Today I saw my first Robin since they flew the coop of Michigan and headed south for warmer weather. It gave me much hope that Spring is indeed just around the corner, the season of new beginnings. So I guess I better gear myself up for some spring cleaning around here.
Spring cleaning usually refers to such things as washing windows, raking out leftover fall leaves that settled in the flower bed, or purging unused items cluttering the closets. While that always brings about a wonderful sense of accomplishment, sometimes our homes are not the only things that need decluttering and cleaning up. But I’ll get into that in a minute.
Clutter causes stress
Clutter can significantly affect how we feel about our homes, workplaces, and ourselves. Messy homes and work spaces can make us anxious, helpless, and overwhelmed. Most people might not even recognize it as a significant source of stress in their lives. Whether it be their closet or office desk, excess things in their surroundings can hinder their ability to focus and process information.
Neuroscientists at Princeton University studied people’s task performance in an organized versus disorganized environment. Not surprisingly, the study showed that physical clutter in their surroundings competed for their attention, resulting in decreased performance and increased stress.
That is not to say everyone must have clean, empty surfaces everywhere. Some people work better when there is some clutter going on because it makes them feel inspired to get some work done. It does not distract them but instead motivates them. The main thing is to create a space that makes you feel at ease. Fortunately, physical clutter is one of the most manageable life stressors to fix.
Spring cleaning our mental state
On the other hand, mental clutter can be a little more challenging to deal with. Mind clutter builds up just like out-of-fashion clothes, dusty knickknacks, and long-forgotten Christmas decor. Therefore some of us might need a little “weed pulling” and “clearing out the clutter” in our minds that has crept in over time.
Mind clutter can often be related to the past.
What kinds of things have you shoved into the back corners of your mind but yet are choking out the good stuff you want in there? Do you have negative thoughts you have harbored over time, either about yourself, somebody else, or maybe about situations in your life? Let’s look at four steps you can take to “spring clean” your brain.
1. Purge your mental filing cabinet
Most people unconsciously keep a sizeable ugly file cabinet in their minds. The drawers fill up with mistakes they have made, people who have hurt them, people they have hurt, opportunities they have missed, and so on and so on. And this last statement could be a whole blog unto itself, but that will have to be for another time. So for the sake of spring cleaning your mind, take some time and go through those mental drawers and decide to get rid of memories of the past that are not serving you well but are dragging you down and cluttering your current life.
2. Write your thoughts down
Keeping a journal is an excellent way to free up your mind by jotting down thoughts and feelings that constantly interrupt your thought process, especially when you are trying to get essential tasks done. It could be situations you are worried about, goals you want to achieve, or concerns about a relationship that isn’t going well, for example.
3. Don’t procrastinate
Sometimes our brains get so clogged up that making even easy decisions seems hard. However, putting it off creates more clutter and can make life more stressful. And, because you are stressed, you keep shoving the decisions to be made to the back of your mind, but you know you are eventually going to have to take care of matters. It really becomes a vicious cycle, so learning how to break it is beneficial to your peace of mind.
4. Tend the garden of your mind
We need to consider our life a garden and determine what we want to grow there. As with all gardens, we know how easy and fast weeds can creep in and take over. It not only takes diligence and patience to grow desirable crops but also the right fertilizer. Fertilizer would be what you are feeding your crops. Positive thoughts will make them flourish, while negative thoughts will strangle them. Unfortunately, weeds seem to spring up overnight, while the tasty produce can take months. But I’d rather wait for a juicy tomato than eat an overgrown weed any day. How about you? The point here is pulling weeds, watering the garden, and feeding it the right fertilizer will reward you with a good crop.
Get rid of clutter, and you may just find it was blocking the door you’ve been looking for. — Katrina Mayer
Are you struggling with weeds that have taken deep root in your life and seem to be choking out what you want to grow there? If so, working with a coach can help motivate you to set goals as you move forward to an uncluttered mindset and lifestyle.
This article originally appeared on Counseling Solutions of West Michigan.