It seems like decluttering our house is the second most popular self-improvement activity after weight loss and fitness, particularly amongst women. It seems to pop up in everyone’s list of resolutions – mine included. It seems like the faster I tidy, the faster the mess just comes back.
I guess that’s inevitable with teenagers and pets in the house…
But here is a thought for you – what if the physical clutter in your home and surroundings is just a manifestation of the mental clutter in your head? If you could work a little on freeing up the space in your mind, then maybe it would become easier to keep on top of the physical clutter?
Sit back for a while and consider all of the things that are cluttering your mind right now? A hundred and one things to do, schedules for your children and things you need to get for them, bills to be paid, a never ending stream of emails, plus of course the demands of your job or career.
……and breathe…… Now just stop thinking about all of that for a moment.
That’s so much harder than it sounds isn’t it?
We feel like we have to keep everything in our heads constantly – if we don’t then something might get forgotten – and that would be a disaster…..
So if we can’t stop thinking about it all altogether, at least we can give ourselves a bit of a break now and again, and also organise the thoughts a bit, so that they don’t keep jumping up to bug us when we don’t need them.
Here are some tips to help you declutter your mind, which should help you to regain a small amount of calm, focus and sanity
Do your very best to spend some time outside in nature each day. And while you are there, focus on what is there, the sights, sounds and smells, and grant yourself some time to leave your worries behind you.
If you have got something specific that is bugging you, then write it down and leave it on your desk before you go. Then walk away from it out into the outdoors and leave it behind for a while.
If you are able to run, bike, walk a dog or play tennis, that is ideal. You can take in some great gulps of oxygen while you are outside and revitalise your body along with your mind.
But if your time or your mobility is limited, don’t let that stop you. Find a park and just sit, bring your own chair if necessary. Just being outside, watching the clouds, breathing in the air and wondering what the heck that squirrel has in its mouth, will declutter your mind from all your worries.
And if even that isn’t possible, then bring nature in to your space. A houseplant, a water feature, or even the scent of some woody or green essential oils will help to recreate the same atmosphere when you can’t get out.
Mind in Neutral
If you have done pilates, you will be familiar with the concept of putting your spine in neutral, allowing it to be in a focused but relaxed state while you do the other exercises.
So here is an exercise to put your cluttered mind into neutral, just for a short time. Find a running body of water and sit beside it, watching the ripples, just concentrating on the ripples and nothing else.
If there is no suitable running water near you, then focus on one flower, one leaf on a tree or one spot where the wind is blowing and you can see the rippling effect. Think of nothing, just focus on the item and your steady even breathing.
Mindfulness and Meditation
The above technique is one of the first things that you will learn if you follow a programme of mindfulness or meditation. Meditation does not have to be difficult, long or boring – just five minutes a day, or a quick short breather when you are feeling stressed can be enough to calm and refocus your mind.
Focusing on nothing but your breathing in and out, listening to and feeling your heartbeat, is meditation in its simple form and it will help to declutter your mind.
A regular meditation practice, rather like regular exercise, can lead to your mind remaining in its calm and focused state for a longer part of the day – just like with physical exercise what you practice gets stronger
Keep a Notebook
Are you a creative person? Is your mind constantly coming up with things to do? Get that stuff out of your head quickly by keeping a notebook handy and writing it down as soon as it pops up, and then forget about it for the time being.
Alternatively if you are not the pen and paper type you can organise your thoughts by using an app like Evernote, where you can see everything on your mind, in a totally organised way, instead of having to keep asking yourself, “what was that great idea I had concerning cats?”
You can throw all kinds of things into Evernote – screen grabs from the internet, text notes, photos (including photos of notes you have taken or people’s names etc), you can forward emails to it and all sorts of other things. Then when you have time, you can sort through it and categorise it so you can find it when you need it
If you prefer the idea of a paper notebook but also like the idea of Evernote, then check out Scribzee Notebooks from Oxford. You can write in them just like a normal notebook, then a special app uploads the pages direct to Evernote, where you can append other bits to them – audio, photos sketches etc.
Keep a Journal
How is a journal different from a notebook you ask?
In the notebook method above I suggested you kept track of little snippets of thought as and when they occurred to you. When you journal you deliberately spend time sitting down and recording what is on your mind – and that process helps to get the stuff out of your mind.
You can do journals for different areas of your life and you can discover things about yourself that you never knew.
Be positive when you journal. If you have made a mistake in your life, write down what is good about that mistake, how you learned from it and how you will now grow. Journals get your creative mind flowing and ideas of how to improve your life will pop up out of thin air.
Stop Watching Television
Television is for the most part a huge time waster and most of what you are watching has a negative effect on your mind. Exercise instead or listen to motivational speakers like Les Brown.
Reading is an excellent way to declutter your mind, especially if you are reading motivational and educational material. Autobiographies of people who did something outstanding with their lives, can impact yours in a most positive way.
I would say the same also goes for reading newspapers each day and also to a certain extent for mindlessly scrolling through Facebook. If you are going to do these things for relaxation, then set limits on them, and also be aware of the power these media have to manipulate your thoughts.
If you find yourself feeling anger, disgust, envy, hatred or other strong emotions while you are reading or consuming media, then stop and ask yourself if this is something that is truly providing you with relaxation, or whether it is just making your mental clutter worse
Over the last year, I have purged my Facebook friends list of people that I didn’t really know, who just seem to be posting negativity and drama every day.
I am happy to support my real and dearest friends through their moments of drama, and I will be eternally grateful to the real friends who supported me through mine, but I can only spread my caring so far, and so I restrict it now to people that I know well.
Don’t hold everything inside
Having tackled grief myself , and watched over and cared for family members with severe anxiety and depression, I have realised how easy it is to allow your thoughts to take over your mind, so that you can start to retreat from reality, and feel like nobody would be interested in what you have to say anyway.
That’s the point at which you really have to get out there and share those feelings with somebody so that you can get help.
Not only have I had very close brushes with the outer edges of anxiety and depression myself, but I have been very privileged to help somebody very close to me recover, from a point where their psychiatrist said things were very bad indeed, to a point where they can function normally again in their life and have come off medication for the moment.
Just because I have seen one person recover does not mean I now think it is easy – I have seen close up just how bad it can be, and how difficult the path to recovery is, when your own brain is telling you that getting better is neither possible nor even worth trying.
But it is worth trying – it is always worth trying, and it really is possible too.
If you are suffering from even mild episodes of low mood, depression, anxiety or panic, please reach out and get help.
This seems to go contrary to what I have said in the previous point about how I am steering away from drama on Facebook. Spewing your depressive thoughts and panic out in public is not always the best way to start to look for help, as you may put people off.
Of course, if I saw a cry for help from someone I knew personally I would always respond – so if social media is your only avenue for reaching out to people then go for it.
But otherwise, please find a caring friend or two, a counsellor, a GP or somebody that you can unburden yourself to on a one to one basis, somebody who can reflect back to you, hold space for you, and let you know that your opinions matter and that you are loved and cared for.
Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff
When you declutter your home, you get rid of anything you don’t need anymore and leave yourself with just the essentials.
Your mind is no different. You need to think about only the most important things in your life. Stop replaying old fights in your head or remembering and getting upset about that time that somebody hurt you.
The past is gone – it can no longer hurt you. So worrying about what was, will not in any way help you with your current situation.
Focus on what makes you happy. Where is your joy coming from and how can you get more of it?
Simplify your Life
Another way to declutter your mind is to stop filling up your appointment calendar and schedule with items that you could delete, delegate or share.
When you have kids in after school activities, take turns with other parents ferrying the children around. It is not necessary for you to see every game or rehearsal.
And finally, what could you delegate or ditch from your housekeeping routine? I have a lady who cleans and does my laundry and ironing, plus I have all my groceries delivered and never go to the supermarket. What chores do you hate the most, and how could you get them out of your schedule?
So there you have it – those are my best tips for helping to declutter your mind. If you are so overwhelmed that you don’t know where to start then just pick one of them. Decide how you will implement it and practise that until it becomes a habit.
I’d love to hear your comments about what you did, or if you have any other mind calming tips that I didn’t mention
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