When we think of “clutter,” most of us picture an episode of Hoarders or hear the soothing voice of Marie Kondo (two very different ends of the spectrum). But even the tidiest among us struggle with messes we can’t see: mental clutter.
Clearing your mental clutter is the best way to invite peace and calm back into your day-to-day life. Here’s how to recognize, recover, and declutter your mindset.
Physical vs. Mental Clutter
Physical clutter is easy to recognize: the clothes piled on the floor, that “junk drawer” in the kitchen, the trash on the floor of your car. Mental clutter, on the other hand, is a little harder to spot. And unfortunately, it can be even more detrimental to your mental health than a physical mess.
Mental clutter takes many forms, but it most often shows itself as overwhelm:
- Losing sleep over tomorrow’s to-do list
- Forgetting important tasks or dates because you’re juggling too much responsibility
- Constantly feeling tired, drained, or overworked
- Having little motivation to do anything after work (even things you usually enjoy)
- Neglecting self-care in favor of work or family responsibilities
What Causes Mental Clutter?
If you’re feeling like this, you’re not alone! So many of us let our little stresses pile up over time, creating a Hoarders-style mound of mental clutter.
Just like small slips create clutter over time, small improvements can clear it out, create space for calm, and help you step into a clutter-free mindset.
Some of the biggest contributors to mental clutter are:
- Your phone and computer. Between the endless notifications and opportunities to distract ourselves, it’s no wonder our digital lives are full of clutter. I’d never tell you to break up with your devices entirely, but in order to eliminate the stress they cause, you have to reevaluate your relationship with them.
- Your to-do list and calendar. How much time do you spend stressing about that ever-growing to-do list? All those tasks and appointments add clutter to your life. The trick is prioritizing the important stuff and eliminating the rest.
- Your daily routine. If you’re regularly switching between tasks, procrastinating on projects, or just not finishing your work, it’s time to streamline and declutter your daily routine.
These all create and perpetuate mental clutter, but they’re also some of the best places to invite calm back into your life. That’s what decluttering is all about: clearing out the junk to make space for the good stuff.
How to Declutter Your Mindset
Decluttering your mindset doesn’t happen overnight, but there are real steps you can take towards a more peaceful life. Follow these steps to decluttering your physical and digital space, and watch the mindset decluttering follow suit.
Before you can start decluttering your mindset, you have to get real about everything that’s contributing to your overwhelm. Grab a journal and let’s take a good, long look at your environment.
How many notifications do you get in a day? How much time do you spend staring at screens? What does your desk look like?
Now, be honest with yourself about your stress level. How often do you think about those notifications, worry about emails, or lose sleep over your to-do list? Do you have a healthy work/life balance? Do you feel well-rested?
This part isn’t going to feel good. That’s okay. Having a clear starting point is the key to mapping your way out of the clutter.
Step 2: Envision your decluttered life.
Next, imagine what your life would look like entirely decluttered. No need to picture your home Kardashian-level clear 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 workspace 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?
Don’t hold anything back! Dream up your ideal life, and 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: Set boundaries.
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.
- Tidy your workspace, and surround yourself with positive images and affirmations. (I love a good vision board!)
- Check off small to-do items you’ve been procrastinating on, like doctors’ appointments and home maintenance.
- Delete old, unused files and emails from your computer.
- Set aside part of your day to spend time away from screens.
- Schedule self-care into your daily and weekly calendars.
- Commit to starting your day without your phone in hand and putting your devices away an hour before bedtime.
- Donate clothes you no longer wear, books you won’t re-read, or anything in your home that’s taking up space.
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!
The not-so-pretty parts of self-care are where the true mental decluttering takes place. By working through the stressors in your life, you create space for more peace and calm. It’s not easy, but it’s definitely worth it.
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. And the more energy you devote to taking care of yourself, the less likely you’ll be to fall back into old patterns of distraction and self-sabotage.
Decluttering your mindset 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!
If you’re working on your self-care routine, learn about the 7 types of rest, how to switch off from work without feeling guilty, check out my holistic wellbeing course or follow me over on Instagram for more self-care tips.