Spring Cleaning- Getting Rid of Mental Clutter

By Olivia Carter

Usually when people mention spring cleaning, they are referring to tidying up their household or work area, whether it is turning their closets inside out or completely reorganizing their files.  They feel compelled to clean and organize their environment once a year, although for some it should be more often, fed up with the increasing entropy that is surrounding them.  Rarely do people think about de-cluttering and organizing the thoughts that occupy one’s mind.  Much like a computer, you need to organize the files of thoughts in their proper place and delete the files that are no longer needed and are just slowing the system, i.e. you, down.  This type of mental spring cleaning is important so you can go about your day productively, creatively, stress-free and be able to do more of the things that make you happy.

Here are a few tips for spring cleaning your mind:

1.  Pick up a pen and paper and just write down everything that comes to mind.  Ray Bradbury, acclaimed author of Zen in the Art of Writing, believes that free-writing is the key to getting rid of creative blocks and allowing the imagination and ideas to flow freely.

2.  Schedule date nights with your significant other, fun time with the kids, time with your friends and alone time for you.  They are all important and should all be treated as special and sacred.  Spontaneity is fine, but actually having a set day to look forward to every week is better than worrying about when you last went out as a family or when you last saw your best friend.

3.  Stop procrastinating.  All bad habits, even procrastinating, can be replaced by good ones.  If that item in your To Do list refuses to be crossed off and you cannot delegate it, try completely changing your attitude about the task.  Pretend that you are someone who is curious and intrigued by the project and see how much easier it is to get done.

4.  Spend less time worrying and more time doing something about it.  If you are worried about an interview or an upcoming presentation at work, focus on preparing your materials and practicing what you are going to say.  If you are worried about meeting your in-laws, use your mind to imagine how the meeting will go in the best possible circumstances.

5.  Exercise at least every other day.  When you concentrate on your body, you begin to get out of your head space and feel more grounded and focused throughout the day.

6.  Find time to meditate every day for a few minutes.  According to David Lynch, author of Catching the Big Fish, meditation is crucial to sharpening your intuition and living creatively.  It could be in the early morning, right before you go to sleep or any few minutes you could steal during the day.  Sit quietly, breathe deeply, and watch your thoughts as if they were clouds slowly drifting in the sky.

7.  Spend time with Mother Nature.  When your mind is going a mile a minute, sitting down and being around nature is the best medicine to feel more calm and refreshed.  Visit a park, beach, courtyard or garden and allow the stress to melt away. 

8.  Turn off the phone three hours before bedtime.  Being on top of your game also means being able to unplug and getting eight to nine hours of rest so that you are ready to take on the challenges of a new day.

9.  Do what you need to do before bedtime to relax and decompress and make it a ritual.  It could be a good book, a hot bath, a cup of herbal tea or writing in your journal.  According to Sapphire of pop rock group Millennium, ‘Once we put the baby to sleep, Stryker and I watch a DVD to decompress from the day.  Watching a movie, whether it’s action, sci-fi, drama or comedy, puts us in another world for a couple of hours.  After the movie is finished, we spend a few minutes in light-hearted conversation before we drift off into dreamland.’

10.  Forgive old animosities.  Life is too short to continue carrying such emotional burden.  Summon up the reserve to talk to the person about burying the hatchet.  If that is not possible, write a letter to that person that you could keep for yourself, rip up or burn or take some other ceremonial action that will help you release old hurts and move on.

11.  Learn to give your significant other breathing room and they will do the same for you.  A few weeks ago, one of my friends told me that her husband was a little controlling at parties and claimed that she always acted ‘annoyingly loud and boisterous.’  Her husband, who is also a good friend of mine, had told me earlier that Jenny would complain incessantly when his brother would come over to watch a game on television.  Neither was giving the other the necessary breathing room to be happy. Understand that your significant other does not intend to irritate or upset you and is just being themselves.  Pick your battles, offer an olive branch, and keep your relationships harmonious. 

12.  Take an hour out to think of an effective system for taking care of the daily or weekly mundane tasks as efficiently as possible so they take up as little space in your mind as possible.  Ask your family for assistance or delegate tasks at work.  Here are a few suggestions to get the ball rolling:

a.  Develop a weekly meal plan for the family so you do not wonder about what to make for dinner.  This will also help with the grocery shopping list.  Have the children prepare their school lunches the night before.

b.  Develop a weekly cleaning schedule for the family and post it up so that everyone knows when it is their turn to do the dishes, the laundry, vacuum, water the plants or wash the car.

c.  When you arrive home, always place your purse, wallet, keys, phone and sunglasses all in the same place so that you do not need to look around for them later.

d.  Except for the baby milk, always have the diaper bag stocked (i.e. diapers, wet wipes, extra clothes, blanket, changing pad, stuffed animal).

e.  Always keep the medicine cabinet and toiletry cupboards stocked so you are not scrambling to find an aspirin when you have a headache or a band-aid for your child’s scrape or cut.

f.  Schedule all doctors or dentists appointments for the family on the same date.

g.  Work on the household budget and accounting with your significant other or roommate so that you share financial knowledge and responsibilities.  Determine who will be in charge of which bill or if possible, set up automatic payments.

h.  Keep all passwords and important documents in the same location so you won’t have to hunt for them, individually.

You are a brilliant person with amazing capabilities.  When you give your mind the necessary room to work optimally, it can work for you instead of against you.  You will be more proactive versus reactive to your environment and have more mental energy for the things that matter most to you.  Happy spring cleaning!

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