“Life is as simple or complicated as we make it.” Donna Smallin
The dreaded “C” word. Clutter.
We all deal with it. In some part of our world, we face it: be it in our closets, in our offices, or even in our bodies. But the most distracting and debilitating cluttered space is in our heads.
You know the feeling. Driving on autopilot to work. Forgetting important dates. Leaving the water running or the stove on. Stumbling over words, unable to make a point.
When we’re caught up in our heads, distracted by worry or fear, we’re not present or clear-headed. And when we’re not clear-headed, we lose the connection to ourselves, our environment, and our lives.
Mental clutter pulls us off center, disrupting our balance. It can get so jumbled and disorderly up there that we end up lost in la la land.
Clearing Clutter At The Root
Fortunately for me, I grew up in a big, loving family. However, a big family tends to hold all sorts of clutter. Raised with four siblings sharing one bathroom, one TV, and one telephone, let’s just say it got ugly. Probably didn’t help that Mom was a shopaholic and Dad was a packrat.
The claustrophobia of my childhood left me wanting to live clutter-free.
It wasn’t until my college years away from home that I started noticing how my mind was the cause of any clutter I carried with me; nothing and no one else was to blame.
After a huge quarter-life crisis, I saw how I was compromising my own clarity and life balance with my own head-trash—the junk I kept upstairs.
I then made a conscious choice to declutter my life, starting at the root of it all—my mind.
But how do you begin to clear away the clutter you can’t see?
Decluttering the mind requires us to become intentional on where we place our attention and how we spend our time and energy.
Here are some tips to help you do that.
1. Keep a gratitude log.
Gratitude is appreciating what you have. It’s saying that what you have is enough. Taking time every day to consider your blessings will help bring balance to your life. It’s hard to be grateful and angry at the same time.
Spend five minutes every day to note at least five things you’re grateful for. Some ideas: time with a friend, an award at school, your seatbelt, your breath, the colors in the park, and even the nourishing beauty of a rainy day.
Whether digitally or with paper, journaling is a wonderful release of pent-up thought. By writing down your thoughts, worries, hopes, and experiences, you are finding respite from the chatter inside your head.
Even though you’re still thinking of these things as you write, it’s like you’re observing the situation from ten feet away, no longer completely absorbed in the emotionality of it.
Try to journal every day for however long it takes to feel peace on a topic. The more you do it, the faster the peace comes. Like in therapy, simply letting it out is healing because we’re relieved of the burden of keeping it all inside.
Laughter has been proven to be the best medicine for relieving stress. It eases defensiveness, lightens your emotional load, and lifts stress off your shoulders. It brings balance to your psyche because laughter is presence.
Practice not taking yourself so seriously and laugh more often. Really laugh. A deep, hearty, Santa laugh. Watch comedies, hang out with funny friends, go to a comedy club, read the Sunday comic strips, or play with your kids or your dog. With so many options, stress doesn’t stand a chance.
4. Zone out.
Take time to rest your mind every day. Let your mind shut off from having to process, apply, or interpret information. This means no TV, no conversation, no reading, and no problem solving.
Take a break from the chores, from the duties of the day. Let the breath come and go naturally, and the eyes roam wherever they want.
Look at the trees sway, the clouds float, the stars shimmer. Afterward, when it comes time to work, you’ll find focus more easily than before your mini-retreat.
5. Control your media intake.
Watching or listening to anything and everything just because it’s on doesn’t bode well for your psyche. Subtle opinions, biases, and judgments creep into your mind and embed thought structures. Oblivious, you then form opinions that aren’t your own, simply because you heard it on the radio.
Start really paying attention to the noise that you let seep into your eyes and ears. Ask, Is this benefitting my life in any way?
6. Get creative.
As often as possible, connect with your inner child by exploring your imagination. Let curiosity lead. When it comes to opportunities to get creative, there are plenty! A few of my faves: puzzles, coloring, drawing, singing, dancing, and even making a meal from scratch.
The point is to get lost in awe and wonder like you did at five years old. When you achieve that feeling from a certain activity, keep doing it!
Move. Sweat. Stretch. Get active and get your endorphins going! Exercise helps control your weight, prevent illness, boost energy, and improve your mood. It helps you sleep better, feel better, and focus better.
Find an activity that inspires you to raise your heart rate—dance, yoga, martial arts, running, walking, whatever. If maintain some level of frequent activity, it will serve your health and well-being for years to come.
8. Get clear on your priorities.
To figure out your top priorities, list your goals, your motivations, and those relationships that matter most to you. Then rank them in order of importance to your well-being. These are the things, respectively, that you’ll want to spend the most time on.
Evaluate anything that comes between you and your priorities—is it worth you compromising on what matters most?
9. Do something kind for another person.
The late Zig Ziglar said, “You’ll get everything you want if you help others get what they want.” Whatever we feel is lacking in a situation is something we’re not giving. And anytime we feel lack or longing, we’re out of balance.
Sounds counterintuitive, but if you want to see more of something in your life, start giving that thing away—be it love, money, or attention.
Make it a point every day to be kind with your actions, your words, and especially your thoughts.
If you don’t feel genuinely moved to lend a helping hand or pass along a compliment, simply smile instead. That act alone is enough to improve your mood and clear the mental blockage between you and compassion.
10. Let go.
Since when does worrying get you anywhere? Release those useless, negative thoughts of worry. When we do this regularly, we drastically reduce the amount of “stuff” that needs our attention and depletes our energy.
Drawers and cabinets are not the only areas that need tidying. Our minds are full of thoughts in the form of judgments, expectations, and fears that blind us from the truth. Try monitoring your mind and replacing negative thoughts with positive ones. You’ll soon notice a change in your entire outlook on life.
Maintaining A Balanced Life
Life’s full of surprises. We control how we respond to them, and the best way to strike a balance is to roll with the punches and go with the flow. Life’s unpredictable course is our opportunity to meet surprises with acceptance and grace.
It helps to have an open mind.