When was the last time you were bored? Like, really bored?
For most of us, it was during childhood. Between our phones, computers, and never-ending to-do lists, there’s always a distraction to keep us from falling into true boredom.
The result of all those distractions is mental clutter. The nonstop notifications and unessential to-dos add up, and they take time and energy away from what really matters.
If you want to move past the mess and improve your focus on the essential things, grab your broom! It’s time to declutter your mind.
Physical vs. Mental Clutter
Physical clutter is easy to identify. (We’ve all seen Hoarders.) But what about the other types of clutter in our environment?
The non-physical factors in your space play a huge role in creating clutter. If your phone is constantly pinging with Slack notifications, your finances are all over the place, and your to-do list just keeps growing, you’re bound to end up overstimulated.
Unfortunately, your boss probably won’t stop emailing you any time soon. A little bit of clutter is unavoidable!
The problem occurs when little things stack up slowly over time. (Again, think Hoarders.) Your to-do list may have three items on it today, but when you procrastinate, you end up with six items the next day, then nine the next, then twelve…
See the issue?
Consistent inaction over time allows clutter to stack up. And when clutter stacks up, we get overwhelmed.
How does clutter affect our mental health?
Imagine sitting down at your desk, getting ready to crank out some to-do list items, and then seeing a circus come marching down your street.
Chances are you won’t be getting much work done, right?
Mental clutter works the same way. When your brain is full of non-essential distractions (like an untidy space, tons of notifications, or even a super interesting podcast playing in the background), there’s less brainpower available to focus on the things that matter – whether that’s work, your relationships, or your own self-care.
And when you’re constantly stressed over a long period of time, it can affect your brain and body. It’s impossible to truly rest when you’re stressed nonstop. The cycle of overstimulation can give you sleep problems, disrupt your diet, and even increase your risk of heart disease. Not to mention, it’s exhausting!
Only when you declutter your mind and eliminate all those distractions can you really, truly give your body and brain the rest they need.
How to start decluttering your mind
Step 1: Take stock of your environment.
Grab a journal and take a good, long look at the clutter in your environment.
How many notifications do you get in a day? How much time do you spend away from screens? How often do you procrastinate on important tasks? What does your desk look like?
Now, be honest with yourself about your stress level. How often are you thinking about your notifications? How many times do you stop and start the same task in a day? How often are you losing sleep over your to-do list?
This part isn’t going to feel good, but the more clear you are about your starting point, the easier it will be to map your way out of your clutter.
Step 2: Envision a decluttered life.
Next, imagine what your life would look like entirely decluttered. No need to picture your home Kardashian-level clean or your to-do list entirely empty. Just figure out what your ideal day-to-day life looks like.
How would you start your day? What would your space look like? How much work would you get done in a day, and how would you feel about that work? How would you wind down in the evenings?
Once you have a clear picture of your decluttered life, make that visualization part of your daily routine. Meditate on it, journal about it, put it on your vision board, whatever you like! When you keep your goals front-and-center, you’ll be more likely to make subconscious decisions that get you closer to it. (That’s manifestation at work!)
Step 3: Eliminate distractions.
This is where the actual decluttering happens. Compare your present to the decluttered life you want to get to, and start making adjustments towards that goal.
Here are some easy first steps:
Turn off notifications on your phone.
Clean and tidy your workspace.
Check off to-do items you’ve been procrastinating on.
Delete old, unused files and emails from your computer.
Start saying “no” to things you don’t have time for.
These tiny changes will set your decluttering in motion. Plus, the fewer external distractions you have, the less internal clutter you’ll have to deal with.
Step 4: Practice self-care.
Newsflash: Not all self-care is fun. Sure, it sometimes looks like bubble baths and face masks. Other times, it’s way less glamourous. But that doesn’t mean it’s any less necessary!
You can practice self-care and declutter your life by…
Taking control of your finances. Money is the greatest stressor in our adult lives, and it’s also a huge source of clutter. Organize your accounts, start tracking your money, and make a plan to pay off debts.
Dance-clean your space. Even if you hate household chores, there’s something therapeutic about blasting your favorite music and dancing while you clean.
Get outside. Fresh air and sunshine can do wonders for your mental health. Take a walk outside (without headphones!) to refresh your body and declutter your thoughts.
Plan your week. Grab your planner and outline your projects, meetings, and self-care time throughout the week. A solid schedule leaves less time for distraction and clutter.
Talk it out. When in doubt, reach out to a close friend, a family member, or a therapist to talk through your mental clutter. They might be able to recognize stressors you can’t see in your own life.
Of course, make time for fun self-care, too! Any form of undistracted, intentional self-care re-centers your focus on what really matters.
A decluttered mind takes time.
Decluttering your space and your devices won’t magically declutter your mind, but it does get the ball rolling. Over time, you’ll notice your inner thoughts start to settle as your environment becomes more controlled. And as you prioritize self-care, your body will finally get to recover from the stress that builds up day-to-day. Trust me, your future self will thank you!