and forget about the rest! (If you can’t bear to toss them, stash them in the attic or garage, out of sight—and mind).
It helps to imagine you’re moving to, say, a tiny cabin, or need to take your craft or job on the road—in limited luggage.
It’s amazing how little you can get by with. Doing this with my collage/mixed-media stuff, I found I could nicely arrange everything I needed into three small totes, which I could carry anywhere. But I found myself working out of them right at home and disregarding all that other fluff—and yeah, the results probably were more creative than with the distracting load of tools and materials.
Seems this process would have a similar benefit on spirituality, don’t you think? Looks like Jesus knew what he was doing when he told that rich dude to get rid of his “clutter” before trying to follow Him!
Q 4 U: What needs the above kind of decluttering in your life? (And this doesn’t just mean material things.)
It’s been a bad year for maple syrup up in these parts.
And for my blogging. The flow just wouldn’t go.
“Nobody’s boiling,” is the maple word on the (frozen) grapevine. This winter’s begrudging conditions have been making it hard for me to get the creative juices flowing as well.
Who would expect a November “break” from blogging to turn into three more months of non-productivity? But, like maple sap, writing can freeze up and stay that way. Life in general around here this late winter seems to have hit a frustrating stall. People I meet, even strangers on the street or at the doctors’ office, strike up a complaining conversation about the weariness of a winter that just won’t quit, despite its tiny hints of false hope that it will.
The problem with the maples isn’t that thaws haven’t happened. The snow has melted off most of the lawn in repeated cycles, between the repeated icings and snowfalls. And it isn’t that the warmth hasn’t ever lasted for more than one day. The grass even started greening temporarily a couple of times. What’s wrong is these maples’ great hungering need… for sun.
The locally knowledgeable say that unless that sun pours down and bathes the maples’ upper branches in its light, the syrup below won’t be drawn up, up, out of its confines in their roots. And this has been a predominantly sunless pre-spring.
But look what I saw this morning!
I need sun, too. And Son. Without the former, vitamin D languishes, and human energy and health flags with it. Without the latter, spiritual life wilts and lies dormant.
So I think I’ll take a walk today, out on the rises, and lift up my crown and my upper limbs to both sun and Son and invite a soaking. Then I’ll come in and review the trickles of creativity that did happen in the temporary thaws and occasional sun blooms of this long winter, like the following droplet of a collage…
Angst! Tense muscles! That sense of unrelenting pressure, of being in over my head!
That’s where I found myself about halfway through this 31-Days-31-Collages-and-Posts commitment. Heel of hand to forehead, and “What was I thinking?” predominating my mind. I wrote about the problem in a comment I left elsewhere:
I am getting distractions and hindrances to posting daily, especially with the qualification I’ve given myself not to flash-publish without giving a post at least a little sit time, then proofing for erroneous messages. Also, I’m slated to go away on a silent retreat this coming weekend, where I’ll be out of internet for three days...! I’d thought I could get posts prepared ahead and scheduled to publish automatically while I’m away, but lately I’ve gotten doubtful about even getting the day’s post up and out!
All this is making me tense, and that’s choking up the writing pipes!...
So what did I do?
Well, first I “happened” to get email notification of Kel Rolf’s post called “Permission.” I read it. I found lots of good sense in it. And I decided, as she, to give myself permission to do less than perfectly, miss a few days if I must, and catch them up later if I so decided.
Then I stepped aside to my prayer chair, and let down my nerves with God. And then…
I followed my heart, which led me into my creativity room, to my art table, and I started messing around with…
I just wanted to handle the papers, work with the patterns, use a process called “cutting and folding back,” and not create anything “significant.”
As I got immersed in this process, the angst fell away, my head cleared—and I even found myself with an illustration (or two—see below) for a coming blog post (this one)!
From there I went and wrote one of my most difficult pieces, touching on domestic abuse (scary subject).
I’ve gotten posts up and published daily, too—haven’t missed a one! (Yet. But if I do, I’ll give myself grace and not let it throw me out of the marathon. I’ll scramble to my feet and re-enter the race, quite possibly refreshed again!)
So, can collage be therapeutic, especially for stress? I have found it so. And you may, too. Give it a try! (Junk mail scraps, a glue stick, and some index cards or other pieces of paper to stick them to: That’s all you need. Lots cheaper than a therapist, and in such cases as above, just as good.)
The process used in the collages above:
It’s as simple as it sounds.
Take a piece of paper, preferably with different colors or patterns on back and front. Some scrapbooking papers are ideal for this. (Or, paste two different papers together, back to back. Let dry, then proceed.)
Fold it in half (or, as in the circles example above, just cut it starting from one straight edge as if it were the fold line), and flip back the cut pieces. (The second example uses a combination of the two methods.)
Paste the resulting arrangement on a background paper. Here I used black. The circle design ended up working well because I happened to cut circles to flip, and the underneath paper (page) contained several circles. Straight lines were more appropriate for the second example, with its straight lines and rectangles.
Or… whatever you do that seems to arise from some invitation inside that says, “Come on! Let’s do this!”
It’s about how we’re made. Wired. Designed. Created.
A recent blog comment in this series asked me what my intended life metaphor was in the collage that post displayed.
I caught my breath. I hadn’t realized I’d attached “life metaphors” to so many other collages until I read that question. But, then, coming up with such metaphors seems to be part of how I’m wired, too.
Does how I’m wired make others tired? I hope not! But it could. Maybe I need to keep my metaphors to myself more…
Anyhow, there wasn’t one for the collage in question. In fact, I couldn’t even think up one!
Likewise the two collages above. Their great message: There is none! It’s just fun! (Or… Maybe that’s the message.)
I rip or cut out bits of color, texture, shape, line movement, and images or words that just appeal to me—for unidentified and unreasoned reasons. I start “playing” with the pieces of paper, sorting out similar and contrasting ones, pushing them around on a little 4 x 6 card, trying different arrangements.
Why? I don’t know, really! Except that’s a bent I believe God built into my pre-conceived makeup.
Some people run, and end up in marathons; some climb mountains, higher and higher; some sing; some build… (My husband, for example, loves to build buildings! He’s got them all over this property of ours!)… some draw intricate pencil renderings or slap paint onto canvasses. And some collage. What’s inside comes out—if unhindered—like butterfly from cocoon.
True, in areas of creativity, whatever the medium, the expression sometimes reveals thoughts, desires, and emotions in the heart’s hidden parts. Often these revelations surprise the artist/creator as much as anyone. But sometimes there’s no big message, no Great High Truth.
How did “Round on the Ground” come to be?
I saw circles. All through my scraps. Different textures, a few subdued colors. Clippings that invited me to underlay the circle arrangement with gravel and brick. The collage is simply a composition of “repetition with variation”—round stuff! I just liked doing it, and I just like looking at it. And I guess that’s really the bottom line in any kind of visual art. It’s something to look at. Period.
“Books and bottles” came together because a catalog happened to have a bunch of both in their displays, and the subtle colors went together nicely. I arranged the objects in a pattern, but it looked too stiff and static and lifeless. That prompted me to add the (quilted?) curves, lively round flowers, and curved black fabric with white circular designs.
The composition still looked fragmented with the different shelves too cut off from each other. On the catalog spread was a polka-dotted ottoman or two. I cut the dots into rows, echoing both the shelf rectangles and the circular shapes of black cloth and flower patterns. I used these rows to connect shelf to shelf and move the observer’s eye through the whole collage. Why’s the mortar board there? Just because of its color, and because it goes with books.
Just design. Just experimenting. Just fun…
Like God must have had when creating His flamboyant universe! [But there I go, bringing in extra meaning! Oh, my! Oh, me!]