Last week in one of my therapy sessions I did something unorthodox but not unlike me, I met one of my clients at her apartment to target her cluttering and hoarding problems.
Like many of us, she was simply having a hard time making small decisions. “Should I keep these shoes? I haven’t worn them in a year, but they are funky and were kind of expensive……umm….I’ll figure it out later”. Her non-committal behavior of neither storing these items nor disposing of them was simply a reflection of something I like refer to as making decisions by default.
Decision by default is the decision making process that results when no active decision is made. This results in perpetual “non-decisions”, leading to inert behaviors such as procrastination, clutter, and avoidance. Which may add up to someone feeling overwhelmed or bored due to consistent isolation or disorganization.
In my client’s case, it became apparent that her individual dilemmas were never seen as a priority, where they would be significant enough to demand an answer, so she kept putting it off rather than make it a priority to deal with. When faced with a decision she would perceive it as not worthy of her time, energy and attention at the moment. She would back that up with the sincere but erroneous belief that she would “get to it later” when she had more time or considered it more important. This of course would never occur and thus maintain the endless pattern of non-decisions, procrastination and the nagging piles of clothing on her floor.
Non-decisions can leave you with a cluttered life, but they also can prevent you from acquiring things in your life that you really want since acquisition usually requires a definitive decision. Making decisions helps us to set goals and makes its more likely that we will achieve those goals. Those of us that avoid these practices often end up with a life filled with items that they simply acquired by default. We acquire things by default because we either stumbled upon them or they are given to us based on decisions of others.
This applies to possessions, relationships, careers, and personal growth. Take an inventory of your life, Not just your belongings, but look for areas of clutter or leftovers in your life; Look for areas where non activity has created more anxiety or frustration for you or has simply robbed you of peace and satisfaction. Look for areas of your life where you can believe you can be more ambitious.
How to move forward:
Set a definite time for when you will think about the decision. Don’t give in to the temptation to blow it off, the anxiety you feel about the process will just get worse.
Ask yourself “Do I have all the information I need to make the decision”. If the answer is “No” then consider whether or not this new information can be obtained, how timely you can retrieve it; as well as how much time, energy, attention and money will be needed to obtain that information.
Then evaluate if it’s worth it to obtain the information with a simple cost benefit analysis. If it seems worthy, then set a time frame and create an action plan for obtaining the new information. Be sure to reschedule your decision date for when you will make the decision. Share with someone your deadline to hold yourself and accountable and follow through on your decision. Once you make the decision, you will begin to realize one of the toughest obstacles in reaching your goals has been met!
Don’t let non-decisions fill your life. You will most likely end up feeling dissatisfied, lethargic and bored. Take charge. Make decisions. After all at least they will be your decisions!
4 thoughts on “Ask the CBT: Are non decisions cluttering your life?”
I feel like you jumped from accumulating the extra information to making a decision without providing the guidance on how to make that leap.
good idea for a follow up article..stay tuned 🙂
I am glad you pointed out that “non-decision” is a decision too. In fact it is making a decision to have a life less full, less peaceful than it could be. In essence, it’s choosing a chaotic life. I agree action steps should be explained to help break down the problem in manageable chunks, to achieve an end goal.
I really liked this post.