When we think of decluttering, it’s usually in relation to our stuff.
Our thoughts immediately turn to our overflowing closet, too-full garage or basement stacked with years of junk.
But what about decluttering your mind?
According to some researchers, the average person has about 70,000 thoughts a day.
Others are skeptical, claiming it’s a myth we think that much.
Whatever the actual number, it’s safe to say we think way more than necessary. What’s worse, most of our thoughts are either negative or not constructive.
Benefits of Decluttering Your Mind
Just as you experience a sense of relief when you finally clear out an area of your home that’s been weighing on you, so, too, will you feel better when you declutter your mind of the negative and arbitrary thoughts using up your mental bandwidth.
Much like its physical counterpart, mental clutter causes us to feel overwhelmed. It inhibits our ability to focus on the things that matter.
When your mind is busy, thinking clearly can be a challenge.
Decluttering your mind gives you room to think, room to consider your options without distraction. As an added bonus, staying present is also much easier.
The reason our thoughts make us anxious is because they either pull us toward the future or back into the past. Neither of which is helpful.
When you’re truly in the moment, your attention is honed on the task you’re busy with.
You’re not going to have any luck staying present, if you don’t first declutter your mind of extraneous thoughts and make room for the ones that actually matter.
How Do You Declutter Your Mind?
Okay, so how do you declutter your mind? It’s not as if you can empty your brain into a couple of boxes and haul the offending items out to the sidewalk.
If only it were that easy, right?
Decluttering your mind is not as difficult as you might imagine. There are a number of tips and tricks you can employ to not only empty your mind, but keep it clutter-free.
1. Declutter Your Stuff
As this article on Daring to Live Greatly points out, physical clutter leads to mental clutter. You can’t expect to declutter your mind without first attending to the space around you.
If your home or office is a mess, it won’t matter what mental work you’ve done.
Decluttering will make you happier and more productive, give you more time and help you feel calmer and more relaxed. From that space, decluttering your mind will be a cinch.
Schedule that overdue clean-out and make decluttering your space a priority. It doesn’t have to be a weekend-long affair either, there are places you can declutter in 20 minutes or less. Start there.
Read: The Minimalist Home by Joshua Becker
2. Get Rid of the Mental Habits That Keep You Stuck
Psychology Today has outlined three mental habits that might be keeping you stuck. Pity parties, self-doubt and rumination not only serve no purpose, they actually make things worse.
They suggest keeping an eye out for negative language (nobody understands what I’m going through), actively challenging self-doubt (as opposed to just accepting it as the status quo) and understanding the difference between problem solving and worrying.
Consider what mental habits you have that aren’t serving you and take action to eliminate them. Depending on the type of habit and the hold it has on you, you could either go it alone or enlist the help of a therapist.
There’s no shame in seeking out help when you need it. (Therapy saved Sporty and I from imminent disaster.) If you’re not sure how to go about finding someone to talk to, a website like BetterHelp can help.
Read: Atomic Habits by James Clear
3. Write it Down
The human brain is a remarkable piece of machinery, capable of incredible feats. But sometimes the way to get the most out of it is by giving it a break. Rather than keep everything ‘between your ears’, empty your thoughts onto paper.
Journalling is hugely beneficial on many levels. It serves as a healthy outlet for bottled emotions, lowers anxiety levels and improves your working memory. It’s also a great way to keep track of good ideas and come up with new ones.
Read: The Bullet Journal Method by Ryder Carroll
4. Forget Multitasking
Don’t be fooled, there is nothing productive about multitasking. In fact, according to some schools of thought, there’s no such thing. All you’re doing is task-switching, which is unproductive and a recipe for mind clutter.
When you stop multitasking and instead give your attention to one thing at a time, you will improve your mental focus.
Bye bye, mental clutter.
Done enough, you’ll eventually learn to think only about the task at hand. Single-tasking (yes, it has a name) is also the secret to higher productivity, lower stress, and more happiness.
Read: Deep Work by Cal Newport
5. Stop Overcommitting
We all want to be the good guy, the person who says yes to every request. While admirable, it has its downsides. For one thing, it’s easy to overextend yourself. When that happens, overwhelm is not far behind.
Your mind quickly goes into overdrive as it tries desperately to process everything you said you’d do. Remember, you don’t have to stick your hand up every single time. It’s okay to say no occasionally.
Read: The Book of No by Susan Newman
Bonus Tip: Meditate
Meditating regularly (as in, daily or even twice daily) does wonders for your state of mind. People are often intimidated by the thought. They assume it’s difficult or something only wizened monks can do.
Meditating does take practice, but it’s definitely not the sole domain of the enlightened. Believe me, if I can master the art, anybody can. Sporty and I learnt our daily practice from the Art of Living. We highly recommend checking out their Happiness Programme.
If that’s not accessible to you, then another alternative is get yourself a meditation app. I recently checked out Declutter Your Mind and it’s pretty neat. Along with teaching you how to meditate, the app will help you form the habit of a regular practice and expand your mind to the teachings of mindfulness.
Also, whoever is guiding the meditations has the perfect voice for the job. It’s not woo-woo or affected, but it is calming. And there’s no lame rainfall soundtrack in the background, either.
There you have it, six relatively simple ways to declutter your mind. Because, everyone loves simple, right?