Decluttering has been a hot topic in 2019, which is no surprise after Marie Kondo’s concept of sparking joy took off. It’s something I’ve subscribed to over the past few years as well, but I’ll admit I didn’t do it well enough. I had assumed that decluttering my room and my working space would translate into a better state of mind and clearer line of focus; while it did help, somewhat, it didn’t replace my need to actually sort out through my thoughts and emotions. Often times, I think we mistake decluttering of our physical space as one that can replace the need for decluttering our mental space. While they are intertwined and help each other, it’s not entirely feasible to say that solely physical decluttering can help you feel mentally better. Instead, it takes actual mental practices to help you navigate through a confused and overloaded headspace.
Lists are your friends.
This sounds too simple, but adding a few lists to your routine can help you compartmentalise your mental load in many different ways. Many may feel that mental to-do lists are the most trustworthy, because you may forget to note down something and therefore miss out on doing it. However, once you get into the habit of actually listing that needs to be done, it helps you reprioritise your tasks instead of getting overwhelmed by the seemingly countless things that you may feel like you have to do. You can arrange these tasks based on the amount of time a task may take, or simply by what needs to be done first. Not only that, getting tasks done and crossing them off your list will also give you a boost of motivation and renewed focus to keep going.
Think through it with a journal.
But what if your mental clutter is not regarding your work? What if it’s an emotional mess and you’re unable to sort through it, which could be leading to feeling overwhelmed or burdened? It would help to write it out, free of restrictions and outlines. Similar to the brainstorming process of “word storm/association”, all you do is take your journal and start writing your feelings. You don’t judge them or worry about them. Everything you feel is valid in this case, and all you have to do is express them. Write and let it all out until you feel like you’re feeling lighter. Then, take a look at what you’ve written. See the worries that you can let go. See how you can solve the rest. And remember, sometimes things will pass on their own. Not every problem or issue is one you have to solve.
Don’t shy away from exercise.
All it takes is a 10-minute high-intensity workout for you to forget about problems that weren’t even that serious in the first place. Exercise — other than its health benefits — is also great for your mental state. It distracts you from minuscule problems that might have been bothering you. Exercise releases hormones that put you in a better state of mind to actually differentiate between what’s worth stressing about, and what isn’t.
The idea of decluttering your mind might seem unnecessary. But being overwhelmed can spill over to other aspects of your life, causing you to be less present in your family and work life. It also causes you to focus less on yourself, as your mental capacity to process other activities diminishes with more and more clutter. It is definitely difficult at first, but taking the steps to create a healthy habit of sorting out your thoughts and emotions is bound to help in the long run.