“I can’t focus, my mind’s all over the place!”
If I had a nickel for every time I heard someone say this to me, I’d be rich. I hear friends say they take on a million tasks at once and they’re onto the next task before finishing the first one—which really means nothing ever gets done.
Our minds move a thousand miles per minute, and with the speed of technology, we’re not slowing down any time soon. The TV’s on, the radio’s blaring, the cell phone’s pinging with every new text, and Facebook’s open 24/7. Information is so readily accessible, it’s easy to get wrapped up in having to know it all. And after knowing it all, we try to do it all. An endless cycle that can go on forever as if we’re running on a hamster wheel.
This state of overthinking, overload and overwhelm is all too common.
We’re split and scattered between past, present and future, juggling roles and responsibilities. We’re caught up in regrets about yesterday and worries about tomorrow. It’s no wonder we struggle to fall asleep at night.
These are the effects of mental clutter. The head fog, the confusion, the chaos, the stress. And this “stuff” affects our environment. It leads to our messy desks, our overstocked cupboards, our overflowing closets and drawers.
We get so busy, we don’t make time to slow the clutter buildup. So, instead we continue to put our keys in the fridge and carry the milk out the door. We continue to arrive places and completely forget how we got there. We continue to have the mommy brain, the senior moments, and the entrepreneur busyness.
I know these scenarios all too well. That was my world. Always busy checking emails, running to and from meetings, scrolling Twitter—sparing no time for family or friends. I finally came to terms with what I was doing to myself and realized my mind was a cluttered mess. I was desperate to curb my clutter and restore clarity and peace to my life.
Through my search, I started to notice what activities helped me return to clarity, and get off the hamster wheel. And eventually I wrote it all down in my book, The Declutter Code: 10 Simple Steps to Clarity, which outlines the system I use to calm my anxious, overwhelmed and cluttered mind. These steps are so easy, you won’t believe it. But they’re so easy, you’ll have to give them a try.
The Declutter Code: 10 Simple Steps to Clarity
An excerpt from The Declutter Code: 10 Simple Steps to Clarity, the following are 10 very simple steps to achieve mental clarity. Try the suggested practice tip in each step to better experience the effects of the Code.
Slowing down is slowing our mental activity from missile-launcher to mindful. We become watchful over our thoughts and stories. We deliberately slow our intake of information, being more cautious over our ears, eyes and mouths. And what results is being slower to judge, complain, and victimize ourselves. Slower to stuff our mouths with food for comfort or escape. Slower to fill our calendars with too many activities and appointments.
When we slow, we build in breathing room—room for rest and reflection. Space opens in our schedules and our day-to-day routine to live and experience what’s happening now, instead of five minutes from now. Last-minute activities are few and far between. Planning our day around our priorities and resources comes easier. Rushing around becomes unnecessary.
Practice: Try slowing down by leaving 15 minutes earlier for work so you’re not speeding to make it on time. See how being early feels.
Finding stillness in the body is the ultimate retreat because by first stilling the physical body, the mind is free to follow. When you stop the moving and the fidgeting, your mind can calm and settle, detaching from the need to do. We allow what is happening around us to happen without our involvement.
When we still, we come into presence because there’s nowhere else to be except here, now. We get a taste of peace. We stop needing to be everywhere else and we choose to be right here, attending to right now. And in this moment there is us, naked, thoughtful and vulnerable.
Practice: Try stilling the body by sitting quietly for 5 minutes first thing in the morning, before you do anything else. Let the peaceful stillness fall over you.
Silencing is decluttering. Silence is choosing what we listen to. We don’t have to listen to anything we don’t want to. Instead we can listen to the silence. By actively listening only to what we choose, we control the intake of information to be that which empowers us and emboldens us in the face of fear. The inside chatter eventually gets covered by the peace of silence and the intermittent thoughts of observation.
Silence is healing for the mind because we’re lessening the intake of information. We’re pausing the radio, the videos and the conversations. When we’re not hearing from everything going on outside, we can begin to turn our attention to the noise coming from inside.
Practice: Try keeping the TV off when you get home from work today and allow the noises of the house to be the only sound you hear. Let the silence outside give way to the chatter inside.
Space is the absence of clutter. It’s a void that sometimes feels awkward because we’re so used to filling the space with monologue, possessions and worry. But in accepting space, we free ourselves to live more peacefully in that void of stuff, needing things less and less for comfort. Eventually we relish in the continued expansion of space in and around us. We find that we naturally build spaciousness in our minds, hearts, home and office.
The more distance we allow between stimulus and reaction (e.g. desire and purchase), the freer we become because we’re allowing life to unfold without our resistance. We break from the clinging, the impulses, the defensiveness, because there’s time sit back, watch and observe. And in that seat of witness, we find peace.
Practice: Try journaling in the morning, jotting down your deepest fears and worries. Get it down on paper and out of your head.
“Seeing” is seeing through clutter. The previous step prepared the space to gain perspective. It might be a new perspective or just an altered one. To really be open to perceiving differently, interpreting differently, we have to see differently. That perspective allows us now to see what thoughts beget what behavior. To see the effect of our thoughts.
It’s in seeing through clutter that we’re able to recognize its fearful nature. When we recognize clutter as mind-made. When we see this truth, we aren’t as susceptible to its taunt, and therefore not as willing to hoard it. We open our eyes to its futility, serving only to keep us imprisoned in fear. With awareness, we break free.
Practice: Try looking at yourself in the mirror and picking out all the things you admire about your face and body. Say each statement of gratitude out loud. Feel the beauty you already possess.
Shifting is conscious choosing. Every moment, we’re at choice. We have the ability to choose our thoughts, our stories, our mood and our behavior. When we shift to a thought that is easy and empowering, we steer our raft back in flow. We’re not resisting the flow, rather, we’re moving with it. Clutter falls away from a raft going with the flow. Peace returns.
Now that we have space in which to shift, and the eyes to bring new perspective, we can shift our thoughts, beliefs, mood and behavior toward being compassionate, empowering, joyful and kind. When we shift, we deliberately choose different. Perhaps we need to shift in order to feel better, exchanging a pessimistic mood for an optimistic one. This is possible because it’s as if we see from a new understanding. We’ve been enlightened and can no longer act from that old place.
Practice: Try keeping a gratitude log and every morning list at least 5 things that you’re grateful for in your life. Allow the feeling of love and appreciation to take over your perspective.
To simplify is to remove the clutter that complicates and stains our lives. Simplicity is when life comes into balance and things relate more harmoniously. Harmony and peace are simple. When we simplify our lives, and chip away at clutter, we return to peace.
Simplifying is decluttering. It is removing what we use to cover up our true selves. We hide behind stuff, personalities and costumes to divert the eyes. Or we speak unconsciously and banter nervously to divert the ears. We want to control the attention we get so we can control the reaction. This fear is how we complicate things for ourselves. Simplifying is letting go of these facades.
Practice: Try repeating the affirmation, “I live simply,” whenever you feel yourself being indecisive, impulsive or irrational. Trust your instinct and let it guide your next move.
To savor is to relish and delight in a feeling. It’s basking in the sensations of an experience. We savor moments when we sit in a feeling, be it painful or pleasurable, notice its richness, its impermanence, and appreciate its coming and going. We don’t need to change it; we just allow it to arise and allow it to pass.
Savoring is what our six senses are for, to soak in the fullness of our experience. Deliberately take in every sound, every scent, every sight, every texture, every flavor, and let it all penetrate your being. Savoring is placing our attention on a situation fully, openly and fondly. When savoring the sensations of a situation, we embody the utmost feeling of love. We are unconditionally loving the moment.
Practice: Try mindful eating, taking the time to really taste your food. At every meal, focus on each bite, every texture and flavor in your mouth before you swallow. Enjoy the richness of the experience.
To sort is to categorize and arrange, and to clear away what doesn’t belong. While the act of sorting may seem largely an environmental task, sorting itself is a mental function. Sorting means evaluate necessary from unnecessary. Truth from untruth.
Sorting helps us recognize and remove that which doesn’t serve our highest good. When you uncover what’s not serving you, the best thing to do is to let it fall away through your conscious awareness and decision. Choose to sort what separates you from people, from peace, from the life you want to live. It’s clutter that stands in the way.
Practice: Try throwing away all of your journal entries from Step 4 (and beyond). There’s no reason to keep these pages; they’ve served to clear your head in that moment and now you can let go.
Rest. Reset. Restart. Sleep, it’s that weapon we all have to improve our mental functioning, our stamina and our muscular strength. It sustains the body’s proper, alert functioning and survivalism. During sleep, the body repairs bones and tissues, rejuvenates cells and organs. Sleep boosts the immune system and digestion.
Without proper sleep patterns, our bodies try to adjust, but poorly, given the short rest period. We need rest as much as we need physical and mental activity. Sleep is creating the time to break away from the hustle and bustle of life and give into the nothingness of being. It’s choosing to retreat, to pull back from the kinetic and chaotic energy in the world. Just as sitting meditation is a discipline, so is making enough time to mentally and physically shut off.
Practice: Try sticking to a nighttime schedule of at least 7 hours of sleep, where you set your alarm for bedtime (and actually get in bed!) and set another alarm for waking up in the morning (and not snoozing!).
If you’d like to learn more about the steps to declutter your mind, The Declutter Code: 10 Simple Steps to Clarity is a great start (available on Amazon). In the book, you’ll find easy techniques and tips for restoring clarity and peace to your life.
Tell me, what steps do you take to declutter your mind? Leave some ideas below.
Photo: Nikki Incandela