Tuesday, May 10, 2022

“Be so good they cannot ignore you”- Four things women should do to control their destiny in the workplace.

                                     Photo by Matilda Wormwood from Pexels

Women face a range of challenges that prevent them from taking up demanding assignments. They cannot, therefore, achieve their goal of becoming leaders. It diminishes their ability to get ahead in their careers and business. While the numbers had improved, the COVID19 tsunami has undone a lot of the good work that went into improving gender equality. Women are bearing the brunt of the disruption caused due to COVID.

Unlocking the challenges faced by women post the pandemic

The pandemic has taken a toll on women’s careers. McKinsey, in partnership with LeanIn.org, published the latest women in the workplace report. The report highlights that women are more burnt out because of the pandemic. Data shows that one in three women have considered downshifting their career, and four in ten women have considered leaving their company or switching jobs While the data is from corporate America, things are not much different in India. Women have taken on more responsibilities at home like child care and supervising online learning for kids, elder care, and doing basic household chores. All these activities put pressure on their time and stress them out. There is no bandwidth left for women to think about their careers or pursue their passion.

A more extended career break can cause skills to become stale. Getting back on track by picking up a new job will in itself become an arduous task. Until companies decide to improve their working environments and allow flexible working, women will find it difficult to get back to work. Flexible working can become a game-changer for women’s careers. Their day-to-day lives have changed, and this will impact their career progression.

Those women who continued to work remotely felt the pressure of being “always-on”, or available on demand. Virtual work means they are required to be available for work at all times. The working hours extend much beyond the regular office hours, leaving less time to complete their personal responsibilities. This causes mental fatigue and slows them down, taking a toll on their well-being.

Has the pandemic proved to be a threat to women’s careers?

Global surveys conducted by Deloitte have indicated the pandemic’s impact on women’s mental and physical well-being. There is concern about women’s long-term career prospects. Those that are working, are juggling caregiving responsibilities with longer working hours. This is also taking a toll on their career prospects. Job satisfaction, productivity, and motivation are severely impacted.

The 2021 Opportunity Index Report by LinkedIn highlights that more than 40% of women have reportedly been affected by the unnatural development of dual workload. In a report released by the World Bank in June 2020, female labor force participation in India fell to 20.3% in 2020 from 30% in 1990. According to the CMIE November 2020 report, for urban women total employment in India reduced by 22.83% between November 2019 and 2020. All these statistics indicate the gravity of the situation regarding women’s careers.

According to the IMF staff discussion paper, in the next two decades,11 percent of female workforce jobs will be lost due to automation. Even in the textile and apparel manufacturing industry, 80 percent of jobs will be done by “sewbots”, as per the ILO study.

In many cases, women are also facing a range of non-inclusive behaviours. Not much support is offered by the organisation in terms of policies or reporting bias and discrimination. This makes matters worse. Women hesitate to voice concerns fearing negative career impact. It chips away their confidence and they are plagued by anxiety.

Organizations are required to rebuild workplaces that provide an empowering environment, making it possible for women to stay and grow in their careers.

Transformation through Reskilling

While coaching a women leader from a mid-size IT company, I noticed that she was constantly under pressure to deliver some of her tasks and she would be working late nights to complete the work. Her manager showed no empathy to understand her world. Both her parents were hospitalised due to covid and she could not visit them. When she requested leave, she was told she can take leave but she will have to attend a few zoom calls. She finally decided to let go of her job. After about six months, she enrolled herself in a course on AI and successfully completed it. Once things started improving at home, she found a job that offered the flexibility she needed.

Cal Newport, in his book, “Be So-Good They Can’t Ignore You”, talks about the concept of building a Career Capital. He justifies the importance of the craftsman mindset by arguing that the traits and skills that make for a great job are rare and valuable and therefore if you want a great job, you need to up-skill and build up rare and practical skills to offer in return. This is what he names Career Capital.

While Newport’s wisdom is gender agnostic, it applies to women who desire to build a career in the present-day context.

In an article from the World Economic Forum, by 2022,42% of core skills required to perform existing jobs are expected to change. According to the article, the world is facing a reskilling emergency.

The COVID-19 crisis has accelerated digital transformation and AI projects across industries. This has also resulted in the requirement for new skills to deliver on business objectives. Companies worldwide are struggling with an urgent need for new skills. McKinsey’s Global survey shows the urgency for reskilling employees and closing the skill gap.

According to the World Economic Forum article, automation and technology will affect the nature of future work. Women would be impacted more unless reskilling measures are taken to ensure that deserving women employees are provided with the skills, they will require to be successful leaders in the digital era.

Women who have dropped out of the workforce during the pandemic, or have left their jobs because of child care, elder care, or other responsibilities, should consider upskilling themselves so that they can re-join and take up jobs that will ensure good career growth.

While corporates should sponsor women for reskilling and create more gender-balanced pipelines, women themselves should also strive to build the latest skills and prevent themselves from being phased out by technology. This will help them develop their career capital and help corporates to hire them back. The number of job opportunities that they explore will significantly improve post reskilling.

Statistics highlight the impact of the pandemic-induced lockdown on working women across all sectors and all levels. Technical and Managerial roles have also seen a significant decline.

The future of women at work

Technology adoption can be a significant disruptor as many jobs would get automated. Businesses worldwide are adopting the latest technologies to remain ahead in their respective fields. Companies are, therefore, heavily dependent on highly skilled employees. To overcome this disruption and excel in the tech-driven business environment, women will have to up-skill and reskill themselves and be more technology savvy. Those already working in technology companies, will also have to invest time and effort in upgrading their skills. There would be many new opportunities for women in STEM roles.

A few key things that women should do to increase their immunity against all odds and control their destiny,
1. Align with the demands of the evolving job market and your work domain. Currently, the technologies in great demand are artificial intelligence, machine learning, data analytics, robotics, and blockchain. Upskilling or reskilling oneself in these technologies will safeguard your jobs and will enable you to help your organisation with innovation.

2. Virtual learning options are available for upskilling and are best for women as they help save time and money. It also supports ensuring that one stays relevant and updated with trends without sacrificing a job or taking a sabbatical.

3. While you are reskilling or upskilling and putting your newly gained skills to practice, build your personal brand. Find someone you admire or consider as your role model and request them to be your mentor.

4. Network for both career and personal growth. There are many women’s networking groups available for AI and Data Science. Try joining such groups as it helps to share knowledge and grow your career.

Jack Welch has very rightly said, “Control your destiny or someone else will”.

By upskilling and embracing new technologies you are opening all the locks to new beginnings in your career and taking control of your own destiny.

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Short Story- A lonely achiever.


                            Photo by Praveesh Palakeel on Unsplash 

Sumi was the youngest daughter of Mr Sharma, a clerk in a government office in Mandya. Mandya is a small city about 45kms from Mysore and about 100 km from Bangalore in Karnataka in India. Sumi was in class 10th, and her elder sister, Radha, was in 12th class. Sumi was more intelligent and hardworking, whereas Radha was average in her studies and had no intention to continue studying after her board exams. Sumi was good in her studies and consistently scored good grades. 

Sumi had big dreams. She wanted to be an IAS officer. The IAS is a competitive exam and takes a lot of hard work and focused studies to crack it. 

Mrs Sharma was a cancer survivor. She is dependent on the girls for household chores and cooking. Both the girls would get up at 5 am cook meals for the day, clean the house, complete all work and then rush to school at 8 am. 

The Sharma’s had a small house close to the busy market square. Since the school was not very far from their home, both the girls would cycle to school.

The elder Radha was very talkative and fond of watching television. 

Sumi was an introvert and loved solitude. It was difficult for her to find any quiet place in the house. Radha would always keep the television, or the radio switched on while working in the kitchen. 

The house was surrounded by neighbours who had dogs that relentlessly kept barking throughout the day. The cacophony of the marketplace and noisy neighbourhood forced Sumi to take refuge in a private library for her studies. Sumi was very sensitive to noise. Even when it was her turn to cook meals, she would close the kitchen door to shut out all the surrounding sounds. 

My friend Mary owned a private library in Mandya and had a good collection of books, magazines and daily newspapers. It was in a quiet locality. Sumi met her and discussed her problem with Mary. Sensing Sumi’s earnestness, Mary offered to help her. She allowed Sumi to use the library for studying during the evening hours, free of cost. In return, Sumi would help Mary run a few small errands and help her with a few chores. Sumi’s silent nature and hardworking attitude had impressed my friend Mary to no end. In a short time, Mary had become very fond of Sumi.

Her school years glided away, and it was time for Sumi to try for college admission. She passed her school board exams with flying colours and won a scholarship for further studies. Sumi wanted to join a college in Bangalore. Mr Sharma was concerned about her safety, and the fact that Sumi and her sister had never stayed away from their parents added to his worry. 

Sumi took admission to an Arts college in Bangalore. Since she needed solitude, she would spend hours in the library reading and preparing for the IAS exam after college.

Sumi managed to stay away from all the distractions that girls her age can get addicted to while staying in the hostel. Since her parents could not afford to give her a smartphone, laptop or any other gadget, she had no presence on social media. This proved to be a boon for Sumi as she spent all her waking hours studying. During weekends she would visit her parents. She had just one goal in life. To become an IAS officer and make her parents proud. 

While Sumi was in her second year of college, her mother relapsed from cancer and had to be admitted to the hospital. Sumi had to let go of her classes and travel to Mandya to help Radha and her father look after Mrs Sharma. While she attended to her mother in the hospital, she would carry her books and sit and study next to her mother’s bed. When her mother recovered a little, she was discharged from the hospital. Sumi then went back to Bangalore but continued to visit Mandya every weekend. She was very close to her mother and found it emotionally challenging to be away from her home while her mother was bedridden. 

She was worried that she had not fully prepared for the upcoming UPSC exam and may not be able to sail through. Her mother’s cancer worsened, and doctors gave her three more months. Her father insisted that Sumi move back to Mandya, and he would arrange to get her admission to one of the colleges. Luckily her college principal was a kind-hearted soul, and with his help, Sumi was able to get a transfer to another college in Mandya. 

Unfortunately for Sumi, her mother passed away a week before her UPSC exam. It was a difficult moment for the family. The two girls were inconsolable. Sumi found it very difficult to cope with this loss. She would visit Mary in the library. Mary encouraged her to appear for the exam. Sumi had prepared for this exam from the time she left school, and therefore there was a good chance that she would be successful. She cracked the exam. Her father was ecstatic and did not stop praising his daughter’s intelligence and determination. It was the first time in many days Sumi had smiled. Her name appeared in the local newspaper, and her friends, relatives, school, and college classmates poured in congratulatory notes. The only thing she felt terrible about was that her mother was not alive to see and celebrate her success. 

I met Sumi last year after the pandemic. She had completed her studies and became an IAS officer, and her first posting was in Bangalore. Sumi was still the same shy, introverted girl who loved to work in isolation. She rarely socialised, and her house reflected her love for solitude. Her home had bookshelves neatly stacked with books. Sumi very neatly did up her reading corner and working space. Her job involved travelling to different places in the state, and she loved it. 

Sumi was always a lonely achiever.

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

Struggling to follow through on long term goals. 5 tips to self control and stay in check


Let’s face it. It is a common human weakness to give up on long-term goals for immediate gratification. We decide to go on diet but when someone offers us a chocolate cake, the urge to grab it cannot be controlled. And we decide the diet can start from tomorrow. 

We promise to save money, but just when we decide to save, we see a new bike, a pair of good shoes that we must have and we cannot control the craving to buy them.

Something similar happens with healthcare as well. Everyone is aware that preventive medicine is more cost effective and good for catching and avoiding health problems if diagnosed early. But we often procrastinate and avoid getting health checkups done regularly. 

Many coaching clients talk about how they would achieve their self-development goals and have impressive action plans but in reality, they struggle to get them off the ground. So, what holds them back? Busy schedules, lack of confidence, or absence of instant rewards? Often it is the absence of instant rewards.

When it comes to making decisions in our lives, we think we are in control. But actually, we are not. 
In the book “Predictably Irrational” behavioural economist and author Dan Ariely talks about the hidden forces that shape our decisions. In a series of experiments, he shows how expectations, emotions and other factors skew our reasoning abilities. And this is the reason why we can’t do what we want to do.

Try these self-control mechanisms to stay in check,

1. Precommit to achieving goals. Know your “why” clearly.
2. Delay gratification when you have an urge to break your diet plan or your goal to save money. Journal and make a note of what you have done to overcome instant gratification
3. Set limits for yourself.
4. Get an accountability partner who will nudge you and make you answerable if you fail to follow through.
5. Find yourself a coach, mentor, guide who can inspire you and help increase your confidence and hold you accountable to achieve your goals.

Friday, March 25, 2022

Book Review- Karmayogini- Life of Ahilyabai Holkar by Vijaya Jahagirdar


I was keen on reading this book since I watched "Punyashloka Ahiyabai " on Television. At the same time, the producers have given a disclaimer that the story is a dramatised version of the actual story and not a factual representation. But since Ahilyabai Holkar of Malwa has been an inspiration for generations, I wanted to read and know more about her. 

This is the story of the brave lady- Devi Ahilyabai Holkar, the Holkar Queen of the Malwa-Martha kingdom in India. She was born in Chaundi Village in Maharashtra and, at a very young age of 8-9 years, impressed Shri Bajirao Peshwa and Shri Malhar Rao Holkar with her intelligence. Malharrao got her married to his son, Khanderao Holkar and brought her to Indore, the capital of Malwa. 

Ahilyabai took training under Malharrao's mentorship and, through sheer hard work, bravery and courage, took over the reins of the subhedari. Malharrao also sponsored her education, and she learned to read and write. 

During her lifetime, she went through many hardships and her personal life was filled with sorrow and tragedies. Her husband and later her son had many vices and were a constant concern for her. But she strived for the betterment of Malwa and its people. She was a strong follower of Lord Shiva.

Stories of her courage and philanthropic work are widespread. She built many temples on the banks of river Narmada and in several different cities in India.

The famous Maheshwari sarees that we see today are due to Ahilyabai's vision of equipping women with some means of livelihood by encouraging and promoting them to start weaving, sell their products and stand on their own feet. 

I would recommend this book to all those who are interested in history.

Thursday, March 24, 2022

Book Review- It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover

Colleen Hoover is a number one New York Times bestselling author.

A book title speaks to its content in many ways, but in the case of this book, the meaning becomes evident only when you read the complete book and reach the end. It's a unique story. It reveals the impact of domestic violence on children and how it influences their thinking as they grow up and lead their lives.

The book evokes powerful emotions. It was an emotional roller coaster while reading this book. This is the first time I have read a book by Colleen Hoover, but I cannot wait to start on some of her other books after reading this book. 

The book has many lessons. My biggest takeaway was the importance of standing up for what you believe in, even if you have to navigate challenging situations. It is a romantic story, but the end comes as a surprise. It is not the usual happy ending making you think all is well that ends well. 

I love all the characters in the book. They all feel so authentic. All of them are strong, honest and make tough choices. I admire Lily and her mother. The way Lily controls her life and stays courageous, and faces the situation, is admirable. She has never had it easy in life and always worked hard for whatever she wanted. After graduation, Lily wanted to start her own business. She moved to Boston and started a contemporary flower shop. She meets Ryle in Boston, and the two hit it off. Ryle is a neurosurgeon. They are the polar opposite of each other. Only when Lily's first love, Adam re-appears, it threatens Lily and Ryle's relationship.

"There is no such thing as bad people. We're all just people who sometimes do bad things". It requires courage to make such statements when your life partner abuses you, even if it occasionally happens because of some known, incurable problems. You can see Lily moving from denial to sorrow, fury and acceptance. She loves Ryle, but she feels hurt and sorry for him simultaneously. She is forced to take a tough call on their relationship for the safety of their newborn child. Lily's childhood memories of her abusive father and mother's struggles influence her decision. 

The book is unputdownable. The twist in the story keeps you engaged till the end. It is a refreshing read. I highly recommend everyone to read this book.

Best Line, "That's what fifteen minutes can do to a person. It can destroy them. It can save them".

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Spring in my balcony garden

I love this time of the year when flowers are blooming and my balcony turns into a riot of colours. The plants and trees are swinging with the gentle breeze. Spring is my favourite time when I find lot of positivity around. Spring season is considered as the season of new beginnings.

My balcony is full of colourful bougainvillea, hibiscus and jasmine plants. During the month of February and March even the butterflies cannot keep themselves away from the blooming flowers for long.

These are the few photos taken from my balcony garden this morning. The riot of colours leaves me with a sense of wellbeing.

Anita Krizzan’s beautiful words come to my mind, “Spring will come and so will happiness. Hold on. Life will get warmer.”

As the days are getting longer and the weather is beginning to warm up, I am preparing to go out and bask in the glory of the season.

Thursday, March 10, 2022

Uncovering Dementia


                                            Photo by Steven HWG on Unsplash

Dementia is the most dreaded disease and one that everyone hopes to give it a slip. Statistics on dementia both globally and in India look horrifying. With numbers expected to rise, it becomes imperative to understand the disease and its myths and learn through experience.

According to World Health Organisation, worldwide, around a 50million people have dementia, and there are nearly 10 million new cases every year. It is predicted that in 2050 there would be 152 million cases, which is a whopping 204% increase.

It was estimated that 5.3 million people above the age of 60 had dementia in India in 2020. This equals to one in twenty-seven people, according to the Dementia in India 2020 report.

India has the second-highest number of individuals who have dementia. This figure is expected to double by 2035, according to the “Dementia India” report published by the Alzheimer’s Society of India.

What is Dementia?

Dementia is a syndrome of a chronic nature in which an individual’s cognitive function deteriorates. With age, our cognitive abilities decline gradually. But in dementia patients, this decline becomes magnified. Navigating familiar environments and performing everyday tasks becomes challenging. It

is chronic and progressive in nature. Alzheimer’s [written as such because it is named after the man who discovered it, Alois Alzheimer] is one type of dementia.

Dementia from a Caretaker’s point of view.

In 2010 my father was diagnosed with Vascular Dementia. He was 89 years old at the time of diagnosis. He was a retired doctor and followed a very active and disciplined lifestyle. In 2009, during his routine evening walk, he had a fall resulting in a head injury. Since the injury did not look severe and showed no symptoms, he ignored it. But it had caused internal bleeding in the brain, which created a blood clot. His health started deteriorating a couple of months later. There were signs of memory loss.

We assumed that forgetting was a normal part of aging. But slowly it started increasing. He was showing signs of disorientation of time and place. It was difficult for my father to perform even his familiar task and his daily activities started getting impacted. Fiercely independent, he was struggling to maintain his lifestyle and live in the moment. His sense of self was slowly getting stripped away. It was painful to watch him struggle.

Sensing something serious, I took him to a neurologist. The doctor did his CT scan and X-rays. The reports showed a blood clot in the brain. He was diagnosed with dementia. It hit us hard. My father had to undergo brain surgery to remove the blood clot. While the surgery was successful, it did nothing to cure him of dementia. We watched the disease systematically disassemble him.

It was the first time my family and I had heard about dementia. We researched on the internet, and learned about the conditions and possible symptoms. In 2010 there was little information available about this chronic syndrome in India. Very few trained caretakers were available to manage dementia patients. There were no support groups available to share problems and learn from others.

My father’s condition was aggravating each day. My mother and I, with the support of my husband and son, were managing him. I had no clue how to relate to him as his daughter. I felt sad, frustrated, confused and heartbroken. All of us had learned to be patient and empathetic towards my father. Since my husband, my son and I had full-time jobs, my mother would look after my father during the day. I would take up caregiving after I returned from work. We were all finding it difficult and were juggling caregiving with our other responsibilities. I had hired a full-time person to look after him and help my mom while she was alone with my father during the day

The Three Stages of Dementia

Progression of dementia happens through three stages, from mild to moderate to severe. These stages, however, vary from person to person. In the early stages a person can function independently, though there could be some signs of memory lapses. In the case of my father, the first two stages went undetected. We attributed it to his age, partly because of our ignorance and partly because he was in his eighties. Little did we know that he was going through dementia.

Slowly he started losing his way in familiar places and was having difficulty communicating. I recollect going to a shopping mall with him. While we were busy shopping, he wandered off by himself. We had to take the support of the security team to find him. After about an hour of hectic searching, we found him sitting on a bench near the exit looking lost. We were lucky to have found him.

As the disease progresses, patients find it challenging to communicate. My father stopped communicating. But he would acknowledge with a nod or a smile when we spoke to him. As time went by, he had forgotten my name and our relationship. But he would give me a lovely smile when he saw me arriving back from the office. I would give him a warm hug. He did not recognise my mother as his wife and instead called her Aai (in Marathi, a mother is called Aai).

The End of a Meaningful Life

During stage one of the disease, people continue to lead an active life without any support, though there could be complaints of forgetfulness. I recently read the book “Somebody I Used to Know” by Wendy Mitchell. The book is a true story of the author herself. She was diagnosed with young onset dementia at the age of 58. She is a determined and resourceful individual and she vowed to outwit the disease for as long as she could.

There is no permanent cure for dementia so far, although researchers around the world are working to find a treatment for it. There are medications which help reduce the symptoms and improve quality of life of the patient, but the medications do not stop the progress of the disease. There is no way to overcome dementia. It carries a tragic hopelessness with it. My father died six months after his diagnosis. There was nothing we could do to fight it. It was with helplessness that we looked on as his condition went from bad to worst. In his case the decline was sudden and rapid.

Does Dementia happen only in old age?

Dementia is a disease that affects the relatively young as well as the elderly. According to WHO, dementia does not exclusively affect older people. Young Onset Dementia (defined as the onset of symptoms before the age of 65 years) accounts for up to 9% of cases.

My close friend Smita was diagnosed with dementia at the age of 54. Her first symptoms were when she started feeling extremely tired and stressed at work. Thinking and processing any kind of information was becoming difficult and she would have a tough time in the office explaining her inefficiencies. Once, while driving back from work, she could not remember the directions to her house. It took her almost two hours to locate her house. Her husband was alarmed and rushed her to their GP. After several tests, the neurologist diagnosed her with dementia. Things started getting bad and she had to quit her job as it was getting more stressful for her. The family was getting increasingly concerned as her daily chores were getting impacted. Even though she was in the early to moderate stages of dementia, she was experiencing unpredictable cognitive lapses.

Reducing the Risk of Dementia

Dementia at a younger age can be more challenging to manage. It impacts all relationships. In the USA, the FDA has recently approved Aduhelm to treat patients with Alzheimer’s disease. This is expected to reduce the level of amyloid plaques in the brain. Since it is a new drug, further evidence of its benefits are still being monitored by the FDA. But according to the National Council of Aging, Aduhelm is not a cure for dementia. It does not reverse the disease progression. It can only benefit patients with mild stage of dementia.

According to WHO, the risk can be reduced by eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar level, staying mentally and physically active, sleeping well and preventing head injury. Also, avoid social isolation, keep yourself active and prevent depression.

List of Websites that can be referred to for more information and support on dementia.

· https://www.alz.org/in/dementia-alzheimers-en.asp

· https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/dementia

· https://ardsi.org/

· https://www.alzint.org/member/alzheimers-related-disorders-society-of-india-ardsi/

“Those with dementia are still people and they still have stories and they still have character and they’re all individuals and they’re all unique. And they just need to be interacted with on a human level” — Carey Mulligan.

This article was first published in www.induswomenwriting.com

Saturday, January 29, 2022

How to declutter and pare down life to its simplest form.


                                                       Photo by Jessica Kessler on Unsplash

 A month back, I completed my home renovation project. I renovated my apartment. While the goal was to redo the flooring and provide for a fresh coat of paint, the other significant purpose was to declutter and let go of what we as a family had collected for the last forty years.

Since my husband and I had full-time jobs that involved a lot of travel, we had probably hoarded a lot of stuff that we did not need but had no time to segregate and give away. We filled bookshelves, cupboards, chest of drawers, suitcases. 

I have an addiction to cleanliness, and whenever I would get time, I would clean, throw away, donate whatever I did not require. On the other hand, my husband loves hoarding, and he finds it emotionally and physically challenging to clear the mess. 

His study room was filled with papers, books, stationery, clothes, gadgets that had started overflowing from drawers, cupboards and tables. Multiple requests made to him to clear the mess had no effect; each time we would end up arguing, our arguments would end up leaving me frustrated.

So this time, I made up my mind to declutter the rooms while the house was being renovated. 
After a series of emotional tantrums and persuasion, my husband agreed to let go of some of the stuff.

What does clutter do to your brain?

"Under the influence of clutter, we may underestimate how much time we're giving to the less important stuff." —ZoĆ« Kim, "Minimalism for Families: Practical Minimalist Living Strategies to Simplify Your Home and Life "

Research shows that clutter can influence our ability to think clearly. It affects cognition, behaviour, emotions and relationships. 

The materialistic world we live in compels us to buy things that may give us moments of joy. It is temporary. Most of such things we do not need, but we buy them because somebody else in the social circle has bought them. 

Impulsive shopping to satisfy your emotions ends up in some corner of the house. Items start getting collected, clutter starts building up. Clutter leads to a feeling of stress. 

When you start to organize storage, there will be several such items that would have been bought with the intention of being used at some time. And since the items have never been used, you do not feel like discarding them because they have a monetary value attached to them. So you end up storing them.

Next time you need something and open the cupboard, you have to hunt through the mess to get what you need. Spending time sifting through the clutter not just takes time and effort but also make you feel less energised. Time lost could have been spent on something more fruitful. 

I was trying to keep a memory alive.

When I decided to declutter my kitchen and pantry, I found several steel utensils and glass crockery my mother had given me during the marriage. Giving them away was a tough decision as it had an emotional value attached. 

By keeping those items, I was trying to keep the memory of my mother alive. I finally decided to keep just one thing from the lot and give the rest to charity.

 It took some time to come to terms with what I had done, but once I convinced myself that someone had better use of those things than me, I felt liberated. 

The Zen Story- an example of mental clutter.

I was reminded of a Zen story about two monks returning to their monastery one evening. It had rained, and a beautiful young woman was standing on the path, unable to go on because of a big puddle blocking her way. The elder of the two monks lifted her up in his arms, carried her across the puddle, and continued on his way.
That evening the younger monk came up to the elder monk and said, "Sir, as monks, we cannot touch a woman, right?"
The elder monk answered, "Yes, brother."
Then the younger monk asked, "But then, sir, how is that you lifted that woman on the road?"
The elder monk smiled at him and said, "I left her on the side of the road, but you are still carrying her."

As seen from the story above, mental clutter does not allow you to think straight. When we have too many things to think about and an information overload, we tend to think negatively. It is difficult to think clearly and filter what is essential from all the noise. Information overload tends to get our brains in overdrive. Multitasking, excessive use of social media, constant notifications from mobile phone apps can distract and cause mental clutter. 

"Outer order contributes to inner calm." —Gretchen Rubin on her blog

Tips to declutter 

A clean and orderly environment makes me feel more energetic and creative. How about you? 
If you are still procrastinating about your decluttering project, here are some tips that can inspire you to sign up for it,

1. Putting everything in order can make you feel happy and energetic. Identify one area of the house each day and sort all the items to see what you need. Those that have never been touched or are overused but are still shoved in the storage can be removed for giving away. This will help free up the space. A freed up space is sometimes a pleasure to look at.
2. Decluttering cannot happen in a single day. Therefore make a plan, set a timeline for the decluttering project, decide what you will keep, what will be donated and what can be thrown in the dustbin. Set up three different bins of three different colours and label them Items to keep, items to donate and things to throw. 
3. Follow minimalism, which means owning only those things that add value and meaning to your life. This is not as simple as it sounds. It takes a lot of self-discipline. But once you decide to buy what you need consciously, you feel liberated. Take small steps to make this big change. Don't spend time window shopping or shopping on Amazon. The first thing I did to follow minimalism was to give up shopping for clothes for one year. The whole of last year, I did not buy any clothes. The achievement not just made me happy, but I felt elated when the goal was achieved. I donated a carton full of clothes that I had sparsely used during the renovation work. The most significant advantage is now I can quickly choose what I need to wear. This saves time and effort in making a decision. 

“The question of what you want to own is actually the question of how you want to live your life.”-Marie Kondo