Collecting junk as we pass through life is something none of us can avoid. Who doesn’t have those once-lovely things that comfortably occupy space around the home or office? So hard to get rid of them. In fact, many of these things are long-forgotten until we resolve to clear the clutter, then we end up going through them all over again and find it hard to let go.
Yes, I am very guilty of this. Sure I enjoyed the process, but at the end of the day, my clutter clearing didn’t see any major results. So I had gotten rid of the dust, and after realizing I had wasted hours reviving what I had actually forgotten about – things best left that way – I was forced to move on to more important things that HAD to be done.
The clutter? Still there.
That was no good at all.
And then came the wake-up call. I won’t bore you with those details, but suffice it to say that I decided I would create breathing space. I got down to it with determination and simply resolved to donate or dispose something every day. I am still a work in progress, and it is taking a little time, but I know I’ll get there this time. And it is a great feeling to give away stuff.
Now, that takes care of the physical clutter.
What about the junk we carry around in our head? The emotional baggage?
Mental clutter is just as important to clear up, right? Those memories we store – happy and sad – do require some re-hauling from time to time to allow fresh thoughts in. Why carry around old negative stuff and limit ourselves?
To stay healthy, we need to let go of unhappy experiences, fears, worries and regrets and claim our focus back. We need to let go of toxic relationships. Can you imagine the amount of energy and space all this is taking up, stopping you from being your best self?
But is it really possible to clear mental clutter?
Let’s define clutter as just about anything that interferes with our happiness.
I remember, many years ago, when my Mom suggested meditation to get all the mental junk out of my head, I would find it very hard. Each time I closed my eyes, her soothing voice guided me to close my eyes and take a deep breath, but all I would think of was that thing that annoyed me or some hurtful thing someone had said or done.
So anyway, realizing that this wouldn’t work for me, at least not at the time, my Mom, being the innovative teacher she was, taught me to follow the same steps I used in an activity I particularly enjoyed. Don’t laugh – but from the age of 4, I just loved cleaning closets. Yep. Just picture me standing in front of a messy closet, hands on hips, taking stock and deciding on course of action. That’s exactly what I did with mental clutter.
Here is what I did, and still do.
Now, a cluttered closet is easier to look at and sort out, but what is in the mind is a lot harder. Here are some questions that can help with this:
- Are you in any relationships that are wearing you out?
- Do you have a habit of overthinking about things that keep you from the life you deserve or want?
- Do you feel distracted from feeling emotionally happy?
- Will this matter a few years from now?
- Is it really clutter or am I making a big deal out of it?
It helps to sit in a quiet spot and figure out the answers to these questions. In fact, I like to write it all down.
Once you’ve got at least some of the answers, sort them out just as one might do with clothes – socks, shirts, pants and so on. Except, with the mental stuff, it goes like this:
- What can I let go of now?
- What feelings can I release?
- What problems can be solved?
- What can I accept?
Add your own questions if you feel like. If you think you need help, please do get it. I was lucky to have my Mom.
It is time now to make a plan of action to deal with each of those things. Based on the previous step, make a to-do list. It helps to schedule each item in your calendar. For example, to get rid of distractions that eat into your productivity, if email is your demon and messing with your mind, deal with it by resolving not to keep your mailbox open. Don’t feel obliged to reply to every email the moment it comes in. Depending on what’s on your list, schedule an action and a date to help you resolve it.
As you resolve each issue, it is time to throw it away. It now belongs in the trash can. Let it go. Do it.
Keep off the clutter
Ya know, just like weight loss. Work hard, lose it, keep it off. Avoid that mental clutter from building up again. Be alert to the signs. One obvious indication is when your desk, your home, your space is a mess. This is usually considered a sign of inner imbalance. To keep track and stay on track, why not set aside a few minutes to take stock every day? Write down what is bothering you. Try and make it a habit to spot mental clutter and deal with it before it snowballs into a major issue. This will help you focus on the things that really matter. And oh, it helps to cultivate the habit of saying NO. More about that in another post!
You know what they say – we become what we think. Why not turn our thoughts into meaningful ones that lead us to where we would rather be than wallow in the quicksand of negativity?
You can’t zap mental clutter away – it takes time and effort to clear up that precious space of all the crap that builds up over time. And we have to deal with issues. We are all so caught up with our routines that we become automatons. We lose sight of the present moment. When that happens, things just pile up into a mess. Practicing mindfulness can help you get there and make space for good things!
How do you keep your mind clutter free?