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Prof Renata Schoeman, head of MBA in Healthcare Leadership programme, gives more advice on how to remove clutter from your life.

Prof Renata Schoeman, head of Stellenbosch Business School’s MBA in Healthcare Leadership and an alumna of the MBA and Futures Studies programmes, regularly talks about the importance of mental health. In this article she gives more advice on how to remove clutter from your life.

Years ago, I’ve read a book “How did I get so busy” (Valorie Burton) – which is about decluttering your life. She advised “if it is not useful, joyful, or beautiful – get rid of it”. I’ve realised that this is not only about material things, but also applicable to our thoughts, our feelings, and our activities. And it has subsequently became a bit of a “mantra” to me.

So how can we apply this to our thoughts, our feelings, and our actions?


Our thoughts:

  1. All the “should have”, “must have”, “have to’s”. The perfect diet, the most articles published, the perfect… whatever you want to fill in here. This is unattainable and will always make you feel as if you are falling short. You can only do your best. But you must do your best - and you can grow and get better.
  2. Growth versus fixed mindset. Your brain is neuroplastic. You can change. You can do things differently and improve. “Compete” only with yourself. Don’t compare the whole time. There will always be someone running faster than you, and always someone slower. Run your own race. Focus on improving yourself. But don’t go and sit on the couch for fear of not measuring up – show up.
  3. The “I don’t have time” fallacy. It is a choice. Get rid of the things that steal your time and energy. Social media, that one friendship which leaves you drained, the colleague who has no boundaries…

Our feelings:

  1. Guilt. The first third of my life, I grew up Afrikaans, Nasionaal, and Christelik, with the (male imposed) script of always feeling guilty for not being a “good enough” girl or young lady. The latter two thirds of my life, I am again supposed to feel guilty for who I am – this time due to a (male imposed) political ideology. There is no reason for you to feel guilty for who you are or where you come from. Feeling guilty solves nothing. Making others feel guilty also solves nothing. Your only duty is to make the world a better place every single day within your (little or big) sphere of influence.
  2.  More guilt. Not-being-a-mom guilt. Previously, whenever I’ve achieved something, there was this terrible sentence other women would remark “but do you have children?” – as if this is the qualifier which makes your work/achievements valid. When you are at work, invest in your work. Enjoy it. When you are at home, invest in your child, and enjoy it. But be present. And do it to the best of your abilities at the given moment. And be kind to other women – whether they have children or not. You do not know their journey.
  3. Let other people own their own pathology. You all know those colleagues who never respond to emails, always miss deadlines, or will be rude or aggressive when you try to address an issue with them. It is NOT you. It is their pathology. Keep your lid on.

Our actions:

  1. Do not waste your time. If it is not joyful, useful, or beautiful, it is stealing your time and your energy. Get rid of the unnecessary social media. Walk away from “that friendship” Resign from “that committee”…
  2. SEEDSS of selfcare. Since you will be freeing up so much more time from decluttering your thoughts, feelings, and actions, you will have the time and energy to invest in your selfcare. This should include regular and sufficient Sleep, regular Exercise (at least five times a week, at least 30 minutes), Education (i.e. stimulating your mind), a healthy Diet (and avoiding alcohol and other substances), Socialising and Spirituality.
  3. Always give more than what you receive. This is simple.

In practicing these mental health tools, remember to make time to reflect on your Ikigai – your reason for being. And make sure you align your decluttering effort with your mission, passion, profession, and vocation.


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