Reduce Your Clutter to Open Up Mental Space

A few months ago I was in a good mood. I felt calm and was ready to brush my teeth. Then I felt this subtle uneasy feeling in my stomach. I would normally ignore this feeling, but I’ve been practicing tuning into my body to be more aware of my feelings. I went to put my mouthguard on my nightstand so I wouldn’t forget it and I noticed I had a bunch of post-it notes, a magazine and three books piled on top of each other. The uneasy feeling grew stronger.

There it was! My big aha!

I felt uneasy because my nightstand was a mess.

I didn’t think my messy nightstand was bothering me. In that moment I realized how important my physical space was to me. My clutter triggers my feelings of overwhelm.

I’d been wanting to read these books, but I never felt like I had enough time to read the books. The notes always nag at me, pulling my attention when I don’t want them to distract me. My inner bully was in overdrive because it saw a way to mess with me. Arnold, my inner bully, delights in finding little things to remind me how I’m inadequate.

That’s when I decided to take two minutes to fix my cluttered nightstand. I threw away the old notes. The relevant notes I added to my to do list or wrote them down in my daily journal. Then I put the two books that weren’t as important in the drawer. I kept the one I wanted to read the most out on my nightstand. I felt so much better. I kept avoiding this because I thought that if I ignored it it would go away. Clutter never goes away if you don’t take time to deal with it.

Every Night

I’ve been working on simplifying my life. I start with clearing out the mental clutter then I move on to my physical surroundings. The more simple my life is—and the physical space I inhabit—the more time I have for the things I enjoy.

To help simplify my life and reduce my physical clutter, every night I find one piece of paper or item and either recycle it, trash it, or put it in my donation box. I look around the house and find something I haven’t used in a while or that’s been sitting out. This habit has helped me declutter my life and my thoughts.

When you see a piece of paper with a note on it, a bill, book, empty box, etc., then your brain has to take time to process it. Your brain will ask…

  • Why is it there?
  • Do I need to do anything with it?
  • Should I keep it there?
  • Should I put it away?
  • Is there a better spot for it?

This is just the start of the list. If the object is a book, we tend to think about where we are in the book when we see it. We feel guilty for not reading it. If we have a piece of mail out on our counter. We look at it then remember that it’s not important right now. We forget about it and this process happens all over again.

Think about how much more productive you could be if you weren’t distracted by pieces of paper, small objects and other clutter lying around the house. What would your life look like if you had less clutter and more headspace for things that matter to you?

I want you to try one of these two things:

  1. Try setting a one-minute timer before you brush your teeth and clear out a little corner of clutter. It could be your kitchen table or your bathroom counter. The place in your home doesn’t really matter, as long as you clear some space.
  2. Try setting a “Clear Clutter” alarm on your phone that goes off to remind you to clear a tiny bit of clutter at the same time each night.

I promise, if you try one of these simple techniques, you’ll be amazed at how clearing away physical clutter helps with mental clarity. The really cool part of all this is that you’ll notice you’ll have a healthier mindset when you wake up in the morning. You’ll have less to process and it makes it easier to get your day started.

The powerful part about this decluttering practice is that you are training yourself to understand what is essential to your life and what isn’t. I don’t use or touch 80% of the objects in my home. I don’t really need them to be happy. When you see what you don’t need and clear it away you are making mental space for the things that truly matter to you.

Photo by Bench Accounting on Unsplash