After spending the last few years working with people to help them declutter their homes, one thing I've come to realize about decluttering + organizing is that if you don't commit to the marathon, you will not likely see transformational change.
In my book, The Holistic Guide to Decluttering, I share how three core components— physical, time, and mental clutter—are intricately linked and how focusing on one area alone is not likely to bring you peace and a sense of calm. In my book, I include step-by-step tutorials, reflection tools and worksheets to offer readers practical ways to learn the "how to" of holistically decluttering + organizing so they can feel the freedom that comes from doing the work.
There are many places on the internet you can find selling you a "clear your clutter in a day" programs or a "power through all of your clutter in a weekend", but if you're knee deep in physical clutter, with a mind that is swirling and a clogged up calendar, those get-it-done-quick "programs" are more than likely not going to work for the long-term.
I believe that decluttering with intention, you can achieve a deeper emotional release and a sustainable transformation. Doing this does require dedication, but that's true for many things in life, so it should be no surprise that it is necessary for transformational decluttering as well.
It can be overwhelming to think about decluttering when it seems you are drowning in a sea of chaos, but believe me, it can be done. I've been witness to the efforts of others and the significant outcomes that have resulted.
So, what can you do to begin your transformational decluttering + organizing journey?
acknowledge that clutter is getting in your way of living your most desired life
Clutter creeps up on all of us. Whether you're facing too much physical clutter in your home, too much time clutter in your schedule or too many racing thoughts in your mind, each type of clutter can be a real thorn in your side.
By looking clutter directly in the eye, and acknowledging that it is in the way of you living your most desired life, you are making the first important step for the seed of change to be planted. From there, you can tackle it head on and take actions to change.
focus on one transformational step at a time
When there is a lot of clutter in our lives, it can be daunting to know where to begin. As I share in my book, the first type of clutter that I advise you start with is the physical kind. Starting with what physically surrounds you is usually something that is more familiar than working on something more nuanced like time or mind clutter. Physical clutter also contributes to time and mind clutter so beginning with decluttering your environment is my suggestion.
Click on the graphic below for a free decluttering checklist.
break down physical decluttering into steps
If you are someone who has a lot of physical clutter to manage, break down your tasks into bite-size pieces. One way to do this is to follow the KonMari method of decluttering, which I wrote a blog about. This specific process of decluttering has you focus on one category at a time, starting with clothing, then books, then papers and continues until you reach the last category which are those items which are sentimental.
Another approach you can try when physically decluttering is to ask yourself questions to help sort through physical clutter such as: Do you use it regularly? Does it have a special meaning to you? Does it serve a clear functional purpose? Are you saving it for just-in-case? Do you even like it? This technique of asking yourself questions to get to the real heart of what should stay and what should go can be extremely helpful in removing unneeded clutter.
right-size your commitments and calendar
When you're feeling overwhelmed with too many commitments or to-do's and have an overbooked calendar because of it, you've got time clutter. It is likely that you're either taking shortcuts or burning the candle from both ends to try to get everything done. This zaps your energy and you get on a hamster wheel that feels exasperating. I know this because I've been there many times before and it's exhausting.
The first thing to do when you've got a lot of time clutter is to remove items from your proverbial plate. Often, this will require you to do a brain dump of everything you've got going on. I like to physically write out my brain dumps on a piece of paper because it helps to unload them out of my mind. Once you have the full list in front of you, it's time to dig into each item and decide which items can be delegated, deleted or delayed.
Many tasks we tend to take on without a thought to whether it could be passed to someone else. Delegate early and often, especially when in a state of overwhelm, that is self-care at its best.
There are other tasks or commitments that we "should" ourselves into doing. I should do this or I should do that. Reflect on those in particular. Consider bowing out of events that do not spark joy in your heart and learn how to say "no" to asks from others on occasion, doing so is quite liberating.
And a very important tool is to be okay in delaying or pushing a to-do. When you look at your list take ask yourself if "it", whatever "it" is, truly needs to be in the immediate hours or days. What would happen if you scheduled the items in two weeks when you know you had more time? So often, we sacrifice our health (both mental and physical) and decrease our level of joy trying to meet deadlines that we place on ourselves. Deeply consider what items you can move to the future when you can give yourself the time, effort and attention they might require.
minimize mind clutter
Mind clutter can happen quickly. One minute you're completely focused and the next moment you're triggered by something you read in the news, saw on social media or by something someone told you. It's normal and happens to all of us and often.
Working to minimize mind clutter takes both awareness and practice to redirect and retrain the brain. It is not an overnight process, but there are a few key things you can do today to minimize your mind clutter.
The first step is to start by being sensitive to what is going on in your mind. Take a few minutes, preferably in a place where you won't be interrupted and consider what you think about, is top of mind or has you anxious/worried. Continue to do this several times a week and just observe where your mindset is. Jot down a note or two about what state you are in (calm, focused, edgy, overwhelmed, tense et al). Getting a sense or a gauge over a week's time of where your mental state is can help you figure out what may be cluttering it.
If you find yourself taken away or distracted by mind clutter, you can do a few things to get your mind back on track.
Breath deeply - Deep breathing is one of the most effective ways to clear your mind quickly. Take a deep breath, pause and exhale slowly. Repeat this for a minute or ten. It lowers your heart rate and blood pressure and helps your body relax.
Take a walk - Movement, fresh air and sunlight (vitamin D) can give your hormones a positive boost, which can help decrease mental clutter. Reconnecting with nature is a powerful tool in getting an anxious mind to calm down and reboot.
Journal - According to research published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology expressive writing eliminates intrusive thoughts about negative events and improves working memory. Researchers believe that these improvements may, in turn, free up our cognitive resources for other mental activities, including the ability to manage stress more effectively.
get help from others when you need to
Like any personal growth process, find support from those around you when you might need it. When tackling physical clutter, if focus is your biggest challenge, you might consider having a friend who is strong in that facet assist you. If that's not a possibility, a professional organizer in your area can be a wonderful resource to guide you through a decluttering process. If your biggest challenge is motivation, consider sharing your challenges with a partner or a friend and see if they can help inspire you.
If time clutter is your biggest obstacle, you might find that a productivity coach could be helpful person to connect with to teach you prioritization and time management effectiveness.
When digging into mental clutter, you can find wonderful support from therapists trained to help people unearth the areas of their mind that are blocking them from living their most desired life.
When you are able to find a healthy level of balance with the various areas of your life by decluttering your physical space along with minimizing mind and time disorder you gain clarity and control. This results in a peaceful and calming transformation that you could absolutely benefit from.
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