Inventory is a way of seeing how you can simplify your physical and mental space, so let’s talk about a few quick ways to start seeing how this can reduce your everyday stress.

This is a transcript of Episode 9 of the Simple Systems with Sam Podcast. If you’d prefer to listen to the episode, there is an episode player below the links section.

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Inventory For Overwhelm Transcript

So I want you to think about that one spot. Maybe there’s more than one, but we’re just going to focus on the one spot and either your classroom or your home that you don’t even want to think about because it’s immediately overwhelming. Or maybe you just choose to keep the door closed all the time, because as soon as you look into it, your head’s going to hurt, and you just need to lay down. 

Well, for me right now that space is my storage area, because that’s where all of our boxes are for moving that I still need to unpack. But it’s also all over my classroom, I have inherited three different classrooms from 20 year veterans, and you never know what you’re opening a drawer to. And it’s overwhelming, just thinking about all the stuff you have to go through. Especially when one of those cabinets contains petrified spiders in jars, just staring at me as soon as I open the door. And then I find out that those spiders have been captured in that very classroom… You never know what you’re getting into. 

And your brain tries to protect you by telling you it’s just easier if we ignore it. What is exactly the overwhelming feeling about those spaces? Where’s it coming from? How do we get rid of it? 

Well, it’s also because of another little trick that our brain does called the invisible to do list. The invisible to do list is when our brain tries to categorize and give an action to everything it sees in the background. Your brain is constantly processing everything that comes into its vision. 

So when you walk in and you see a cluttered room, your brain is telling you a little checklist of every single item and what needs to be done with it. When you buy flowers, and you put them on your kitchen table. As soon as you see it, your brain immediately tries to put on a little checklist, I need to water this, or I need to peel off some of the dead stems. And we might not always notice it. But that’s exactly why we get overwhelmed when we walk into these big unknown space is full of stuff. 

It’s so much stuff for our brain to process that we get exhausted just thinking about it. And here’s kind of the cold hard truth, the easiest way to stop this overwhelm is to have less, in fact, every area of your life. One of the mantras that I’ve started using is if it feels overwhelming, there needs to be less of it. So if you walk into a space, and this space feels overwhelming, for some reason, start reducing the inventory that is in that space. 

And I’m talking inventory just like stores do. So when they take an inventory, they’re not only taking account of everything that’s in the space, which is what your brain is doing, right? It’s giving you an inventory of here’s all the things, here’s all the things we can do with it. But another thing that happens when you do inventory is you’re realizing the things that don’t need to be there anymore. 

Stores will take these items and either get rid of them or mark them down for clearance, they realize that they are taking up valuable space where they can be selling other items, or where they can have open space to allow more people to walk through. 

When things feel overwhelming, what can we get rid of? This is really easy when we’re thinking about items. And I don’t mean that like it’s super easy. But when you look at different items in your home, it’s not too hard to see when you have too many of something if we’re willing to acknowledge it. 

Like the first time I saw this concept, I was all about it, I was going to go inventory things in my house so that I could cut down on what was happening in my brain. Well, the first drawer that I happen to open was full of dish towels. And you know what I had 27 dish towels. What’s funny about that is at the time, I only had like 16 dishes, I had already cut those down a little bit. And so I had 27 dish towels for 16 dishes, and it made no sense. Instead, I decided to reduce it to what I actually need, which is two rotations, three towels each. 

I got rid of 21 things that my brain was constantly trying to acknowledge, and telling me I needed to do something with that. freed up 21 Little to do items in the back of my brain that I now don’t have to handle. Not only that, but I just don’t need to buy dish towels anymore, because I know that it gets a little out of control sometimes. 

There are a few different roadblocks when it comes to physical items that we need to inventory and really take a look at. If I look at my closet, I’ve been working on reducing the inventory in my closet for a few years now. And I inventory by type of item. So the last time I went through, I realized that I had 33 tank tops. And what’s sad is I looked at them all and I said you know I just don’t think I want to get rid of any of them. And that’s fine. I don’t have to get rid of them. But now I know that 33 is already a big number. If I get any more than that I really need to start reducing. 

And then I have things like flair pens. I love flair pens. flair pens are my jam, I have probably seven full sets of flair pens sitting in my office right now. But I can still reduce something, there’s three colors in the sets of flair pens that I literally never use. It’s like this mossy green color, I also don’t really use brown, and I don’t use this like, honestly reminds me of like baby poop. I don’t use those. But for some reason, I don’t want to get rid of them, because it’s like breaking up a set. But if I can get rid of 21 markers for my entire collection, because I have seven sets of them, then it’s going to free up just a little bit of space and have a little bit of clarity. 

When you’re overwhelmed, you need to reduce.

If you’re overwhelmed that your classroom is always a disaster, you need to have less things out for your students to destroy. And I mean that in the nicest way, we encourage them to use different art supplies, we encourage them to get creative with toys. But if they’re making a disaster of it, the less we offer for them to use, the more focused they are and the more likely it’s going to go back or it’s easier for us to clean up later. 

If you are overwhelmed by the amount of grading and paperwork that you have, you need to take a good inventory of it and reduce the things that actually need to be graded. If you are overwhelmed by your email inbox or your calendar, you need to quickly go through and reduce it by deleting the things that don’t matter, or the things that are not giving you a task to actually complete.

These types of inventories will become second nature once you start doing it, because you realize that you can actually reduce throughout your entire life. And all it’s doing is giving your brain more space to breathe. It means that you’re not constantly focused on what the next item in the task list is. 

So your simple step is every time you get overwhelmed, you need to think of how you can have less. When something feels overwhelming, you need less. And we’re going to practice reducing our inventory so that you’re more capable of doing it in times of stress. 

Your challenge is going to be that for the next 30 days, I want you to be a lot more aware of the spaces you’re in and try to reduce at least one item each day. And it doesn’t have to be a whole drawer of dish towels. But start looking around at things that you don’t necessarily need. And things that can be donated or things that you can honestly just throw away and see how you feel after reducing that mental task list. 

At school, we always have a cabinet full of project supplies that we’ve never managed to get to that always seemed like a really great idea. If you haven’t touched in two years, all it’s doing is telling you hey, you still need to do this. So maybe we take a break from letting that add to our mental To Do List, maybe we pass it along. Or maybe we store it away somewhere that we don’t need to see it just now. 

At home, I always suggest just starting in one drawer and picking one type of item in that drawer. Your junk drawer pens are a really great place to start because that’s where all like the free bank pens end up. And we don’t need that many of them. 

And personally, if you need an easy place to start, I would start with socks. We own so many pairs of socks for the fact that we only have seven days in a week and two feet. 

So these are all really great ways to start reducing the inventory in your life and freeing up your brain space. And I’d love to know what you take away from this and what types of things you realize you can reduce. So please tag me on Instagram. I want to join in this journey with you. In fact, I will go along and start showing you what I’m producing each day in my personal inventory. Until next time.