The classical definition of clutter is cramming so much into a space than it can hold meaningfully. You can also think of clutter as anything that prevents or delays you from getting to the really important stuff.
If you’ve seen any episode of clean house on DSTV (used to be hosted by Niecy Nash), I’m sure you’ll agree with me. Episode after episode you find people who clutter their homes to mind-numbing degrees. Sometimes, I can’t help but wonder “who does this?”. How do you keep bringing more stuff into your home to the point where there is hardly any walking space. In fact, there is hardly sleeping space on some beds!
This process of cluttering happens gradually and quite unintentionally too. Remember those pair of shoes that seemed like a deal you couldn’t afford to pass up (even though the shoes were not exactly your size sef)!, those clothes you are holding on to in hopes of losing some weight (I’m everly guilty of this one), all those hair care and skin care products that lose their appeal after the first use, piles of materials in print threatening to take over your working space?
All of these contribute to physical/ material clutter, but clutter can also be mental. In which case there are many loose thoughts hovering in the back of your mind preventing you from focusing on the really important stuff. The things that contribute to mental clutter include anxiety, fear, unforgiveness, pending decisions, pending tasks – you really need to do them, but you can’t seem to get round to doing them, involvement in too many activities than you can reasonably cope with – you volunteer for one more thing, join one more group.
Dealing with clutter is tough and tedious, but it must be done at some point. The fatigue and burn out it leads to are surely not worth it. At the end of the day, just a few things really matter, and if we are true to ourselves (as we should be), we know what these are. A calendar that is full to overflowing is not necessarily a good thing. I know that being busy makes some of us feel important; some even use activities as a form of escape. But be careful, so that you don’t trap yourself in a rat race. All motion, no movement.
Decluttering your home can be as easy as giving up belongings to a mission to the less privileged. This has been a great avenue for me, but not so easy nonetheless. Many times I put away some things to be given out, but I find myself going back and saying this one is so pretty, maybe I can still wear it a few more times. Lol.
Decluttering your mind is not quite as straight forward. But here is a systematic approach you can adopt:
- Deal with negative emotions: If there are negative emotions contributing to your mental clutter, then you have to deal with those first. Forgive yourself for bad decisions in the past, forgive people who have hurt you. Many of them can’t even remember, so you are just hurting yourself all over again. Release any anxieties about the future to God in prayer. Take a deep breath and face today!
- Write it down: Dump everything hovering in the back of your mind on paper. It works like magic. Why this works is because you can always go back to your notes if you need to remember, so you get to actually free up mental space.
- Prune it down: Now, take a look at that list, and separate things that absolutely have to be done by you from things you can delegate, ask or pay someone to do for you. Why kill yourself if you can get help? If there are also things you can’t do anything about, note those as well. You can always pray about them.
- Do it now (or schedule and follow through): Then, get to the business of getting the things done. Reply the e-mail. Return the call. Pick out clothes for tomorrow. Pick a gift for that celebrant (and buy it online now). Send out the job ad. Settle the bills (or negotiate to pay at a later date). Pull out the book and read. The things that can’t be done immediately should be scheduled for later on a device that can remind you (most phones can do this).
- Prevent future clutter: Put it down as soon as it comes to mind and do it the earliest possible time. At least once a week, take an inventory of your thoughts and deal with negative emotions. Better still deal with them as soon as they come up. Forgive the haters. Use positive self talk if you must. Do something you really enjoy. Trash all the energy draining thoughts and move on. Not as easy as it sounds, but giving it a shot is half the battle.
- Bonus: Repeat
I can assure you that the ROI on taking these simple steps to declutter your mind can be magnificent. Clearing your mind gives you the opportunity to live in the present and be a lot more creative and productive.
Here’s to your uncluttered mind!