In the past two articles on clutter (if you haven’t been following, you can read Part One here and Part Two here) I covered the 4 different kinds of clutter, and some of the ways to solve the problem of clutter.
This is really a larger topic than I anticipated, especially judging from all the comments here and on Facebook. In fact, this may become longer than just an article series — but for now, I want to cover the main points for you and offer key solutions that will lead you to overcoming even the most daunting clutter situations.
Just for purposes of clarity here, I will be talking about “ordinary clutter” — not the hoarder’s version of it, which is a whole ‘nother animal 🙂
So far, we’ve been discussing physical clutter. That’s what most people think of, when they think of clutter. But the other kinds are just as bad — and help lead to physical clutter. You know the old saying about “a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind”? There’s a lot of truth in that! I know from my own experience that I work better when I take everything off the desk top and work without a lot of papers in view.
So let’s talk about mental clutter today. This is a condition you might call “overload” — and we all have those moments. The problem comes if you allow the overload to become a constant presence, so that you have so little room in your mind that you can’t think. Chronic mental clutter leads to all kinds of problems, from forgetfulness to scattered thinking, to lack of concentration and focus, and to profound discontent and unhappiness. It’s no way to live! And you don’t have to.
Let’s talk about some solutions to mental clutter. The ones I’ll be sharing with you here are by no means the only ones; they are ones that have worked for me and for many of my clients and friends. They are tested and proven to work.
But before I share them with you, I just want to say that in some cases there can be a physical cause behind your clutter or confusion — and it’s always a good idea to report your mental state to your health care providers, so that they can rule out any possible physical causes and get you some help for them if they are playing a role in your ability to lead a healthy mental life.
In some cases, too, your emotional life may be contributing to your mental state; if you suspect that this is true for you, please ask for help from a qualified mental health care provider. It should go without saying that if you’re experiencing panic attacks, PTSD, depression, or other severe emotional states, you should seek help for them. There are things we’re not meant to deal with by ourselves and there are good resources available for you if you seek them out. Please do so!
Acute or chronic mental or emotional problems is not within the scope of this article; what I’ll be covering here are the ways that clutter is produced from your habitual ways of dealing (or not dealing) with routine events in your life — and how to make the changes you need, in order to recover your time and your space in healthy ways.
That said, there are times when for even the most even-keeled among us things just get piled up and we have trouble sorting it all out. Life tends to go in cycles like that. When you feel that you have too much going on in your life that you can’t really think straight about any of it, it’s time for some changes. Here are the things I suggest to help.
- Take a break. Chill out! Sometimes you just need to get away from all the commotion and gain a different perspective. You can do this in several ways. During the day, you can get up from your desk and take a walk. Go outside. Go to a place you don’t often frequent. Change the atmosphere and environment. The change will do you a world of good! While you’re away, promise yourself that you will just put the “pause” button on all the things that are swirling around in your mind; they will still be there when you return, I promise! But don’t let them intrude on your break. Just put them on hold for a while and enjoy something different.
- Be still. Take at least 15 minutes (or longer, if you can) to be quiet and allow your mind to come to rest in meditation. If you don’t already have a meditation practice, there are many ways to begin and lots of books, videos and web sites to help you. For an easy way to start, I recommend just using a candle or a bowl of water and to sit in a quiet place and just look at the flame or the water for 15 minutes and let your mind do whatever it will, without trying to stop it or force it to do anything at all. Just BE, while you sit quietly without distraction. Those simple acts will help, especially if you do it every day.
- Write it all out. Draw a mind map. Make a list or a list of lists. Find a way to capture and organize all the thoughts that are scrambling for your attention. Once you have them on paper, it’s much easier to sort them into some kind of order so you can take action on the most important ones, and decide what to do about the rest. Asserting control over your thoughts in this way gives you a sense of peace that you’re not getting now, while all the things on your mind are fighting for your attention. Make them get in line!
- Use flower essences and aromatherapy to assist your process. There are some excellent flower essence formulas to help you focus and organize your thinking processes here: Flower essences for mental clutter. And you can clear negative energy and thoughts here.
Mental clutter is something you CAN overcome. Taking care of it will lead to better outcomes for clearing the other kinds of clutter in your life, too. Stay tuned for upcoming articles with more solutions. I’d love to hear your thoughts about clutter and tips that work for you, too!