While the old adage ‘a messy desk means a creative mind’ may hold true for some, for many of us, a desk covered with piles of papers can leave us feeling overwhelmed, and stressed out.
If the cluttered spaces around you are starting to negatively impact your mood, or ability to concentrate you are not alone. A growing body of research suggests that too much clutter can lead to disorganized thinking, deficits in processing information and procrastination. No wonder we can't think straight at times!
To help regain control, it may be time to ‘declutter’. To be clear, to ‘declutter’ is different from tidying up. To declutter requires a real commitment to either removing or changing how you currently organize things in your environment. This same process can even extend to clearing negative thoughts from a cluttered mind. The goal of decluttering your space or your mind is to make permanent changes that lead to a sense of calmness and serenity. Here are tips from some experts for how to begin:
Declutter Your Space
If the clutter in your home has become unbearable, begin to disentangle the mess with small, manageable tasks. Tackle one room, drawer or cabinet at a time. Set a reasonable time goal for each task to avoid becoming overwhelmed or exhausted.
To help you sort through items, Emily Ley, the author and creator of Simplified Planner suggests using the mantra “the best, the favorite and the necessary,” she told Apartment Therapy. This approach works well for all areas of your home and helps you prioritize an item’s value or purpose.
You don’t have to do it all on your own, either, DePaul University psychology professor Joseph Ferrari told the New York Times. “If you’re going to declutter, don’t touch the item. Don’t pick it up,” he said. “Have somebody else hold the pair of black pants and say, ‘Do you need this?’ Once you touch the item, you are less likely to get rid of it.”
Make ‘decluttering’ a seasonal task
Choose a transitional season, either spring or fall, to go through your clothing drawers and closets. Your guiding principle for whether to keep something should be how long it has been since you have worn it. If it has been a year or more, it is time to give it away. Going forward, commit to the simple practice of ‘one in and one out’ - if you buy a new pair of new shoes, get rid of an older pair. This will make the seasonal ‘decluttering’ less time consuming in the future.
Learn to file quickly. According to Dr. Travis Bradberry, co-author of the book, Emotional Intelligence 2.0, you should ‘never touch things twice’. Instead, as Lifehacker noted, Bradberry suggests “as soon as something gets your attention you should act on it, delegate it or delete it.” To be successful with this organizing method, you may need to first free up space in a filing cabinet in your office or set up the necessary digital file folders.
‘Declutter’ Your Mind
While organizing the physical space around you will go a long way towards reducing anxiety, it is also important to manage your ‘mental clutter’. According to chopra.com, mental clutter can lead to rumination, excessive worrying or the feeling of being overwhelmed because you simply have too much on your mind. To ‘declutter’ your mind of negative and unproductive thoughts, try these tips:
Schedule a period of time each week during which you turn off your digital instruments. Disengaging from all screens can help you get in touch with your thoughts and feelings without the constant distractions of direct messages and notifications. It may help to let people know that you will not be responding to any texts, emails, or social media posts for a specified time each week. Better yet, invite someone to join you during your digital free time so you can truly connect with any interruptions.
Learn to meditate
There are many ways to meditate. Some people choose to sit quietly in a peaceful spot in their home, while others prefer a guided meditation with a group. Whatever form you select, developing a habit of meditation can help you connect more completely to the world around you. According to mindful.org, the idea is to learn “how to return to and remain in the present moment.” The benefits of a regular practice can include lowered stress levels, improved focus and a greater sense of peace.
Take an hour to read
To truly calm your mind, make sure to choose your material with the intent of relaxing. Try reading a book of poetry, an enlightened piece of literature, a good mystery novel, or a funny memoir. The idea is to break away from your world and gain a different perspective by diving into another. For an even more calming experience, read outside in a quiet space.
Write it down
Make a habit of making a ‘to-do’ list. Writing at the end of day allows you to begin each day with a clear set of objectives and goals to be achieved. Plus writing it down helps to break the cycle of unproductive ‘circle thinking’ - those thoughts and tasks that keep playing over and over in your head.