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If it feels like you have too many tabs open in your brain, you’re not alone. Clutter isn’t just physical items in your environment, your head can be filled with unnecessary items too. But what is mental clutter and how can you clean house?
Mental clutter usually presents as worrying, overthinking, unfinished business, a mental to-do list, and unaccomplished dreams and goals.
When your mind is cluttered, it creates confusion and disorganisation, which prevents you from moving forward. Here’s how to free up some headspace:
Create a mental inventory
Write down all the things you need to do, the things you should do and what you want to do. This concept comes from the creator of the Bullet Journal, Brooklyn-based product designer Ryder Carroll. Once you’ve written everything down, consider your ‘why’ for each. Eliminate anything that doesn’t serve you or make you happy, or isn’t a responsibility. Spend 10 minutes every day updating your inventory.
Tackle what you’re avoiding
List all the goals or commitments you find daunting. This includes things like ongoing debt, a dream you’ve had but have never put into action or a challenging work task. Break them into bite-sized, actionable goals.
Cut down on your media intake
Every time you scroll on social media, respond to a text or read an article, you’re overloading your mind with information. Set a time limit for your online activities with digital wellness apps like SocialX or in-built smartphone ones. Be mindful of the content you consume by unfollowing negative accounts.
Doing more than one task at a time may seem productive, but it makes concentrating difficult. This could result in careless mistakes, forgetfulness and missing important commitments. Before tackling your daily tasks, create a list of priorities ranging from most important to least important. Ensure that this list is realistic and simple.
Actively try to ‘let it go’
From personal or professional failures to relationships that have ended and goals you haven’t achieved, the past can be haunting. If you don’t work through your issues and let go of what’s bothering you, it can harm your mental health. Here are some ways to try and move on:
- Accept that you can’t change the past but you can work towards a better future.
- Know that you can’t control the actions of others but you can control your own.
- See mistakes as an opportunity to learn.
- Work through your negative emotions to resolve them instead of avoiding them and pushing them to the back of your mind, thus adding to your mental clutter.
Note: If you’re struggling with consistent spiralling thoughts that affect your daily functioning, talk to your doctor and they can refer you to a mental health expert.
When you constantly put off decisions, your brain becomes jumbled with pending realities. So whether it’s an email you haven’t responded to, finally sorting out your taxes or having a difficult conversation, set a deadline and stick to it. For delicate decisions (e.g. involving a relationship or a work issue), make a list of pros and cons first. It’s also important to talk to a mental health professional if these decisions affect your day-to-day life.
For more advice related to mental health, read these helpful articles:
The information is shared on condition that readers will make their own determination, including seeking advice from a professional. E&OE.
- Cherry, K. (2020). 5 Ways to Refresh Your Mind. [online] Verywell Mind. Available at: https://www.verywellmind.com/ways-to-spring-clean-your-brain-2795044 [Accessed 20 July 2021]
- Reissman, H. (2019). How to Declutter Your Mind. [online] TED. Available at: https://ideas.ted.com/how-to-declutter-your-mind/ [Accessed 20 July 2021]
- Nazish, N. (2017). How to Declutter Your Mind: 10 Practical Tips You’ll Actually Want to Try. [online] Forbes. Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/nomanazish/2017/11/19/how-to-declutter-your-mind-10-practical-tips-youll-actually-want-to-try/?sh=2aa5a22c24f1 [Accessed 20 July 2021]
- Cohen, I. S. (2017). Important Tips on How to Let Go and Free Yourself. [online] Psychology Today. Available at: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/your-emotional-meter/201708/important-tips-how-let-go-and-free-yourself [Accessed 20 July 2021]