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Mental clutter and how to get rid of it?

Updated on May 1, 2015
Dr Pran Rangan profile image

I am a physician by profession. I like to write on topics related to health, psychology, psychiatry, and spirituality.

Mental clutter consists of various unwholesome thoughts, feeling and emotions that occupy our mental space and take up the permanent residence there. They continue to live rent free and we sustain them by feeding and clothing. These negative thoughts become compulsive overwhelming us. They bog us down creating mental anguish. Mental clutter is primarily produced by the following types of thoughts –

Toxic thoughts – Thoughts of anxiety, worry and fear are highly toxic since they have capacity to accumulate, and feelings and emotions caused by them can poison our mind and body. Thoughts of hatred for others are also strongly poisonous. And so is jealousy, which is indeed a green eyed monster.

Negative thoughts – Thoughts of criticism, complaints, contempt, distrust and despair never leave our mental landscape and color it with negativity. Most of us have a deeply ingrained habit of judging ourselves and others. In fact, thoughts arising out of judging ourselves and others occupy a large area of our mental space.

Waste thoughts – Such thoughts too occupy a large part of our mental space. We all have a tendency to think about the events of the past that have caused us unpleasantness. We normally invite those unpleasant events to visit us and spoil our present by creating unhappiness. Such thoughts about the past are indeed waste thoughts. Thoughts about the events we desire to happen according to our wish in future also constitute waste thoughts as we have no control over our past events and events that will occur in future. We can only exercise control over our present to a certain extent by performing acts righteously.

Necessary thoughts – These are the thoughts that are related to our day-to-day work. They are related to daily planning and execution of certain acts. Such necessary thoughts are mostly grounded in the present and, normally, they stop as soon as the act is over. But some thoughts about future planning, though grounded in the present, become unnecessary because we start thinking too much about how the acts should be performed to get successful results. This takes the form of worrying, leading to mental clutter.

How to de-clutter mind – We can adopt the following strategies for de-cluttering the mind -

  • Recognize mental clutter – Firstly, we have to recognize mental clutter and then make sincere efforts of getting rid of it. Recognizing it is the first step towards de-cluttering the mind because we are much bogged down by the mental clutter that we are not able to reason out what is responsible for it.
  • Make a list – We should prepare a don’t-do list of things that cause mental clutter. Always being aware of and avoiding them will considerably reduce our mental clutter.
  • Act fast – Most of us vacillate to and fro with “Should I do this” or “Should I do that.” and other similar confounding thoughts that cause so much mental clutter. I agree that some of us have a tendency to overanalyze things. But, in order to reduce clutter, we have to take decisions fast by going with our intuitions sometimes. Indecision and unnecessary mental vacillation will sap our energy that is required badly for our day-to-work.
  • Don’t procrastinate – It is a deep rooted habit that many have. Indecision is sometimes the underlying reason for procrastination, which causes stress when our routine work piles up. When we are unable to finish our piled up work before deadline, it further causes anxiety, thus starting a vicious cycle.
  • Read and listen to good quality material – We have information overload these days. Therefore, one should use one’s discretion to select good material to read and listen to. We should avoid reading bad news in the newspapers early in the morning because whatever is read early in the morning lingers longer in mind. We should also read spiritual material since it gives us some wisdom how to lead a better life. Moreover, there are many self-help books and related articles that can be read to lessen our mental clutter.
  • Associate with positive people – The company of positive people is one of the best ways to lessen mental negativity apart from other benefits of socialization. We can share wholesome mental interests and creative hobbies with them. We can learn much from the associating with such people.
  • Don’ judge – We always measure others with the yardsticks of our beliefs and ideologies because we are conditioned to do so from early years of our life. Judging others as per our benchmarks creates lot of negativity in us. Therefore, to reduce mental clutter, we will have to destroy these benchmarks and stop judging others. We should not forget that no two persons have the same beliefs and ideologies. And so we should respect the beliefs and ideologies of others though they may be different from ours.
  • Have faith in a divine power – Having faith in a divine power sustains us emotionally when we are going through adverse times. In many instances, it has proved to be best in helping many overcome adversity provided the individuals have absolute faith in such a power.
  • Practice relaxation techniques – One can resort to yoga, meditation, self-reflection and other relaxation techniques to remove mental negativity and anguish. They really help in removing mental clutter.
  • Exercise regularly – Regular exercise is one the most effective ways to lessen negativity and tension. In additions, it offers so many other health related benefits.

The bottom line –

It is a fact that we all have mental clutter to varying extents in life and since it has a tendency to accumulate, it can cause us great distress at times making us miserable. It is primarily caused by toxic, negative, waste and some necessary thoughts that we change into unnecessary ones. We create such thoughts from time to time, contributing to our mental clutter. So, literally, we are ourselves responsible for creating mental clutter and, therefore, we are the ones, who can get rid of it by employing various strategies.

We ought to be more concerned about removing wrong thoughts from the mind than about removing tumors and abcesses from the body.

Epictetus - the great Stoic philosopher


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    • Dr Pran Rangan profile image

      Dr Pran Rangan 2 years ago from Kanpur (UP), India

      It is true that recognizing the problem is certainly half of the battle. Thanks Denise for your nice comments.

    • denise.w.anderson profile image

      Denise W Anderson 2 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      This is an interesting concept, that we have "clutter" in our minds with thoughts that tend to accumulate. I know it has caused me both mental turmoil, and unnecessary mental anguish. Recognizing the problem is certainly half of the battle!

    • Dr Pran Rangan profile image

      Dr Pran Rangan 2 years ago from Kanpur (UP), India

      Thanks Dana Tate, Nadine May and Manatita44 for your encouraging comments.

    • manatita44 profile image

      manatita44 2 years ago from london

      Thank you for a wholesome and helpful Hub. Om Shanti!

    • Nadine May profile image

      Nadine May 2 years ago from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

      This is truly a great article. I so totally agree how important it is to be in the company of positive people. That is why I will do my best at all times to respond with a positive reply to any situation that might not be so positive.

    • Dana Tate profile image

      Dana Tate 2 years ago from LOS ANGELES

      This is so informative. I will admit I have been a product of mental clutter for years. Definitely believing in a higher power helps with negative and unhappiness which is where it starts