13 Underrated Ways To Declutter Your Life (& Your Mind)

You are in control of your own happiness.

How To Declutter Your Life & Mind When You’re Feeling Overwhelmed getty

When you're stressed out, overwhelmed, and everything around you is a mess, you want to know how to organize your life and declutter it from the things you no longer need.

If you were to ask me a life hack that will always lead to loving your life, it begins with the right decluttering tips and strategies. Though you may think of decluttering when it comes to your physical stuff, clutter doesn’t stop with things.


No, darling, there’s also mental and emotional clutter and they always leave you feeling overwhelmed.

Think about it: one of the biggest causes of stress and overwhelm is the way our thoughts crowd out our ability to think clearly and strategically. That’s because our thoughts do create our reality.


Unfortunately, when our thoughts run amok, it’s harder to figure out what actions to take, let alone how to think better thoughts.

When you choose to learn how to declutter your life — especially your mind — you’ll find that you can handle the challenges life tosses at you with more grace. It opens the door to a life that feels less stressful, less overwhelming, and more fulfilling.

And that, my dear, translates into feeling as if you are in control of your own happiness. Yet, how do you begin to declutter your life and mind when mind and life are filled to the brim with various signs of stress?

Here are 13 overlooked strategies to organize and declutter your life when you're stressed out and overwhelmed.


1. Look to your environment

The first thing that may come to mind when someone says "declutter" is your environment. And this, my dear, is true. There is a reason Marie Kondo’s Netflix series is so popular: clearing physical clutter helps you think more clearly. That’s because clutter distracts you and makes you feel both stuck and overwhelmed.

If you aren’t quite sure where to start when it comes to physical clutter, I always recommend decluttering spaces where you spend most of your time. This means your kitchen, your living room, your bedroom, and your bathroom.

Better yet, declutter when the intent of creating habits that help make you feel more together.

Tidying your environment help you choose to continue to declutter your life and mind.


2. Pick up a pen 

When it comes to clearing your mind, the go-to action is to pick up a pen and some paper. When you do a brain dump — write down everything swirling around in your mind — it helps you move from swirling thoughts to clearer thinking.

One of the reminders I go to time and again is a quote from Getting Things Done author David Allen, "Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them."

Additionally, writing things down allows us to better process feelings. And, in all honesty, be able to step back and take a look at the logical side of emotionally charged situations.

If you want to go the long road of ensuring you declutter your mind on a regular basis, consider keeping a journal.


3. Reduce decision fatigue

Did you know we make, on average, 300 decisions a day? No wonder our minds are over-full!

So, when you reduce decision fatigue, it allows you to live a life that feels less cluttered. You reduce decision fatigue by pre-making decisions. Practical ways to reduce decision fatigue include adopting a uniform of sorts, creating a meal plan, and having solid routines.

4. Close decision loops 

Speaking of decision making, closing decision loops will always help reduce mind (and life) clutter. While closing decision loops is a term used for businesses, I have discovered that doing so in my personal life allows me to reduce decision fatigue in other ways.

What does that mean for your personal life? Closing a decision loop entails setting decision rules for your life, like if-then statements.


For example, one of my personal rules is that if I wake up after 4 AM, I go ahead and get up and start the day. If I wake up before 4 AM, I try to go back to sleep. Other kinds of "rules" you can make to help you close decision loops in your life can relate to household chores such as "If I cook, you clean" or "Even if I’m tired, I will leave the sink empty of dishes."

Closing decision loops not only is a way to declutter your life, but it also allows you to apply compassionate discipline to your life.

5. Ditching a toxic friend

Ditching a toxic friend is hard. Some folks report that breaking up with a friend is harder than breaking up with a lover. And, yes, it can feel challenging to decide you no longer want contact with a friend, even if they are drama queens or always complain.

However, hanging out with toxic people makes you feel toxic. So your happiness at risk. So, while ditching a toxic friend is hard…at first. Soon you’ll discover the sweet relief of peace.


And having peace of mind is the path to having a life that is decluttered of negativity.

6. Look for ways to cut other negative inputs

Recently, I was waiting for the car to get an oil change and they had Turner Classic Movies playing in the waiting area. That was wonderful background noise.

Then, a man changed the channel to the news and they were going on and on about political stuff. Oh! I could feel my blood pressure beginning to rise! (And he refused to change the channel back. So rude!)

For my own sense of well-being, I don’t watch the news. It’s just too negative and full of opinions. It’s one of the negative inputs I’ve cut from my life because seeing (and hearing) the same sad or highly charged stories over and over stress me out. And it clutters my mind.


What inputs are negative to you? The news? Social media? PTA Meetings? You can stay involved and informed with ways that fit your needs and still cut out any negative inputs that make your heart race, your blood pressure rise, or add more clutter to your already cluttered mind.

So, if you ask me how to declutter your life and mind, I would ask you what negative inputs you can cut out.

7. Take the time to close your circles 

Our brains see all the tasks on our to-do list as equal to each other. So, when I start feeling overwhelmed, I scan my list of tasks to see what circles I can close with the least amount of energy.

A good rule of thumb is to go ahead and do anything that can be accomplished in ten minutes or less, like texting a friend "Happy Birthday", taking out the garbage, starting a load of laundry, or clearing the kitchen island.


What this does is free up brain power for bigger tasks like writing a blog post or decluttering the closet.

Close circles during transition times, like when you get home from work. Or set a timer for thirty minutes mid-day and knock out as many small tasks as you can. This will make your life feel less cluttered and more spacious.

8. Declutter your calendar

Often, our life feels cluttered because we just have too much to do. When you look at all the demands on your schedule with work, home, school, church, friends, and more, it’s no wonder our life and mind feels cluttered.

Our "busy as a badge of honor" culture adds to overloading our calendars in the hopes of feeling more "fulfilled" or "worthy".


Begin by taking a good look at your commitments for each area of your life (I like to do this by the roles I fulfill). Then, write down everything for each role. This isn’t meant to overwhelm you, even though it may feel overwhelming in the moment.

What this will do is allow you to apply some solid logic . And as a way to open your eyes to everything on your plate.

Once written down, examine your tasks and commitments to see which ones add joy or value to your life. And to better identify tasks that may not be worth the time or effort you have to put into it.

This will mean getting better at saying "no". And possibly disappointing some people. Yet, you’ll discover that you’ll spend your time more efficiently. And have a much clearer mind.


9. Shore up your boundaries

In addition to decluttering your calendar, shoring up your boundaries is another way to declutter your life. Strong boundaries equal a less cluttered mind and life. Because strong boundaries equal not being a doormat. Or overloading your plate by saying "yes" when you want to say "no".

The truth is, most of us think we have good boundaries, but upon reflection, realize that they could be a bit stronger. That’s because when you’re tired, feeling overwhelmed, or have a lot on your plate, you’re more likely to let things slide.

And what seems like good, firm boundaries are a little wishy-washy.

10. Set non-negotiable standards

Setting non-negotiable standards means that you are setting the rules for your life according to what you desire to accomplish in your life. It’s about choosing to take control of the quality of your daily life. It’s easy for a bad day — or bad series of days — get us off track.


The way to recover more quickly is to create rules for ourselves that help us get back on track.

Like boundaries help protect your world from outside influences on your schedule and life, having non-negotiable standards for yourself can insulate you from self-sabotage.

11. Disrupt a habit

Good routines can be the backbone to having a life you love. And routines are basically a series of habits built to help you be more productive. Sometimes, though, we fall into habits that cause us to not be productive.

And, to be honest, feeling overwhelmed and over-scheduled can become a habit, too. And I get it, getting a lot done can be addictive, so we cram more on our to-do list. And then, we wonder why our minds are always full of rolling thoughts.


Whether it’s a good habit or bad habit, sometimes one of the best ways to declutter your life and mind is to disrupt a habit.

What I mean by this is to purposely switch things up so that your mind is stimulated with fresh ideas. Or creative approaches. This also helps you clear your mind. It’s like rebooting a computer.

12. Allow yourself to be bored

If there’s one thing I can say about this modern life, it’s this: there are so many attractive ways to be entertained. And I’m all about being entertained.


Sometimes, though, there are just too many choices. And constantly having something to do, to watch, to read fills up our brains. And it can be easy to become obsessed, you know? (Game of Thrones fans, I’m looking at you!)

If you want to declutter your life, then sometimes you need to allow yourself to be bored. Unplug your computer. Turn off the television.  Don’t pick up a book or magazine or your phone. Just sit and be and allow yourself to be bored

A study published in the Academy of Management Discoveries, which found that boredom can spark individual productivity and creativity.

13. When all else fails, just go to bed

I remember my grandmother telling me to go to bed when I was worried about something. Adding that "things will look better in the morning". She was right and science supports that. Sleep allows us to consolidate our memories and helps our bodies do important healing work.


And, often our minds are cluttered thanks to obsessing over things we’ve done imperfectly, right? Researchers at the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience found that getting a good night’s sleep allowed folks to move beyond feelings of embarrassment or shame. And folks who didn’t sleep well continued to obsess over similar types of imperfect acts.

When you declutter your life and mind, you’ll be able to live a better life.

You deserve to live a life that’s loving and nourishing. And part of that is the ability to be productive. That means you need the mental and emotional space to pursue your dreams. It will demand that you regularly clear your mind. And do less instead of more.

Anytime you feel a little overwhelmed or as if the thoughts have gone wild, you can return to these strategies to regain a sense of control.


Soon you’ll understand that decluttering your life and mind is a supreme act of self-care.

Debra Smouse is a life coach and author who has been published in Time, Huffington Post, MSN, Psychology Today, and more. She knows that the path to loving your life begins with an uncluttered mind. Snag a free workbook with life hacks on how to love YOUR life.

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