How To Remove Mental and Physical Clutter
Clutter is anything that is hanging around that is no longer relevant to your definition of awesome. Make the decision to eliminate anything in your life, your surroundings and your mind that is just taking up space. One of the main causes of stress in our lives and of time wasted is the clutter we allow to enter our physical and mental worlds.
I’m not talking just about the pile of paper on your desk, the junk drawer in your kitchen or the piled-up workbench in your garage. I’m talking about the clutter in your thoughts. Living with bold courage requires you to clean up and clear away those thoughts and objects that are getting in your way and keeping you from focusing on what really needs your attention.
A simple rule of thumb about every object and every thought is this: If it isn’t relevant and helpful, get rid of it. When you rid yourself of your clutter, it allows you to make room for new and relevant ideas and solutions. Get rid of anything in your mind, your life, and your surroundings that it just taking up space. Tossing out the physical clutter is by far the easiest task of the two. The mental clutter is harder to recognize and more difficult to shift.
Mental clutter is a past failure that swoops in and casts a pallor on your latest initiative. It is a hurtful or unkind remark that someone made that keeps surfacing in your mind and giving you doubts about your abilities. It is the endless cycle of worry about survival and about the health and wellness of those close to us. It is anger, regret and anxiety about the things we cannot control.
When you tackle physical clutter, a standard approach is to pick one corner and begin to clear out that one area, and then move on to the next and the next. You don’t try to do it all at once, because it is unwieldy and impossible. But if you challenge yourself to do a bit every day, eventually you can see the floors and walls of a room again, and there is space to move easily and you are very happy with the results.
It is the same way in your mind. If you try to clear out all your mental clutter in one day, you will just be overwhelmed and able to chart your progress. But if you take one negative thought and resolve to banish it from your thoughts, you can generally manage to do that. If it is a horrible thing that happened to you at some point, give yourself permission to change your story and eliminate that one from your repertoire.
It could be a personal tragedy, a significant failure, or a job loss or death of someone close to you. The thought is so strong that it persists in being heard several times a day. Because it is there, you can’t be totally open to make space for new thoughts. You have to consciously and politely tell that thought when it enters your thoughts that “I have thought about you a great deal, and you are important to me. But you cannot keep interrupting me. You must stay quiet now for a while so I can rebuild and remodel my thought patterns and make way for new ones.”
One technique I have used successfully when mental clutter demands my attention is to think firmly “I need you to leave now.” Then I focus on one physical thing that is beautiful in my line of sight and I inhale and exhale deeply three times while I focus on the beautiful thing. I look at trees, flowers, a picture, a lovely design, the fine wood of a desk or the pattern of a carpet, anything that demands full concentration. After my little meditation is finished, the mental clutter has gone.
As the days pass, you will find the thought appears less and less, because each time you escort it out of your head and move consciously to think of something else. Sometimes you have a thought that you are not quite ready to release. Give yourself permission to think of it once a day, at a specific time, and make it leave if it enters at any other time. This is the mental equivalent of putting something in a drawer or filing it until you are ready to get rid of it. Either way, you have removed it from continually demanding your attention.
Paula Morand, CSP is a leadership building, revenue boosting, strategy expanding keynote speaker, author and visionary. This dreaming big and being bold expert brings her vibrant energy, humor and wisdom to ignite individuals, organizations and communities to lead change, growth and bold impact. 23 years, 25,000 clients, 19 countries, 11 books, former radio personality, 10x award winning entrepreneur and humorous emcee.
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