When you take a moment to evaluate your day-to-day, do you often feel:
-mentally “bogged down”?
-anxious and overwhelmed?
-distracted and unfocused?
-frustrated and shameful?
Feeling this way can make daily tasks seem impossible, and can be downright debilitating.
You want to clean things up and get after your never-ending to-do’s, but the clutter around you takes up space in your mind and makes it hard to make decisions or prioritize things.
Being unable to make decisions and prioritize makes the physical clutter around you worse, and this brings you down even more…it’s a vicious cycle.
As a Certified Professional Organizer who specializes in Chronic DisorganizationⓇ, I’ve stood alongside my clients and watched them navigate these exact same thoughts and feelings time and time again. And no matter the knowledge they may have around how decluttering can better their lives, I know it’s not always that simple.
If it were that easy, you would have done it already.
But why is it so hard?
You’re a smart person. You’re incredibly capable. You’re self-aware and you know in theory what would help to change the situation you’re in – in fact, that’s what brought you to read this article in the first place – so why is it so hard to move forward?
Because your mind is swarming with too much – what we refer to as mental clutter.
What Is Mental Clutter & What Causes It?
Mental clutter is having so much going on in your mind at one time, it hinders your ability to process information and focus on what’s in front of you.
It’s having too many thoughts, too many worries, too many what-ifs, should-haves, and maybes.
But where does it come from, and how does it build up?
We live in a fast-paced world with endless information right at our fingertips, and as wonderful as that is, it’s also sending a constant stream of content to our minds that we simply don’t have the time to process.
Simply put, we’re living in an information overload era.
Couple that with any mental struggles you may already be faced with – whether it be ADHD or Chronic DisorganizationⓇ – and you’re bound to be sent into a tailspin.
But society can make you feel that the crippling overwhelm is normal.
Everyone feels this way, right? Everyone’s busy. No one has enough time to stay on top of anything. This is normal.
So you make the to-do lists, fill up the schedules, and try to do it all.
But the truth is, multitasking doesn’t work.
According to David Meyer, Ph.D., a professor of psychology, cognition, and perception at the University of Michigan, the brain is not equipped to be doing multiple things at one time, and trying to do so only increases stress and even has an effect on short-term memory.
So there you are, left with your racing thoughts, surrounded by physical clutter that overwhelms you even further, trying to multitask and chip at the chaos around you…only to be left with even more turmoil in your head.
Hello, mental clutter.
No wonder you feel so burdened. It’s too much.
In fact, it reminds me of a very powerful statement my client made the other day. She said:
“My physical clutter ‘assaults’ my mental space. I tread water, I can’t swim where I need to. I feel overwhelmed…I feel grief…I get worn out…it’s demoralizing.”
What an exhausting way to feel.
Not only that, the hold it has on your mind starts to infiltrate all areas of your life.
The Effects Of A Cluttered Mind
Now that we’ve covered mental clutter and what it can look like, let’s talk about the effect it can have on your life.
When working with my clients, I utilize the SHiFTⓇ Method. If you haven’t heard of it before, this method hones in on the aspects of your life that have been affected by chronic disorganization. They are what we consider to be the anchor points that govern your quality of life.
The letters in SHiFT stand for:
Social ᆞHealth ᆞ I am deserving ᆞFinances ᆞTime
Mental clutter can directly affect these areas of life and can look like:
- feelings of disconnect from loved ones and relationships that you value (Social)
- leaning on vices or bad habits to escape the overwhelm (Health)
- dwelling on mistakes and repeating negative self-talk (i am deserving)
- putting too much money and energy into things that don’t serve you (Financial)
- procrastinating and putting off decisions (Time)
Once these areas of life start to break down, so does your quality of life.
But just as these pillars of life can be depleted, they can also be built back up, and you can make the SHiFTⓇ to wholeness.
Compassionately move through the steps outlined below to begin freeing you from some of that mental burden.
5 Steps To Clear The Mental Clutter
Step 1: Take a breath.
When you’re plagued with mental clutter, your body is flooded with cortisol levels (the stress hormone) and this sends you into fight-or-flight mode which only adds to the clutter in your mind.
The next time you feel your thoughts racing and start to get overwhelmed, stop what you’re doing and take the time to recenter yourself with your breath. Also, practice your breathwork each time before you tackle a new task.
You can try this 5-minute breathwork sequence shared by Mindbodygreen here.
Step 2: Mind dump – write it all down.
When we aren’t able to get things done or feel like we can’t keep up, a common excuse is that we “just have too much going on”.
Although this may be true, the bigger culprit is often that we’re holding on to too much.
When you’re carrying too many thoughts throughout the day and bouncing from one to the next, not only are you taking on the responsibility of having to remember them all, you’re overwhelming yourself to the point where those thoughts become unmanageable.
This is where writing things down can be incredibly helpful.
Pick a journal that you can have on hand or nearby throughout the day, and get started by writing it all out.
Write down every thought, every to-do item, every wish list, every what-if, and should-have.
If it’s taking up space in your mind, write it down.
By doing this, you give yourself some distance from those thoughts and allow yourself to better focus on what’s in front of you. It may even be helpful to envision your thoughts actually leaving your mind and landing on the paper – they are still there to be accessed later, but they no longer take up space and create mental clutter in your mind.
So the next time you’re trying to focus on a task and other thoughts start to creep in (like that dentist appointment you forgot to schedule, or the pile of mail on the counter you meant to go through) write it down, let it go, and get back to focusing on what you’re doing. You can come back to that list later and schedule time to get to each item – which brings us to step 3.
Step 3: Prioritize your tasks (and know when to let things go).
Once you have your list, keep your expectations simple – it’s common to start a plan or to-do list and over-commit or think you can (or have to) accomplish more than you really do.
Of course you have things that need to get done and thoughts that need to be addressed, but the only way to mark them off of your list is to first prioritize them.
Start by listing out your top 3 values – the things that are most important to you. Some examples are relationships, work, health, etc.
Once you have your values laid out, take your list and filter through it.
- “Which thoughts and to-do’s are centered around my values, and which ones are hanging around because I feel obligated or guilty?”
- “Which things am I able to take action on, and which are out of my control?”
- “Which items are serving me, and which are draining me?”
Prioritize the top 3 to focus on now, and let go of the rest.
If there is more that you want to prioritize, leave it on your list to come back to once your top 3 are tended to. Your mind dump list can always be revisited.
Step 4: Schedule blocks of time – break it down.
Now that you have your top 3 priorities written out, start scheduling them into blocks of time that make sense for you.
For example: if housework is continually weighing you down and building up to the point where it takes days to catch up, try scheduling a non-negotiable 20-minute block of time each evening where you put things back into the places they belong.
Be sure not to overcommit – only work on one task at a time, and come up with a plan of action for each priority where you break things down into steps.
For example: during that 20-minute block of time, your plan of action could look like this:
✅ pick everything up and put it into baskets
✅ put the baskets in the rooms they belong in
✅ wipe down the counters
✅ sweep the floors
✅ put the items in the baskets back where they belong
Breaking things down into steps and focusing on each one at a time makes things much less overwhelming.
Not only that, you complete the task more quickly because it eliminates the time wasted jumping around from task to task.
Step 5: Take a mental break!
Don’t skip over this step!
While it’s true that proper scheduling of your time is important, it’s critical that you schedule in downtime as well.
Make it fit into your schedule and use this time to get outside and away from any clutter.
Write down the things you enjoy in life and make more time for them. Keep it simple to start – don’t turn it into one more to-do list.
And remember – rest is productive too.
Need A Little Extra Support?
I hope these steps can help free up some space in your mind and help you move forward in your journey to wholeness, but I also understand how things can get so incredibly overwhelming to the point where taking even one step forward feels impossible.
Sometimes we just need some extra support, and that’s exactly what I’m here to provide.
So if you’re needing a little push, or you’re wanting to know more about how to make the SHiFTⓇ in your life, let’s chat.
It’s time you banish the mental clutter weighing you down so that you can lead a deserving life.