Clearing Clutter (Including Mental Clutter)

Winter can be a great time to tackle indoor projects. This can include ridding your home of excess clutter. If you’re experiencing cabin fever, clutter can intensify feelings of your walls closing in on you. Because the clutter is taking up space that could literally be open space!

Physical Clutter
It’s common for decluttering to feel overwhelming. Where do you even begin? Just like any task, it becomes a lot easier if you break it down into bite-sized pieces. Just begin somewhere. Organize one drawer per day or one closet per week. Or start with a type of item like office supplies/files, or clothing or shoes.

Almost every organization expert recommends labeling bins, boxes or bags with “to keep,” “to fix,” “to donate/sell,” “to pitch/recycle” and organize as you go. Be brutal about paring down. You might find that downsizing and simplifying are very, very freeing!

Find a permanent home that makes sense for the things you want to keep. Give things away, take stuff to a charity or thrift store and get it out of your house as much as you can. Do not put things in a “miscellaneous” pile or “to be decided later.” Decide and take action now! Even if you decide about just one item today, it’s a step toward your goal.

Emotional Clutter
While you’re at it, you might also think about how you can clear mental clutter. Many experts agree that our environment is a reflection of what’s going on within—when your home or personal space is in chaos, it can be a sign that your inner space is out of balance as well.

Here are 5 suggestions on restoring order from “5 Steps to Clear Mental Clutter” by productivity expert (and author of Unclutter Your Life in One Week) Erin Rooney Doland:

  1. Assess. Mental clutter is not as easy to identify as physical clutter. Is there a relationship in your life that feels draining? What concerns distract you from being fulfilled spiritually and emotionally? She suggests this exercise to identify mental clutter: Sit in silence and close your eyes. Try to clear your mind, and notice what thoughts pop in and distract you from stillness. Pause and write them down. Go back to sitting with your eyes closed and repeat until the invasive thoughts are all on paper and your mind feels quiet.
  2. Sort. Kind of like the bins, boxes and bags for physical clutter, categorize the mental clutter into groups based on how you intend to process it. You might have categories like “I can let it go right now,” “I can research and likely solve the problem,” “I can reframe it, change my attitude opinion about it,” “I can make amends,” “I can confront it with the help of a mental health professional.”3.
  3. Plan. Doland recommends making a to-do list with actions and a timeline. What steps do you need to take to reduce or eliminate your mental clutter? Maybe you can forgive someone right here and now even though they haven’t apologized. Maybe you can spend 15 minutes today researching therapists in your area. Again, break tasks into bite-sized pieces and take specific action.
  4. Discard. “Once you resolve an issue,” Doland writes, “don’t stash it in your mental backpack to retrieve later. If you have forgiven someone, do your best to never mention the transgression again. You’re done with the clutter; be resolved to let it go for good.” It’s a wonderful spiritual practice to stop keeping tabs. (Not that we would allow ourselves to be continuously treated badly! Some toxic people need to be eliminated from our lives.) But isolated incidents can be processed and not held as grudges. A therapist I worked with recommended taking a mental snapshot of something hurtful, and picture yourself literally setting the photo down behind you and driving away from it. You could turn around and look at it if you wanted to (the memory is still there), but you don’t have to. You can choose to look forward at your bright future instead!
  5. Prevent. It’s difficult to avoid mental clutter for the rest of our lives, but we can prevent it from accumulating. One idea is to keep a journal where you can offload little things that bug you every day. Or schedule five minutes each day to worry about things you can’t control. If unwanted anxiety interrupts your day, you can remind yourself that you’ve scheduled time to think about that later, so that right now you can focus on work or fun or whatever it is—be in the moment!

Doland concludes, “Remember, you get to decide what fills your head and shapes your thoughts. Only you can clear the distractions and focus instead on what matters most to you, so stop letting clutter interfere with your meaningful path.”

Source: “5 Steps to Clear Mental Clutter” by Erin Rooney Doland, 2013 January-February Spirituality & Health,


Category : Blog Posted on January 27, 2016

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