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Three Simple Tips to Declutter Your Life

Updated on August 6, 2016
According to the American Heritage Dictionary, clutter is "A confused or disordered state or collection"
According to the American Heritage Dictionary, clutter is "A confused or disordered state or collection" | Source

What Is Your Definition of Clutter?

Do you have a really specific picture that comes to mind when you think about clutter?

Maybe you see an image of stacks of advertisements and mail all over your kitchen table. Maybe you see an endless mountain of laundry sitting on your couch that seems like it will never be conquered. Maybe you think of a room that is just a little too full of stuff, whether it be useful stuff or otherwise.

If these types of images come to mind for you, your primary definition of clutter probably has to do with the physical side of things, which certainly can have an overwhelming, energy-draining effect on your life.

Some people may think of other types of clutter that aren't so concrete. While it can be more difficult to come up with a mental image of these types of clutter, it is probably pretty easy to remember the feelings that they evoke which can be quite debilitating.

Some of this clutter could come in the form of a schedule that doesn't allow you any time to just sit back and breathe.

Clutter could come in the form of worry and other negative emotions that take up so much space in your mind that it is hard to enjoy even the most beautiful experiences and opportunities for joy in life.

It could take the shape of negative thoughts about yourself that crowd out the positive motivation and inspiration that would normally empower you to do great things.

I will be discussing how to relieve yourself of several types of clutter in this article. If you feel like your life includes any of the following types of clutter, this article is for you.

  • physical clutter
  • cluttered schedule
  • mental clutter (worries, negativity, etc.)

Does Clutter Really Have a Negative effect On My Life?

There are some people who have grown rather accustomed to clutter of all varieties and wonder whether it really is having any type of negative effect on their lives. The simple answer to this question is, "yes."

Just like some people have a higher tolerance for pain than others, I think there are people who have a higher tolerance for clutter than others, but that doesn't mean clutter isn't hindering them as they go about their lives.

First, let's talk about physical clutter.

You're probably surrounded by it on a regular basis, and feel like it is pretty easy to tune out, but even the clutter that we think we are tuning out is taking attention away from the things that we would rather be focusing on.

I liken trying to completely focus on a task in a cluttered room to trying to have a conversation in a room that is full of people talking and laughing loudly.

It's possible to have a conversation in a loud room filled with people, but it's difficult, and you might miss out on some of the important things that are being said to you. Similarly, working on a project in a cluttered room is possible, but your attention is subconsciously going to be pulled in a lot of different directions.

Now, let's talk about some of the other forms of clutter. A schedule that is too cluttered often doesn't allow you to have the time to do the things that matter the most to you, and if you do have time for them in your schedule, it is likely that you aren't giving them as much time as you need.

This can lead to additional stress, and this brings us to the subject of mental clutter. Whether your mind is cluttered with stress, worry, anger, or other negative emotions, it is getting in the way of your productiveness and your overall quality of life.

If you want to improve the quality of your day or even improve the overall quality of your whole life, choosing to get rid of this type of mental clutter is a huge step in the right direction.

Working in an environment like this can take a lot of attention from the task at hand. Take ten minutes to clear off your desk, and see what kind of a difference it makes in your productivity.
Working in an environment like this can take a lot of attention from the task at hand. Take ten minutes to clear off your desk, and see what kind of a difference it makes in your productivity. | Source

Tip #1: Cut Out the Physical Clutter

I know, this is something that is much easier said than done, but you will discover that the end results make every ounce of effort completely worth it.

As was mentioned before, it's likely that you think you are tuning out the clutter around you when subconsciously it is actually having major influence on the way you are functioning.

You will feel so liberated when your mind can be freed from all the nonessential stimuli in your environment.

Now, you're probably wondering how you are supposed to accomplish this huge task. I will share some of my own personal advice as well as some tips from others who are experienced in the art of cutting out the clutter.

  • Schedule a window of time for cleaning. Sometimes I think that if I start cleaning, I'm not going to have time for anything else, and that can be intimidating. I've learned that when I'm worried about a job taking up my whole day, I can solve that problem by telling myself a specific amount of time that I'm going to work and allowing myself to stop when that amount of time is up. Whether you want to set aside an hour a week or a day a month, figure out where you can add some cleaning time into your schedule so that you make sure it actually happens. Don't worry about only getting half of a job done, celebrate that you got something done!
  • Work on one small area at a time. If you are like me, thinking about going through your whole house seems more like an impossible task than a daunting one, but thinking about cleaning out one shelf of your pantry doesn't sound quite so bad. If you are like me, you might build up some momentum working on that one shelf and end up with half the pantry done in one cleaning session. You might even surprise yourself and finish the whole thing. The point is that when divide your cleaning up into small manageable tasks, you are less intimidated, and you can build up the courage to start working.
  • Get excited about donating the items you don't use anymore. Cleaning is so much easier when instead of finding a place to put random items, you just throw them into a donation bag. I'm not saying that you have to donate everything in your house, but I am saying that if you have things hanging around that you know you never use, it will be beneficial to you and those who get your items when you decide to donate them to a charity. All of the sudden you will have less clutter in your house, and someone else will have something they needed that they wouldn't normally be able to afford. This is my favorite way of decluttering. Some people even try to make it a game by making a goal to donate one garbage bag of household items a week. Can you imagine how nice it would be to have a garbage bag less stuff in your house each week? Talk about cutting out the clutter right?
  • Just start! No matter what method you choose to use, the most important part is to start. I know how intimidating cleaning can be. I used to be afraid to even look at some corners of my house let alone start cleaning them. It just seemed too hard. I knew that I would never be able to get that big of a job done. I had a miraculously capability to come up with a million excuses about why I couldn't start a job, and I think that it all came down to the fact that for some reason I was literally afraid of getting started. Interestingly enough, it turns out that when ever I motivated myself to start, the job was never as scary as I thought it would be. In fact, I felt so much better after cleaning, that it made me want to clean more and more. A lot of the times when I set aside an hour to clean, I would find myself cleaning for several hours, just because I'm enjoying it. I never would have realized that if I didn't have the courage to just get going, and I wish that I would have done it sooner.

Make some time for the really important things in your schedule, and yes...relaxation is important!
Make some time for the really important things in your schedule, and yes...relaxation is important! | Source

Tip #2: Cut Out the Clutter in Your Schedule

There are a lot of people in this world that feel like they are constantly busy. They are always running from here to there and often worrying about whether or not they will be able to get everything done on time.

It's healthy to fill your life with meaningful activities and to make positive contributions in the world, but that doesn't mean that you always have to be in a frantic state of trying to get caught up on all the things that you have committed yourself to doing.

I know that you probably think that everything on your schedule is important. After all, why would you waste your time doing things that don't really matter?

There are a few reasons that you might be filling your schedule up with a lot of things that don't really matter all that much.

One reason is that a lot of people subconsciously equivocate their personal value and worth with the level of busyness that they have in their lives. After all, if you are always doing something, you must be really important right?

The truth is that you are valuable and important now matter how many activities and events you pack into your schedule, and a better way to demonstrate how valuable you are might be to cut out some of the clutter in your schedule and give yourself a little bit of time to relax and focus on the things that are really important.

Another reason that people end up with overly cluttered schedules is that they just don't have the backbone to say no when people ask them to do things.

This goes back to placing a strong value in yourself as well. It's good to serve others, and I definitely think that you should make time for service in your schedule, but you shouldn't be a slave to the needs of others. That means that sometimes you need to tell people no.

If you already know that a day or week is going to be particularly hectic, you don't have to say yes to every person that asks you to add more to your plate. You are a person of great worth and value. Your time is valuable. You have a right to be picky about how you want to spend it.

I have two main tips for cutting out the clutter in your schedule.

  • Just say no. I know, we've already been discussing this, but it is absolutely key in making sure that your schedule doesn't end up being crowded with things that really don't matter to you. It doesn't really matter how much someone else wants you to do something. If you don't feel like an activity will help you to move forward in a positive and healthy way or if you just plain don't feel like you have the time for it right now, there is nothing wrong with saying no.
  • Take some time to figure out what your passions are. This is something I've been working on lately as I've been studying a great book called The Motivation Manifesto. As I've taken the time to think and write about the activities that are the most meaningful to me, it has helped me to pinpoint what my passions are. A lot of people feel like they don't have time to do the things that they enjoy, because there are too many other important things to do. What if you decided to cut out some of those important things to make sure that you have the time to do the things that matter the most to you? You might discover that the things that matter the most to you really are the important things and some of those other things are things that you can live without.

Power poses like this one literally boost your positive energy, so if you want to overcome some negative clutter, try doing a positive affirmation while in a power pose.
Power poses like this one literally boost your positive energy, so if you want to overcome some negative clutter, try doing a positive affirmation while in a power pose. | Source

Tip #3: Cut Out the Mental Clutter

I don't think it's possible to overstate the importance of cutting out as much mental clutter as possible from your life. As long as your mind is filled with worries, anger, frustration, and self deprecating thoughts, you are never going to have the fantastic quality of life that you deserve.

Worrying about what happened yesterday or about what might happen tomorrow steals all of the joy and peace from the moment that you are currently living in.

Anger, frustration, and negativity about others or about the situations that we are in blinds us to all of the wonderful things all around us.

When we direct that same sort of negative energy towards ourselves, our minds are so cluttered with thoughts of not being good enough that it is impossible to step out of the dark and be the amazing people that we are meant to be.

You might think that I'm using the word amazing a little too lightly, but I don't think so at all. I've probably never met you, but I know that you are a unique individual with talents that could bless the world if you had the courage to really put yourself out there and be the person that you were meant to be.

It's time to cut out all that mental clutter. You would never go around the neighborhood picking up trash and then use that same trash to decorate your home. I don't know why we think it's alright to fill up our minds with all the negativity that surrounds us.

Here are some tips to help you clean up all that clutter in your mind so that you can see the beauty that's really there.

  • Take time to ponder what you're grateful for. I think the best way to do this is by writing down the things that you are grateful for, but if you aren't the type to write things down you can at least take some time before you fall asleep each night to think about the goods things in your life. Make it a goal to look for the positive things that make each day a even a little bit better. Once you start looking for the positive, you will notice that there's not as much room for the negative mental clutter.
  • Make it a goal to stop complaining. Complaining just increases the amount of worry, stress, and negativity you experience in life. As religious leader, Jeffrey R. Holland, once said, "no misfortune is so bad that whining about it won’t make it worse." Make a goal to cut out the complaining and you will notice a huge difference in your quality of life.
  • Follow the golden rule. It's amazing how your feelings towards a person can change when you treat them the way that you want to be treated. When you treat the people around you with love, kindness, and patience, you will notice that you experience less anger and frustration in the situations that you encounter.
  • Use positive affirmations on a regular basis. If you aren't familiar with using positive affirmations, this may sound crazy at first, but it is a great way to kick negative self talk to the curb. I'm a personal believer that the little voice in your head that says you aren't good enough is the biggest liar out there, and that you should believing the exact opposite of what that voice is saying. In fact, I like to create my own positive affirmations by starting with the negative self talk that I use the most often. I write down the specific negative self talk phrases that I think are holding me back the most in life, and then write down the exact opposite of those phrases to come up with my affirmations. For example, if that voice in my head keeps telling me that there's no point in writing or talking because nobody wants to hear what I have to say anyway, I would change that to an affirmation that says, "I have an important message to share that the people around me are desperate to hear because it will help them to improve the quality of their lives." Positive affirmations are the most powerful when you say them out loud with enthusiasm. The more energy you put into your affirmation, the better it will counteract the negativity you've been experiencing. If you do a power pose or take a step forward while saying your affirmation that makes it work even better. The video I included below is a perfect example of how enthusiasm and energy can make your positive affirmations all the more powerful.

Put It To The Test: What Benefits Will You Reap From Decluttering Your Life?

At this point, you have two choices. You can go on living a cluttered life as if you never read any of this or you can step out in courage and start making a few changes to see if they will sow positive results in your life.

My challenge to you is to make the latter of those two choices. If it seems too intimidating to work on all of these areas of your life at once, just pick one area to focus on.

Whether you want to work on cleaning out your closet, clearing the nonessential activities from your calendar, or you're ready to start saying some positive affirmations in the morning to clean out your mental clutter, you will notice a difference in your quality of life.

I'm not trying to be pushy with anybody. Anyone who has seen my house, knows that there are still plenty of cluttered corners to be tamed, so I'm not perfect in this realm by any means.

I just know that the more that I work on cleaning out the clutter in my life, the better I feel about my life, and I think that when you put this challenge to the test, you will feel the same way too, so give it a shot.

Are you going to step up to the challenge and cut out the clutter in your life?

See results

Bonus Tip: Decluttering Has Been Known to Help People Lose Weight

If you think about it, the extra weight people carry around is very similar to clutter in a lot of ways. Most people wish that it wasn't there, but for whatever reason they haven't been able to get rid of it.

Often times these reasons are very much emotional, so it's probably easy to see the connection between mental clutter and stubborn weight that you can't lose.

Many people have noticed that as they get rid of all different varieties of clutter in their lives, they start creating more healthy habits. As those healthy habits come along, weight loss is often a natural result.

This doesn't work for everybody, but it has worked for many.

I know how intimidating the thought of weight loss can be. I lost almost 100 pounds at one point, so I know what a hard road that is, and I also know that it is completely worth every effort that it requires.

For most people, the idea of trying to lose weight is more intimidating than the idea of cleaning out a closet, but figuring out that you have the ability to conquer that closet might be just the thing to encourage you to finally lose that extra weight you've been carrying around.

Then, when you start cutting out all that negativity that has been cluttering your mind for so long, you will find a great power within that will help to root you along on your journey instead of discouraging you right and left.

Do the experiment, and allow yourself to be empowered as you get rid of the unnecessary clutter in your life.

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    • Pawpawwrites profile image

      Jim 2 years ago from Kansas

      Getting excited about donating the items you don't use anymore is a great tip. We use that one a lot when it comes to getting rid of physical clutter.

    • Snakesmum profile image

      Jean DAndrea 2 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      In my study, there are several bags and a box of items ready to be donated, cluttering up the place! Must get motivated to ring the charity for collection, but I keep putting it off until I clear more stuff into bags for them! :-)

    • Becca Linn profile image
      Author

      Rebecca Young 2 years ago from Renton, WA

      I love taking bags of stuff to the local thrift store! It leaves me feeling so liberated and cleansed! :o)

    • MHiggins profile image

      Michael Higgins 2 years ago from Michigan

      Good advice here, Rebecca! Now that the snow is melting, I am getting rid of clutter. Great hub!

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Isaac Weithers 2 years ago from The Caribbean

      You offer very good tips--one step at a time, one small area at a time. Thanks for these useful reminders.

    • Julie K Henderson profile image

      Julie K Henderson 2 years ago

      You offer worthwhile, practical advice in this article. I especially enjoyed reading about clearing out my schedule and all mental clutter. Thank you for inspiring me to prune my life in these areas.

    • Becca Linn profile image
      Author

      Rebecca Young 2 years ago from Renton, WA

      I'm glad that was useful to you. I think a lot of times people forget about schedule clutter and mental clutter, and getting rid of those is hugely liberating. Also, once you've taken care of clutter in your mind and in your schedule, it's often easier to take care of physical clutter.

    • Julie K Henderson profile image

      Julie K Henderson 2 years ago

      I completely agree.

    • C Rosendaul profile image

      C Rosendaul 2 years ago

      Great advice Rebecca. I have taken steps to simplify my life in the past few years, and it is well worth the effort! It is amazing how, by clearing out physical clutter, your mind is automatically relieved of much mental clutter.

    • nathalia27 profile image

      Nancy 2 years ago

      You define decluttering in three ways and all those three ways are well explained.

    • healthyfitness profile image

      Rick Grimes 2 years ago

      Thank you so much for this article. It's a HUGE help! The part about positive affirmation really opened my eyes. I absolutely am going to start doing that, could you link me to anymore articles on that subject? The little girl in the video rocks and i want to be just like her! :)

    • Becca Linn profile image
      Author

      Rebecca Young 2 years ago from Renton, WA

      I've been thinking about writing a hub specifically about positive affirmations, and now you've got me even more motivated. I'll try to have it for you by the end of the week. :-)

    • Becca Linn profile image
      Author

      Rebecca Young 2 years ago from Renton, WA

      @Healthyfitness-Here's the link to my newest hub. I hope you enjoy it! http://hub.me/ajn65

    • Anne Harrison profile image

      Anne Harrison 2 years ago from Australia

      I've just uncluttered my writing area and its amazing the difference it has made - I want to sit and write now! I also find if I get up early (5.30ish) and take the dog for a walk, it clears my brain and I get so much more done during the day.

      Thanks for the hub, voted up

    • Tamara14 profile image

      Tamara Kajari 20 months ago from Zagreb, Croatia, Europe

      Very nice hub. I'm amazed on a daily basis how easily people come up with all kinds of excuses to keep on feeling unhappy with their lives. I've done my best changes after I've seriously "talked" to myself and it scares me sometimes to see how much people actually lack self-criticism. I guess people get stuck in thinking that they have no choice while actually there's always a choice. Thanks for this great motivation :)

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