How to Get Rid of Clutter to Calm Your Mind

Physical clutter equals mind clutter. Donate, recycle, or discard those things you no longer need, use, or love.

Take a deep breath and exhale very slowly. As you exhale, imagine blowing away all your worries, concerns, and tension. Allow your muscles to relax, and begin to breathe at your regular pace. Now imagine you’re in a calm, relaxing, and peaceful place. That place might be a sandy beach on a warm summer’s day, or the woods on a crisp fall morning. Wherever that relaxing place is, at the end of this paragraph, close your eyes, continue to breathe normally, and really pay attention to how that place makes you feel. After about 10 to 30 seconds in your imagined place, open your eyes and continue reading.

Look around you. Do you feel the same way in your present surroundings as you did a moment ago in your imagined place? For most people there is a significant difference. Our surroundings affect us. Our surroundings affect our emotions, our thoughts, and our attitudes. It makes sense, then, that a good way to start clearing mind clutter—like worry—is to clear your space of physical clutter. After all, it’s nearly impossible to manage the clutter in your mind when you can barely maneuver around the clutter in your environment. If cluttered homes and workplaces cause us to have cluttered minds, why do we continue to hold on to so much “stuff”? One answer is worry. Here are two common worries that keep us holding on to clutter and two replacement thoughts to help us let it go:

  • What if I need it someday?

This question stops millions of people from getting rid of clutter. It works like this: Imagine you are going to declutter a closet in your home. Bound and determined to get rid of excess stuff, you pull everything out of the closet. From this huge pile of stuff, you plan on creating two new piles. Pile A will be the keep pile. Pile B will be the discard/recycle/donate pile. You pick up the first item. You haven’t used it in years but because it’s still in good shape, you say to yourself, “I might need this someday.” So you put it in your keep pile—Pile A. You pick up the next item. This item seems to be broken and you say to yourself, “I could probably get this fixed and I might need it someday.” Into Pile A that broken thing goes. You pick up another item and you’re not quite sure what it is or what it belongs to. You say to yourself, “I don’t know what this is but one day I just might remember what it is used for and I might need it.” Into Pile A it goes. Before you know it, Pile A is massive and Pile B is very small—perhaps even non-existent. You put the items you decided to keep back into the closet, and are still as cluttered as you were when you started.

Sound familiar? Asking a new question can help you break this cycle: When is the last time I actually used it? If you haven’t used it in 12 months, chances are pretty good that you won’t need it any time soon. One day you may discover that what you just got rid of would’ve come in handy. Instead of allowing that experience to stop you from future decluttering, however, answer this question: Would you have known where to find it if you hadn’t discovered it while decluttering in the first place?

  • What if it’s worth something?

If you feel strongly that your clutter may have monetary value, why not sell it now and save the money in an interest-bearing account, or donate it to someone who needs it more than you?

A better question to ask yourself is: What is this clutter costing me? Clutter costs. It costs us money—to insure it, to maintain it, and to own enough space to store it. It costs us time—to clean it, to move it so we can find what it is we do need to use, and to put it away. It costs us mind space, too. What is clutter costing you?

Make a commitment to get rid of three items of clutter in your home or office within the next 48 hours. Accomplishing this small goal will assist you in overcoming the most challenging part of decluttering—getting started. As you build momentum and continue to clear your space once and for all, you’ll be amazed at how clear, calm, and relaxed your mind will become.

(The above post is an excerpt from CALM by Denise Marek)