How to De-Clutter Your Mind

When you hear the words "clutter" and "de-clutter," you probably automatically think of physical items piling up around your house.  But your home isn't the only place that can end up overrun with unwanted stuff. 

Your mind can become cluttered too.

In fact, it may even be a little more likely for your mind to be cluttered than your house, because even the most OCD-organized people out there can still find themselves overwhelmed by the constant bombardment in their brains.  I should know, because I am one of said OCD people.

We live in a world where we are continually assaulted by thousands of things vying for our attention - television, movies, books, magazines, video games, billboards and social media, just to name a few.  

There's no way we can possibly take it all in.  But, our poor brains do their very best to try to keep up.  Even when we're not consciously aware of it, our eyes are taking in all the colors, lights and images and our ears are taking in all the voices, music and sounds.  

It's a wonder we get any sleep at all at the end of the day.

But, in the same way you wouldn't want your house to get so cluttered that you can't even walk through a room without hurting yourself, you don't want to let your mind get so cluttered that you can't even think straight.  Or worse yet, you start having issues with anxiety, fear or depression.

Think of your mind like a pressure cooker.  Too old school?  Sorry, think of your mind like an Instant Pot.

You can keep putting more and more things in there and letting them simmer, but eventually... you're going to have to release the pressure through that little valve or it's going to blow at some point and you'll have a real mess on your hands.

So, why not take the time in advance to de-clutter and release some of that stuff before your metaphorical chicken and noodles end up all over the walls?

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1.  Journal

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Now, I know I am a writer, so I may be slightly biased on this one.  But, I believe one of the best ways to de-clutter your mind is to journal.  Taking the action to actually transfer something from your mind down onto paper, helps it to literally get out of your head.  Whether it's a decision you've been ruminating on, an argument you had with someone or even a dream you have about something you'd like to accomplish.  By sitting down and letting your thoughts flow freely into a journal, you are not only acknowledging those thoughts and feelings, but you're also releasing them.  You're getting them out of your "head world" and getting them into the real world.  Whether you end up actually taking any action or doing anything else with those thoughts and feelings afterward doesn't even matter as far de-cluttering goes.  But, the act of writing them down may also help you to process things in a new way, make some concrete plans or create connections between things that you wouldn't have realized otherwise.

2.  Make Lists

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More writing!  What can I say?  But, even if you're not a writer... it's again about taking that action to get things in a written, tangible form.  Half of the clutter that is floating around in our minds most of the day is things that we need to do or things we need to buy.  So, instead of trying desperately to hold all of that information in your mind, get it out on paper!  Make a grocery list... make a daily to-do list... make a to-call list... make a television shows to-watch list if you need to!  The point is to get all of that clutter out of your mind, so your brain can breathe!

3.  Meditate

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Now, when I talk about meditation, let me clarify... I am NOT talking about the total and complete clearing of your mind.  First of all, I think that is impossible and second of all, I'm not trying to achieve some other-worldly "zen" type state.  But what I DO mean when I say meditate is to quiet your mind.  It may not sound that different, but it is.  

Quieting your mind is simply sitting in peace and letting your mind slooooow down.  We are all so busy these days, running around from morning until night, that often the only time that our brains get a chance to settle down and decompress is when we get in to bed (which is why so many of us have insomnia).  So, by intentionally quieting and calming your mind at some point during the day, you are giving it a chance to unwind and let go of all of those excess thoughts that have been building up in there.  I like to do a little visualization with mine as well, where I will intentionally let go of things that have been bothering me by visualizing myself tossing them into the ocean or washing them away in a waterfall.

4.  Get Outside

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A super easy way to clear and de-clutter your mind is to get outside.  For many people, the only time they even see the outdoors is when walking from their house to their car in the mornings, from their car to their office and then the reverse of both at the end of the day.  But, that is not how we were meant to live.  Our ancestors used to be outside all the time!  They didn't have to make time to go outdoors because they worked outdoors, gathered food outdoors, spent time with their families outdoors and even slept... you guessed it... outdoors.  But these days, we have to be more intentional (are you seeing a pattern yet?) about going outside.  

Take a thirty minute walk on your lunch break.  Get up a little earlier in the morning and go for a jog.  Or take the family and go for a hike over the weekend.  Just getting outside and getting some fresh air and some vitamin D will not only help your mind to feel clearer, but it will also improve your concentration and help lessen feelings of anxiety.

5.  Get More Rest

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One of the reasons why our minds can feel so jumbled and cluttered is because we aren't getting proper rest and are trying to operate in a sleep-deprived state.  Although the old "rule" we all know states we need eight hours of sleep to function, it can actually vary greatly from person to person because of differences in health, age, lifestyle and environment.  But, the point is not to try to "get away with" as little sleep as possible... it's exactly the opposite!  Sleep is not something that gets in the way of your busy life.  It's a necessary function - it's when your bodies do some important work like muscle repair and tissue growth, consolidation of memories and the release of hormones that help control our growth and our appetites.  If you cut your sleep short, not only will you wake up the next day feeling foggy-headed, but you'll also cut short your body's time to accomplish some of these important physiological processes.

Make sure you are getting the proper rest for your body and lifestyle (at least seven hours), so you can go into the next day feeling refreshed and start it out with a clutter-free mind!

Until next time... keep your worries tiny and your dreams BIG!

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