When you think of clutter, what immediately comes to mind? If you are like me, I’m going to guess it’s physical clutter. But clutter can take all shapes, forms, and sizes.
With the increasing awareness of mental illnesses and overall stress levels of others in our society today, the term ‘mental clutter’ (mental stress, mental load, mental fatigue, etc.) is slowly starting to come into the spotlight.
But what exactly is mental clutter?
There are a number of definitions floating out there, but basically, mental clutter is anything that “keeps us up at night”. Anything that causes stress, anxiety, overwhelm, depression, anger, frustration…I’m guessing you get the picture.
For those who don’t experience constant mental clutter, the solution is easy: ‘just stop thinking about (insert whatever stressor, anxiety-causing situation, etc).
Of course, it isn’t that easy, or we’d all be walking around feeling mindful AF.
So where do you even begin to start reducing mental clutter? There are endless options which is a gift and a curse, in my opinion. A gift because there is bound to be ways for everyone to do so, but a curse because all the information out there can easily get overwhelming.
In my experience, reducing mental clutter really boils down to the word ‘REDUCING’. We must reduce things in our life that cause us all the negative emotions listed above, and the things that take away our precious time that could be spent on things that bring us joy and meaning.
To find exactly where you should start to reduce mental clutter, check out my quiz HERE.
This may all sound great. Right? Reduce to gain more of what we love. But HOW?!
I have been able to reduce mental clutter in my own life by focusing on three main components (which…wa-la, also happen to be the three main topics of this blog):
- Mindfulness and Intentional Living
- Minimalism (decluttering and beyond)
- Zero Waste
All three of those components have two overall themes in common:
- they all focus on the theme of REDUCING in order to make room for things I love
- they all give me the opportunity to carefully reflect on what I want to bring into my home/life
Let me go into each topic in detail.
I’m starting with zero waste because I think this is the topic where there isn’t an obvious correlation to reducing mental clutter. But it does. Oh boy, it does.
Let me give you an example. Have you ever purchased some individually wrapped snacks? And after your kid, partner, you consume said snacks, have you found wrappers scattered in your car or the house or in your yard?
How about you just got done grocery shopping, and come home with a ton of bags from produce, food packaging, and just the regular plastic shopping bags? And you put those plastic bags at the top of the stairs for the next person to bring down to the cat box area? Yet it’s three days later and those darn bags are STILL waiting to be brought down?
So maybe those things just happen in my house, but I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that a few of you reading this were nodding along.
My family has reduced our waste by 40-45 pounds a WEEK. Not to be captain obvious here, but that means less waste (I know, I know).
Not only less waste, but less:
- taking the trash out each week (woo!)
- Target runs for things like tissues, tampons, and paper towels (just three examples).
- impulse buys from Target (things I don’t need and just add to clutter)
- ’stuff’ in general (due to not buying as much)
(all things that contribute to my mental clutter – stress and anxiety).
- money! By making simple waste reduction swaps, we have saved over $50 a month
- time to do things I love doing
Is this all making sense? I know that working to reduce your waste can seem like a huge undertaking and can seem really overwhelming. It also may seem like it could be a lot of work. But I’m here to tell you that it isn’t. And the benefits are endless.
The best part is, reducing waste has been a huge factor in reducing mental clutter for all the reasons mentioned above, AND, helps me get into the overall mindset of ‘reducing’ things in our lives.
Here are some resources to get started reducing your waste:
- 12 Zero Waste Resources you can Implement in 5 Minutes or Less!
- 19 Super Simple Ways and Budget-Friendly Ways to Save Money and Reduce Waste
- Trash Talkers Zero Waste Group: My family and I have reduced our waste in the past year by 35-40 lbs A WEEK. While we are nowhere near perfect, I am pretty proud of those numbers, and we are still continuing to reduce even more.The journey has been an exciting one for us, and now I want to be able to provide personalized guidance for you, so you know exactly what steps to take to start reducing your waste. I want to provide a supportive community that can help you stay accountable to your waste reduction goals, provide feedback, answer questions, and share resources/tips.What do you get as a Trash Talker?
- You will receive personalized guidance from me on reducing waste based on results of a trash audit.
- Access to a list of over 100 zero waste resources (and counting) that I put HOURS into compiling.
- Exclusive access to the Trash Talkers Facebook group where you’ll be able to join in on an unlimited amount of live hangouts with me (trash audit results, check-ins, and Q&As), and be part of a supportive community.
Interested in learning more? Enrollment will be opening soon…
Sign up to be notified when I’ll be adding the next group of Trash Talkers.
Minimalism is probably the most obvious way of reducing mental clutter. However, I think sometimes ‘minimalism’ can be an overwhelming term, but the best part about it is that it looks different for everyone!
So how does minimalism help to reduce mental clutter?
Minimalism is all about REDUCING in order to make room for things that bring you joy in your life.
But I’m not just talking about physical clutter – although that is certainly an important aspect to clearing mental clutter and making your way towards minimalism. In fact, tackling physical clutter was the very first thing my family and I did in our journey towards minimalism (and my quest to reduce mental clutter).
I won’t go into the full story, but in a nutshell, when my son was born, I quickly realized I wanted more time to spend with him, and less time doing things that took time away from my family (ex. cleaning, organizing over and over, commitments we weren’t fully engaged in, etc). Add in sleepless nights, an increased feeling of overwhelm, and an increase in anxiety and stress, and I knew I needed a way to reduce mental clutter.
It was around this time I started hearing about the term ‘minimalism’. I started looking into it, and was instantly hooked! One of the things that stuck out to me the most was regarding just one aspect of minimalism; decluttering. I found that physical clutter is a huge source of anxiety, not to mention an overall time suck! That was all it took to convince me we needed to start.
Fast forward 2.5 years later, and my family and I have not only greatly reduced what we bring in, we have also gotten rid of 134 boxes of stuff, and sold countless more! In addition to decluttering, throughout those 2.5 years, we slowly began incorporating other areas of minimalism into our lives.
Here are some of those ways:
- we have reduced people who are toxic in our lives
- we are extremely selective about what goes on our calendar
- we are aware of digital clutter – and try and do what we can to keep it at bay
- we say no in order to make time for things like family time, self-care, etc.
- we *try* to limit our time on social media, news sources, and electronics
I don’t want you to look at that list and think: ‘I’m not even far with my decluttering! How am I ever supposed to do all that as well?!’
Minimalism, like any lifestyle change, takes time.
It takes time to become aware of the habits you have that got you to this point, and more time to reverse them and implement new ones. And that’s OK.
If you want to start decluttering and/or start implementing other components of minimalism into your life, check out these posts:
- How to Incorporate Minimalism into all Areas of your Life
- Free 7-Day Decluttering E-Course
- Decluttering Tips and Tricks
- Four Guilt-Free Ways to Say No (In Order to Say Yes to a Life you Want)
- Do you Need to Declutter your Friend List?
- How to Tackle Clutter when you’re Facing Internal and External Resistance Ebook – this is the ebook I wrote which goes into detail about how my family and I got through the toughest roadblocks during our decluttering journey. The ebook includes a 6-page workbook to help you along the way.
Mindful and Intentional Living
In my personal experience, as my family and I started making lifestyle changes such as zero waste and minimalism, and started getting into the mindset of reducing, mindfulness and intentional living naturally came into our lives. These two terms/mindsets focus on the here and now, which became much easier as we REDUCED. It was like we finally cleared away all the ‘junk’ (physically and mentally), and we were able to focus on other things that brought us into the present moment.
Here are ways I find myself using mindfulness in my life:
- to stay grounded
- to reduce anxiety and stress
- with my family to help stay calm if we are feeling frustrated, stressed, overwhelmed, etc
- to help with sleep
- through meditation
When it comes to intentional living, I use it not only to incorporate/experience the benefits I listed above, but also as a way to stop and assess my life. Am I where I want to be? Have I been putting too much on my plate? Have I been intentional about taking care of myself?
You can do the same. Yes, you!
Need/want some inspiration? I’ve got a couple of great, inspiring examples for you:
Check out this story about one family who decided to create their own life design and travel the world while ‘world-schooling’ their kids.
Check out this story about a fellow blogger friend who decided to go against societal norms and create a life that has filled her with happiness.
In addition, here are some resources for implementing mindfulness and intentional living into your life:
- Intentional Living 101: The What, the Why and the How
- The Hidden Secret for Scheduling ‘Me’ Time
- 8 Ways to Detach from the News and Still Stay Informed
- 7 Ways to Detox from Social Media
- How to Create a Vision Board and How it Works
- Free 7-Day Mindfulness Course: If you’re looking for a great way to bring mindfulness into your life, check out my free 7-day mindfulness e-course. Each day you will receive a simple yet actionable way to bring mindfulness into your life! Sign up here.
Mindfulness and Kids
While the above resources can be great for introducing mindfulness to your entire family, I have found a couple of specific ways that I can help introduce mindfulness and intentional living to my almost 3-year old son.
The first is coloring. My son and I have great talks while coloring, and I was looking for a way to enhance those conversations even more. This led me to create my kids mindfulness coloring pages which contains four different coloring sheets with topics such as gratitude, happiness, kindness, and the outdoors (all things that are very important to our family!). The coloring pages even include a corresponding adult page!
The second is through the outdoors/nature photography. Research shows that being out in nature and even looking at nature photography can calm mood and increase happiness.
Being that I am a nature photographer, we have a lot of nature photos hanging in our house. One day, during a particularly tough 2-year old meltdown, I started asking my son questions about the photos.
“What colors do you see in the photo?”
“Can you pretend you are a bird on the bird nest?”
I was surprised at how much it helped us both redirect and shift our focus from the meltdown to the photos. After we were both calm, we could then talk about the issue at hand.
To help others, I created my kids mindfulness flashcards and kids mindfulness coloring pages which include kid-friendly nature photos from my collection and questions/prompts for kids and parents to go through together.
Research shows mindfulness is incredibly beneficial to kids. But it can be tricky to know how to implement it – especially if you’re not super familiar with mindfulness yourself. My kids mindfulness coloring pages and flashcards are great ways to practice mindfulness together – whether it is at home, daycare, school, or anywhere else!
These two resources are included in the 2019 Ultimate Homemaking Bundle which includes 103 additional resources and 10+ bonuses to help you live the life you want!
For more information, click on the banner below!
What is your favorite way to reduce mental clutter? Did you see any tips you’re going to implement? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!