Clean Up Your Physical and Mental Clutter

In a recent article, I told you that I'd kicked off the year with a big physical and mental decluttering project. Since we're in spring-cleaning season, I want to share more about the value of freeing up space in your life, especially since research shows that it can affect your happiness.

Clear Your Space

In our busy lives, sometimes we become blind to our physical workspaces and the effect they have on us. Bring a fresh eye to your surroundings. What does your office or workspace look like? How does that affect your mindset? How much do you enjoy versus feel distracted working there? What can you remove from your workspace? For me, it was reams of back issues of magazines that I had to admit I was never going to read. Getting them out of my space was a huge weight off my shoulders. And with them gone, I'm now making much better use of my office bookshelves.

Also think about what else you need in your workspace, from an organization tool to an inspirational or meaningful photo or memento.

Clear Your Mind

Just like my office, my mind felt cluttered. I kept thinking about the same things over and over again, which disrupted my sleep.

One thing that helped me break the pattern was keeping a journal by my bed. I use it to get everything out of my head before bedtime – or when I would toss and turn for too long. I started by writing out the question "What am I worried about?" and then let the words flow unedited. Once I filled up almost two full pages! By dumping it out of my head and seeing it on paper, I noticed some themes and could more easily pick one or two things to start addressing. When I let it keep rolling around in my head, it took so much effort just to keep up with it. If you try this exercise, handwrite everything because doing so engages your brain differently.

If you want to take this practice a step further and get a little adventurous with some fire, you can try a burning bowl ceremony. On a small piece of paper, write down something you want to let go of — perhaps it's something you no longer want to tolerate or something that's holding you back. Light it on fire with a candle and place it in a nonflammable bowl to disappear before your eyes. The symbolic power in this action can really shift your mindset to eliminating this constraint from your life.

If playing with fire and journaling aren’t appealing, meditation can be another powerful tool. I don't practice traditional, sitting meditation, but the rhythmic cadence of running along with being out in nature, really centers me in the present moment. I usually listen to a guided meditation as I run. If running isn’t something you enjoy, simply go for a walk outside and purposefully notice the beautiful things around you can ground you. And, of course, traditional meditation is always an option. The point is to be fully present and deliberately create more mental space.

Where Is Your Clutter?

Now, think about any clutter in your own life. Is physical or mental clutter making you feel irritable and anxious? Perhaps it’s a bit of both. Pick one action to take this week it. If decluttering is something you mastered a long time ago, jot down what you do that works and refer to it periodically to make sure you stay on track. Whatever you choose to do, know that you are making space for something better to enter your life.