10 Effective Ways to Combat Mental Clutter

Just like your physical environment can be cluttered, so can your mind. Mental clutter often appears in the form of circular thoughts, inability to sleep, and even a failure to focus on the job at hand due to problems elsewhere.

To have a decluttered mind means to be able to focus on living your life fully without being distracted by the trivial details of everyday life. 

Picture of a head outlined with a road.  The brain consists of a large knotted up road with multiple road signs sticky up all over the place.

How Do You Improve Mental Clutter?

Good question. 

Life can get exhausting when dealing with all the details of life.  “What’s for dinner?”  “I need to schedule dentist appointments for the girls.”  “Did I start the dishwasher?”  “Ew… this outfit makes me look pregnant.” 

With the constant flow of thoughts running through your brain it can exhaust you and at times paralyze you from making progress.

Below are several ways you can help clear your mind of clutter.

1. Clean Up Your Physical Environment

Studies show that having a cluttered environment can negatively affect your mind. Due to the actual physical effects of having the clutter around, plus the dirt and germs that come along with it.

You will automatically feel more mentally uncluttered just by cleaning up your environment.

  • Start with The Obvious – Each person has an area of their physical environment that is causing the most issues with having mental clutter. For you, it could be your office, your vehicle, or maybe even the kitchen. It might be “all of the above” – in that case, start with something that will give you more bang for your buck. For example, if you’re struggling to prepare meals start with your kitchen.
  • Create Clean Habits – Starting today, even before working on your mental or physical clutter, promise yourself that you will clean up everything you use right away. If you take a bath, rinse off the soap scum. If you prepare food, clean up after yourself. Encourage other family members to do the same.
  • Get Help – Some people will need extra support with physical decluttering. You may need help with lifting, or maybe you need actual help cleaning and organizing. For more guidance on decluttering feel free to download my Free Decluttering with Ease guide.  It contains my top three decluttering questions to help you get started.

The more you can clean up your physical environment the better luck you’re going to have with ending your mental clutter.

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Physical clutter increases the likelihood that you’ll develop anxiety, depression, and can even cause respiratory problems. 

2. Keep a Journal

One problem with mental clutter is it can impede your ability to focus and get things done in a timely and efficient way. Journaling can help you “empty” your brain clutter. 

Sometimes you need a way to get out everything that’s on your mind, but other times you need to journal more effectively so that the information is useful to you later.

  • Journal What You’re Worried About – When you are having troubles sleeping or are experiencing circular thoughts, don’t fight it. Instead, get ahead of it. Before bed, journal what you’re worried about. If it’s something you have control over, develop a plan to attack that problem. However, if you cannot do anything about it, find something positive about the situation and let it go. 
  • Journal About the Positives in Your Day – This is a good thing to get down on paper because you can read it again when you’re having a difficult day. Acknowledging the positives, at least once a day, is an excellent way to let go of mental clutter.
  • Journal Your Goals & Plans – You can also use journals while you plan anything in your life. You can use text, images, and more to make your journals come alive. They can be on your computer, or you can use the old-fashioned paper kind. It’s up to you. 
  • Write it All Down – Set aside about 15 minutes a day (before you get ready for bed is a good time) to write down everything. Dump your brain out on the paper with whatever is on your mind, good, bad, or ugly. 

It is likely you’ll want to keep several journals so that when you pick one up you know what it’s for.

You may need to let go of a story from your past, plan out an exercise routine, or go over how you’re going to handle a stressful situation.

Journals are useful in many ways, depending on what you need to accomplish. 

3. Be More Mindful 

It can be difficult to focus on the here and now; however, the ability to enjoy your life to its fullest potential depends on your ability to prioritize and focus on what is happening currently or “in the moment.”

Many people have trouble doing this because they have been conditioned to think and plan ahead for the future.

While “tomorrow” is important, most of life’s cherished moments are not planned. They just happen unexpectedly; so, if you aren’t paying attention to what is happening around you at the given moment, you may end up missing out on the most rewarding and memorable times of life.

To help you be more mindful, try out these strategies.

  • Turn It Off or Tune It Out – When you need to focus on your top priority, block out everything except what is most important to accomplishing your goal. Whether you’re enjoying a long walk at sunset or completing your data entry task, identifying and tuning out or ignoring irrelevant bits of information will help you focus better. Developing your control over where your focus is will help you to stay on track and in the moment.
  • Breathe – Did you know that most people don’t breathe correctly? A lot of us tend to hold our breath. When you breathe correctly, your diaphragm should rise and fall with each breath, not your tummy. You may need to adjust your breathing when you want to focus. Put your hand on your diaphragm and concentrate on each breath. 
  • Bulleted Brain Dump – Keep a bullet journal handy so that when you want to get something done right now you can let go of stuff first. By writing bullets as reminders, you don’t have to get deep into the details. You can just acknowledge it and move on. 
  • Set Up Your Area – The area you work in needs to be set up specifically for the task you need to complete. It should be clear of clutter and have as much open space as possible. Only items related to the task should be available. This helps to keep your attention on your work, rather than glancing at things in the room and getting distracted.
  • Set Your Alarm – Sometimes it’s easier to focus if you can let go of time limitations. If you only have so much time to get things done setting the alarm can make a big difference to your level of progress and productivity. The alarm allows you to focus 100 percent of your attention on your task or event, which leads to greater productivity and success.
  • Free to Be Here and Now – Like Nike says, “Just do it.” Give yourself permission to focus on one thing at a time. In fact, choose to do this as much as possible, since multi-tasking tends to create mind-clutter and eventually contributes to stress and confusion. When you learn how to focus on the here and now, pushing out things that don’t pertain to the current activity, you feel more successful and actually accomplish more.

You have control over your thoughts, feelings, and actions.

The key to being able to focus at will is to recognize what distracts you and when you are most likely to become distracted.

Depending on your needs, you may need to turn off electronics or apps to maintain your focus. Thoughts unrelated to your task may creep into your mind. Using some of the refocusing techniques can help you ignore those.

The more you practice refocusing and decluttering your mind, the easier it will be to avoid distractions.

4. Turn Negative Thoughts Around

Everyone has negative thoughts.

The problem with them is often that those thoughts are merely brain clutter. What makes them clutter is if you cannot do anything about it and have no control over it.

Giving it brain space and time is useless.

With practice, when you think of something negative use different tricks to turn it around.

  • List Your Negative Thoughts – As you first start trying to turn negative thoughts around you should take the time to list your most common negative thoughts in order of prevalence. You can do it on paper or on the computer. Use one page per negative thought category. 
  • Set A Time Limit – Don’t spend too much time listing your negative thoughts. The regularly occurring ones should be readily memorable to you. Give yourself about 15 minutes or less to get the list made. 
  • Replace the Negative Thought – Now that you have a list, on each paper or page write down a thought you can have instead. It might also help to note whether you have control over the source of the negative thinking. If you do, set up a plan for change, if not set up a plan to let it go.
  • It’s Your Choice – It might not feel like it, but you really do have a choice regarding what you allow yourself to think about. You can push the thoughts out of your mind by making a concerted effort to focus on something else.
  • Make a Continuous Effort to Love More – When you replace negative with positive you win. One way to let go of negativity is to get and give more love. If you need to volunteer to hold infants, help out at a shelter, or simply hug your spouse or kids more, you should do it. The more you laugh and love the more positive you will become naturally. 
  • Understand What You Get Out of Thinking Negatively – If you are having issues letting go of specific negative thoughts and behaviors, consider why. Are you getting a positive result from your obsession that you’ve not factored into letting it go? Figure out what that payoff is, and you will finally be able to let it go.
  • Make New Habits – Bad habits can always be replaced by good habits. Habits, in general, can be developed for anything you’d like to do regularly. New habits like listing your top three positive memories of the day around the dinner table, cleaning up after yourself more often, or turning off electronics the moment you come home – can make a huge impact on your mental clarity.
  • Give Up the News – It’s not that you should be uninformed, but most news, whether on the radio or TV is sensationalized for maximum drama. That usually means that it’s mostly negative with an occasional “feel good” story thrown in. This only adds to your negativity and negative thoughts.
  • Give Up Dooms Day Shows – So many people love negative broadcasting whether it’s doomsday movies, TV series, or documentaries. While you’re trying to get better at ridding your mind of the clutter of negativity focus on watching only positive things.
  • Set Up Some Daily Affirmations – It might seem silly at first but getting yourself used to thinking positive may require the addition of daily affirmations. You can do this with the help of a book, a subscription email, or even through an app.

You can routinize success. Developing a system to change something or get something done will lead to success. It seems too easy but you really are in control of your life including your thoughts.

You are not powerless.

5. Get Back to Nature

When it comes to your mental health, spending time in nature can help you relax, as well as rejuvenate you. 

  • Go for A Walk – The simplest and easiest way to get outdoors is to go for a walk each day. A 20-minute walk without technology in the sunshine can make a huge difference in your life and how you feel. You’ll likely want to do it more once you get started. 
  • Go Camping – Even if you’ve never been camping, a simple weekend away (you can stay in a cabin, a tent, or an RV) without any technology and far from the commotion of the world, will improve your mental clarity. Even if you’re not especially fond of nature, just one weekend away can make a positive impact. 
  • Try Something New Outdoors – Try to find new things to do that are outdoors. Hiking, golfing, walking, running, swimming, skiing, boating and so forth are all fantastic ways to spend time outdoors. The possibilities are endless.
  • Increase Vitamin D – Going outside in the sunsindhe can help replenish the level of vitamin D in your system. Vitamin D is an essential vitamin that everyone needs. It’s more like a hormone, and a deficiency can cause negative thoughts and body pain. 
  • Smell the Fresh Air – When you are outside, take time to focus on what’s around you. Smell the air, feel the breeze, soak it all in. This world was not created by accident.  Every living thing was created with a purpose, including you!
  • Get Around Animals – Like nature, animals are also beneficial for making us feel happy and confident. Even if you can’t have your own animal, you can around this by volunteering at an animal shelter or walking your friend’s dog.
  • Watch a Sunrise & Sunset – Find a location near you, maybe in your backyard, and witness the beauty of a sunrise and sunset.

The truth is if you’re having an exceptionally difficult day, disconnecting from technology can make all the difference. You can let go and just focus on your surroundings, the sights, the smells, and the feeling you get being out there instead of whatever else is going on in your world. 

6. Take Time for Self-Care 

Do you love yourself enough to ensure that you do everything you can to be the best wife, mom, employee? To ensure you do take time for self-care, you may want to consider the following ideas. 

  • Exercise More – Moving more is always a good thing. It’s good for your heart and helps you fit into your jeans. However, it’s also good for your mind. When people exercise more, they’re usually more alert and feel more capable of taking on difficult tasks. 
  • Quiet Time with God – Take a break from the world and focus daily on God through scripture and prayer is the number one way you can rid yourself of the mental clutter.  Let your worries go, focus on the one who loves you most, and learn how God is always faithful and true.  There is no better way to rejuvenate the soul and clear the mind.
  • Sleep 7 to 9 Hours – Everyone needs a different level of rest, so you’ll need to figure out what is ideal for you. For most people 7 to 9 hours is what they need. Less than six hours a night of sleep can contribute to mind clutter and possibly even mental problems.
  • Eat Healthly – There are so many fad diets around that it can be hard to figure out what eating right means. If you eat enough nutrition in the right level of calories for your body type and take supplements when needed, you’re doing great. Having the proper diet can help control the amount of mental clutter you experience. Your focus and energy fluctuate with your blood sugar level-so the more balanced it is, the easier it will be to concentrate and focus. 
  • Get A Massage – Another way to relax that also has other medical benefits is to get a regular massage. YES!  You can get your spouse to do it, or you can hire a professional. Massages force you to relax for 30 to 50 minutes and helps rid your body of toxins that can affect your thought patterns. 
  • Prioritize Family – When making your daily schedules, don’t forget about doing things with your family. Being physically present with loved ones provides the emotional support we all need to help get through life’s challenges. 
  • Don’t Forget Your Friends – You need to spend time with your friends who share your interests. Go to a winery, go bowling, or something that allows community with others. You’ll be happier and more satisfied with your life when you have friends. 

When you love yourself, you’re able to love on others.

Practicing self-care doesn’t mean you’re selfish. When you are well cared for you are better able to take care of others. In addition, you’re much less likely to keep a cluttered, unproductive mindset. 

7. Don’t Multitask

No one can really multitask.

It’s a total myth that people can. You can waste a lot of time when you are switching back and forth between things because you’re not fully focused. You’re not really doing both at the same time. It’s impossible.

Don’t add roadblocks by trying to multitask.

  • Set Schedules for Everything – It might seem tedious but if you schedule everything you do, it’s going to be easier to stop multitasking.
  • Turn Off Things You’re Not Using – If you don’t need it for the task, turn it off. For example, if you are paying bills, you don’t need to have Facebook notifications on. 
  • Eliminate Distractions – When you know you’re going to do anything, look at the potential distractions and think of ways to eliminate them. Some things may distract you that don’t bother others. You know you. 
  • Know Your Priorities – It’s easy to put into perspective when you know your priorities and can use them to help you make good choices. 
  • Be Mindful – Basically, this just means that you should stay totally aware of your thoughts and actions in the moment. Don’t let your mind wander. If it does, bring it back. 
  • Say No – To help you stop multitasking, start saying no more often. At the very least, think about the consequences before you add anything else to your plate. Most of the time people have so much mental clutter because they have a great deal of life clutter and are trying to do too much. Do one thing well instead of tons of things poorly. 
  • Know Yourself – No one knows you better than you know yourself. If you don’t believe multitasking is an issue, check it out to see if you’ve been missing the signs. There is a cool site that has a test on it for you to try. By eliminating multitasking you will find that you can focus on each task improving your standards, quality, and enjoyment.

When you’re with your family, be with them. At work, focus on work. When you’re in nature, take in nature.

This can be hard to do with smartphones, TVs, and screens everyplace you go; but, if you’re aware of it and refocus when you notice that you’re becoming distracted, you can get back on track. 

8. Develop Habits

When you create habits, you develop a situation where you will get things done without even trying. You don’t have to be reminded anymore to brush your teeth, right? With this idea in mind, let’s look quickly at how you create habits that help you avoid mind clutter.

  • Commit for A Month – They say it takes 21 days to create a habit but let’s try to take a month instead. Commit to doing whatever habit for a month. Then reevaluate to find out if it has helped. 
  • Do the Task Daily to Create the Habit – If you want to create a habit, you’ll have to make a concerted effort to do it daily. Over time, doing something on a daily basis is going to turn it into an effortless habit. 
  • Pick Something Easy at First – Choose something simple to change first. Don’t choose something you’re physically addicted to. Instead, choose something that is genuinely a behavior issue such as ending negative thoughts. 
  • Set Reminders – Use your calendar to set reminders for the actions you are trying to turn into a habit. When you get the reminder, don’t ignore it. You will feel better if you do the thing instead of ignoring it.
  • Be Consistent – To create a habit, you must do the action every single day on schedule. The more consistent you are when you are trying to train yourself to have a healthy habit the more likely you are to be successful with it. 
  • Know Your Triggers – Everyone has triggers that cause them to either do something good for themselves or do something bad. If you have a trigger that causes you to do something wrong, try to change that trigger to a positive activity. For example, if you are trying to stop thinking negatively but every time you watch the news, it triggers the negative mental clutter. Make that a trigger to stop watching the news and spend time with your family.
  • Interrupt Bad Thoughts – One way to end bad thoughts is to add a positive thought at the end. “I am not good at using this program, however with training, I will become better.” “I am not very neat, but with practice, I can become neat.” 

Anyone can develop good habits or bad habits.

When you follow through and do what you say, your mental clutter the act will become a part of your routine. 

9. Automate 

One way to get things done in a more organized manner is not to do them at all through automation.

There are many things you can automate both at home and at work. Let’s look at a few ideas. Automation can take lots of your mental clutter away and relieve stress. 

  • Bill Paying – Most banks have a form of bill paying automatically. Look at your bank account to set this up. Don’t use the automation from your bill companies because they are known to cancel them after a period. Your bank will only cancel the payments if you ask them to. Hint: Get your utility bill transferred to “budget billing” and the bill will be the same each month. 
  • Work Tasks – At work, you can automate a lot of things with the tech you have available from email filtering to templates to using macros in MS Word to type an often-used sentence or phrase. 
  • Supply Delivery – Do you use a specific supply a lot but forget to buy it? Get vitamins, razors, cat litter and so forth delivered automatically by setting this up through companies like Amazon’s. Only do this with things that you know you’re going to use regularly, so you never have to buy them at the store.
  • Grocery Delivery – Instead of going shopping, let someone else do it for you. You can shop online and then have someone deliver the groceries to you. Alternatively, you can go pick them up saving you hours a week.
  • Services – Whether it is spraying bugs, fixing hair, or other types of regular services, make your appointments ahead of time and put them in your calendar. Getting it done on time and regularly is better and less costly than waiting for the last moment.

Examine your life, and your work,  so that you can figure out what you can automate using the technology you have.

For example, if you have a home assistant like Alexa, you can use her to compile your grocery lists as you run out of things. Then, ask her to send you the list in an email. That automates your grocery list and decreases your mental clutter.

10. Use Lists to Make Decisions

Lists keep things in order and help declutter your mind.

Most people think they have a much better memory than they do, but even if you do have a great memory, there is just something magical about keeping a good list, prioritizing it correctly, and then marking off things as you finish. It’s a significant boost to the mood.

  • Categorize the List — You’ll want to ensure that you are making your list right by keeping each category separate. It’s so much easier to use technology to make lists because you can reorder things easily. Consider using software like Trello.com to help you make good lists.
  • Schedule Everything — When you make a list, it’s not done just when you have a list of things to do. Instead, you also need to schedule when things will be done. It also helps to consider how things will be done too so you can get the time right. 
  • Think in Steps — Some of your tasks will need to be done in a particular order. Note that as you make your list, schedule things realistically so that things can be done in order and not end up with a bottleneck. 
  • Combine Like Things — When you notice that you have a lot of things to do on a particular side of town or in a specific room of your home, combine the tasks together so you can get them done all at once. 
  • Learn to Compartmentalize — One thing males seem to do better than women is to compartmentalize their life. They’re good at going to work and having an out-of-sight, out-of-mind, mentally. This is actually very good for mental health. You should be able to focus on what you’re doing right now instead of what might happen or what is happening with someone else.
  • Make Decisions — One issue that adds to clutter is the inability to make decisions. Sadly, many people who are overwhelmed by excessive clutter, both physical and mental, tend to have trouble making decisions about even the small things. However, to get rid of clutter you need to be able to make choices faster, even on the spot. If you haven’t already yet, download my free Decluttering with Ease guide. It contains my top three decluttering questions to help you move through the piles quickly and easily.

When you are dealing with endless choices during the day, you need to be able to trust yourself to make good decisions.  Using these ten strategies can help with your mental clutter.  Therefore, making room for what’s truly important without being distracted by the trivial details of everyday life.

Now that you have some ideas about how to declutter your mind it’s time to get started.

What do you want to work on first? 

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