Clearing clutter is a buzz phrase popular with self-help books, eastern philosophies and parents all over the world. But how to get rid of your mental clutter in a way that’s easy, versatile, and doesn’t lead to perpetual feelings of guilt or resentment? Keep reading to find out how to rid yourself of mental clutter in everyday life with these 5 easy tricks.
- Start at home
You are most likely familiar with the adage “out of sight, out of mind”. However, there is just as much truth in the reverse – you always have thoughts and opinions on the things you can see around you. They affect you whether you like it or not. Some creative types might claim they revel in chaos, but for most of us, visual and physical clutter in our home or workspace tend to be more of a hindrance. Whenever there is clutter around you, you must first waste time looking for space in which to start anything new. So why not just create that space beforehand by putting the things around you in order? But you can’t just move the clutter out of sight and hide it in a closet. Your brain will know, trust me.
- Meet your mind on paper
Most of us lead busy lives, and a busy life usually means a lot of things on your mind. Trying to carry a lot of grocery bags at once to your doorstep can be hard. Likewise, trying to hold too many thoughts at the same time will leave its mark, too. If you put your groceries in a trolley, the task suddenly becomes much easier. Managing your thoughts can be just as simple, provided you get into the habit of putting them down on paper, writing them down. How you do this is up to you – there are apps, but a pen and a paper journal work just as well. You can make bullet points and take short notes, write full diary entries, or draw mind maps. There are dedicated apps for every possible method for doing this. Just get started and then turn it into a regular habit. Again, it is easier to act on things you can see in front of you.
- Make your decisions matter
Feeling tired after hitting the gym can be a pleasant form of fatigue but the thought of making decisions day in, day out at work, and then deciding where to go for dinner or what movie to watch etc., can become exhausting. This is called decision fatigue and can often be a sign of impending burnout. The good news is that it can be prevented. Once you have a solid mental inventory in your hands, as per the previous trick, start looking for ways to change what your mind does, how it does it, and when. Try to automate simple, repetitive tasks that don’t require your full attention. Set smart calendar reminders for when you need to see them, not for when it’s already almost too late (or way too early). Communicate with your coworkers, or with your partner at home, and see if some of your tasks can be delegated or shared. Start taking action to make your life easier and simpler.
- Learn to accept loss
Let’s check in with ourselves here. We’ve cleaned up our home and workspace, started keeping a journal of our thoughts, and used it to identify areas in our life where we can save cognitive resources. But life is unpredictable, and sometimes this just isn’t enough. We can get overwhelmed despite our best efforts. Failure is a part of life, but nowhere does it say that it should be keeping you up at night. When you encounter a bump in the road, don’t just focus on the fact that there was a bump in the road. Instead, remember what you did to overcome it, and learn how you can overcome the next one more efficiently. We all know would hear about people holding a grudge against others, but often don’t realize that it is just as easy to hold a grudge against yourself. Is that something you need in your life? Does it add value? No.
- Hold yourself accountable
The trick here is that none of these other tricks are a done and dusted type of deal. Every single one of these steps is an ongoing process that will require your time and attention. Time and attention that you will hopefully have more of by following those steps. For one reason or another, you many need/have/want to take a break and discover that the clutter starts creeping back in. Here is where you must be honest with yourself and either leave it at “I tried it, and it didn’t work” or admit that the clutter has started coming back in because you have stopped keeping it out. Build your own support framework to keep this process going, just as you would in a successful business. Talk to your family, friends or coworkers about what you have embarked on and ask them to give you feedback. Make a deal with yourself. Be kind to yourself by acknowledging and celebrating your success but be equally kind by knowing where and how to seek help when you’re not quite making the grade. Seven times down, eight times up.