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How to De-Clutter Psychological Clutter

If you like to “Netflix-and-chill”, it’s likely that you have watched (or at least heard of) the popular show Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. This show is gaining a lot of attention because the premise hits close to home for many people – de-cluttering your cluttered life. Marie Kondo, the adorable mastermind and host of the show, applies the KonMari method to help families de-clutter their homes. The KonMari method is broken down into five specific categories that allow you to organize your space in a clear way. What is so powerful about this method is that it can also be applied to other aspects of your life, including your mind. Brad Stulberg’s article, Use the KonMari Method to Tidy Your Mind, explores how you can de-clutter your brain. This post will reflect on the article and how you can utilize de-cluttering tools in your own life.

Keeping your home and life consistently organized is not always easy. Have you ever found yourself having a crazy week? Endless chores, appointments, long work days, keeping track of your kids’ schedules — the list goes on. Weeks like this can sometimes make home tidiness and organization take the back burner. However, if this does happen and you notice that your space starts to become cluttered and difficult to manage, you may become even more stressed than you were before. Stulberg writes that there is research indicating that a cluttered environment, whether it is home or workplace, is a stressful one. Research also points out that clutter is linked to procrastination and elevated levels of cortisol, which is a stress hormone. So, if a cluttered space leads to higher stress, how does this translate to our cluttered minds?

Psychological clutter, as Stulberg states, is the idea of there being too much “stuff” going on in our minds, which then translates to too many things happening in our lives. When you have too much going on in your life, are you aware of your behavior, or are you aware of your energy and performance levels? The next time you have too much going on, take a moment and step back to observe how you are feeling and what you are thinking. Observe the negative thought patterns that may be swirling around in your mind, or notice the tension you are carrying in your body during these moments of psychological clutter. Stulberg adds that there is also evidence that psychological clutter prevents us from giving our full energy and attention to each task that we have to do. People are happier when they can be fully engaged in the tasks that must be completed. When our minds are scattered, anxiety and frustration is more likely to occur.

One way to overcome psychological clutter is to follow Stulberg’s formulated three-step process. First, list your core values or the three to five things that matter most to you. Stulberg states that these are the guiding principles in your life. During this process you may also reflect on the things that you made room for in your life that did not serve you in a positive way. Itemizing these things and letting them go may provide you a sense of relief and readiness to move forward.

Stulberg’s next step to de-cluttering is to take a rough inventory of how you spend your time and energy on any given day. If that is hard, think about the past week or two. Ask yourself what percentage of your time is spent on activities that align with your core values? What activities that do not align with you core values can you cut out? You may already know what these activities are if you itemized them in the first step. The final step to this process is to notice every new opportunity that comes your way and to ask yourself, “If I say yes to this, to what am I saying no?” This question helps you stay grounded and focused on your core values.

Psychological clutter can be overwhelming, and it is easy to get your mind stuck in a rut. However, it is possible to overcome. If you feel that your mind has been cluttered and need extra support finding ways to get more organized and balanced, it may be beneficial to talk to a mental health professional. Contact Symmetry Counseling to get connected with one of our skilled clinicians.

Most of the information used for this blog post was referenced from Brad Stulberg’s article, Use the KonMari Method to Tidy your Mind.

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