Declutter Your Mind: How your environment affects your Mental Health

The word decluttering doesn’t just apply to housekeeping. In a household setting, decluttering refers to cleaning, general tidying, and eliminating things from the home that have become useless or obsolete.

The same concept can be applied to your mind. It’s the process of lowering the burden on your mind by eliminating unnecessary worry and thoughts. 

In this series we are going to cover decluttering:

  • Your environment
  • People
  • Distractions and 
  • Thoughts

Environment:

Your environment includes your home and work environments. You spend most of your time in one of these two places. Avoid underestimating the impact your environment can have on your mental clutter. Removing environmental clutter can have a positive effect on the clutter between your ears.

Cleaning your office won’t trigger feelings of sentimentality, but decluttering your home will. The most important criteria when deciding whether or not to keep an item are:

  • Do I love it?
  • Do I need it?

If the answer is “no” to both questions, get rid of it. Sentimentality is a trap. There’s no reason to keep your plastic prom corsage from 1986 if it spends its entire life in a box in the garage.

However, there are worse offences in the universe. Just be aware of the tendency of sentimentality to contribute to your environmental and mental clutter.

Declutter your home and work environments first:

  1. Tackle one room at a time. Attempting to take on too much at once will not only lead to failure, but you’ll also increase your level of mental clutter. Let’s not lose ground before we even get started!
    • A quick declutter is enough. Assuming you’re not a hoarder, each room shouldn’t take more than 30 minutes to clear away the visual clutter.
    • Start at the top and work your way down. Look at anything hanging on the walls. Do you love it? Do you need it? If the answer to both questions is “no”, sell it, throw it away, or give it away. Regardless of which option you choose, do it quickly.

  2. Go through any closets, drawers, and shelves. Repeat the same process. If you don’t need it or love it, get rid of it.

  3. Finish the room. Consider the furniture, books, items under the bed, your clothes, and so on. Every single item should be considered for elimination. Be ruthless. You don’t use 90% of your possessions. You won’t miss them.

  4. Complete the rest of the house. Include the garage, refrigerator, under the sinks, and every other location. Do you have more towels than you need? Do you have towels that are so threadbare that you avoid using them? Shoes that hurt your feet? Get rid of it all. Anything that stays in the house should be important to you or your life.
    • Focus on one room per day. It’s not necessary to spend a lot of time on each room if you move quickly and don’t spend 10 minutes on each item. If you’re not positive about keeping it, let it go.
    • Remember your car. In fact, you can declutter your car every time you fill your gas tank. Don’t just stand there watching the numbers increase on the gas pump! Declutter your car while you wait.

  5. Address your work environment. Your work environment might consist of a desk and cubicle or an office. Or you might be responsible for an entire facility. Declutter whatever falls under your responsibility. Pay special attention to your desk and old files. Take the appropriate actions.

  6. Remember your digital environment. This can be the most tedious part of your decluttering efforts. It might take the better part of a Saturday to complete.
    • Computer. This includes your computer desktop and all your files. Eliminate everything you don’t need. Organize files and icons as necessary. Consider defragmenting your hard drive after you’re done. Declutter your work computer, too.
    • Email. How many emails do you have that you don’t need? Remember to spend time on all your email accounts.
    • Phone. Delete old text messages. Delete apps you no longer use. Update your apps as necessary.

  7. Evaluate how you feel. After all of these unnecessary items are out of your house and workspace, notice how you feel. You likely feel happier, lighter, and less burdened. It’s a good feeling. Remember it. And remember what caused it – fewer things in your life, not more.

It might seem counterintuitive to address your environment when your challenge is more psychological in nature. 

However, your environment can influence the amount of stress and anxiety you experience. This can trigger mental habits that create the mental clutter you’re trying to relieve.

Take this week to focus on decluttering your home, and next week, we will look at decluttering toxic people from your life.

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