How to tackle mental and material clutter

Clutter is disorder. It is bunch of stuff — be it physical or psychological — that’s haphazardly thrown about. A mess, to be blunt.

how to declutter

When we are messy in our minds or in our space it has a strong adverse affect on our well-being. Countless studies have shown this correlation: 

People with clean houses are healthier than those with messy homes.

People who describe their homes as cluttered are more depressed than those who describe their homes as orderly.

Clutter overwhelms the brain and makes it hard to focus and complete tasks.

Rumination (excessive worrying and thinking about your failures and mistakes) leads to persistent negative mood and even depression.

If you want a surefire way to gain more serenity and clarity in your life — and substantially improve your overall health — then identify and eliminate the clutter.

Take a moment and make a list of areas that feel cluttered in your life. Here are a few examples to get you started.

Material Clutter 

  • Letting too much time go by before cleaning your space 

  • Making obsessive purchases then regretting them later 

  • Hoarding lots of objects that have no functional use 

  • Feeling that your environment is unattractive or in disarray 

Mental Clutter 

  • Replaying mental scenes from old situations 

  • Having too many unfinished tasks on your to-do list 

  • Allowing social media to distract or make you insecure 

  • Entertaining superficial relationships that drain energy 

Choose one area to work on using the process outlined below. You can repeat this process for additional areas once you feel good about your progress. 

how to declutter

Work through the emotional baggage

Try to get at the root of why you are holding on to unnecessary thoughts or things. 

Addressing the underlying cause is essential to being able to follow through on your de-cluttering efforts.

Align your thoughts and things with your values

Sometimes excess comes about when no standards have been set.

When you have a set of principles that you live by it becomes easier to make decisions about what (or who) should and should not be in your life.

Find a framework that helps you properly eliminate the clutter

Sorting out disorder in your home obviously requires a different approach than tackling schedule overcommitments.

No matter if it’s space organization or time management issues — a simple Google search should be able to uncover a variety of ideas and recommendations you can experiment with.

For instance, Feng Shui is a philosophy that can work wonders in helping you clear and design your space to maximize positive energy.

Ask a loved one to be an accountability partner

To avoid relapse, ask a friend or family member to check in on you — perhaps a month or two after you’ve completed the decluttering process.

Having a trusted person to support and challenge you to stay committed will increase the likelihood that you maintain your results over time.

Reading Recommendations

Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui: Free Yourself from Physical, Mental, Emotional, and Spiritual Clutter

This book is unique in that it defines clutter as “stuck energy” and combines the best of eastern and western thought to offer solutions that’ll help release that energy.

You don’t have to be familiar with Feng Shui to benefit from its approach to finding balance in your mind and space.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing

There’s a reason why this book became an international phenomenon — though it focuses on decluttering your home, it also addresses the emotional barriers to doing so and provides step-by-step how-tos that you can implement instantly.

Declutter Your Mind: How to Stop Worrying, Relieve Anxiety, and Eliminate Negative Thinking

If you are overwhelmed by worry, anxiety, and negative self-talk then consider this book which provides practical tips for using mindfulness to overcome mental clutter.

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