Clearing The Mental Clutter Known As Life
Strategies that help me focus and simply get things done
I’ve been playing with the idea of minimalism these past few months. Or perhaps I’m just sick of life as it is and want to simplify. Some days I wish things were easier — but alas, it’s not how my current reality will have it.
So I’ve been bingeing on minimalists and minimalism. Kon Mari pops up in every second or third article. Someone, somewhere raves about the benefits of owning only 50 items (socks and undies included).
But they’re all physical things. No one really goes into cleaning out the mental clutter. That stuff is more private and personal. Here are a few things I’ve learnt over the past few weeks about mental minimalism.
Keep only the people that matter
This means clearing up your Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and any other social media ‘friends’. Chances are, if you haven’t spoken to them for more than a year, you won’t be talking to them next year.
There’s no need to have their lives lurking on your walls. It’ll only skewer the algorithms and show you things you don’t want to see. Besides, the empty and hollow obligatory likes fuel a rat race kind of mentality.
In truth, you only really speak to a consistent select group of people anyway. Clear out the number of false connections so you can focus on the real ones.
Keep only the feeds that matter
That’s Medium, Twitter, YouTube, email subscriptions and anything else that gives you the stuff that isn’t generated by a human you personally know.
Everyone wants your attention. The big ones usually drown out the little ones. If you want a feed that nurtures your mental health and feeds your knowledge, then you’ll need to start curating your feed.
And unsubscribe to things. Keeping your subscription list curated is as important as doing the laundry — if you don’t, then the pile creeps up and bam! you now have 187 emails in your inbox. Make your life easier and unsubscribe.
Clean up your computer desktop
Digital clutter is worse than physical clutter. At least with physical clutter you can see it. Digital clutter is often hidden in strange crevices of our documents, desktop and downloads folder.
Perhaps that’s why we always enjoy the emptiness of a brand new laptop — until the desire to fill it up begins.
Clean up your digital assets. Make it easier on yourself if you ever have to move it. It’ll look better and speed up your boot up time.
Clear up your phone
It happens to all of us. The more we use our phones, the more things we end up having on there.
Not only does it take up space, but it also slows the system down as well. The less stuff you have on there, the fast it runs (well, in my experience anyway). Delete your five thousand selfies that all look the same. Back up the ones that you do want to keep. Get rid of unnecessary apps.
At the end of it all, you might find yourself less connected to your phone and spending more time in the physical world.
Get your finances in order
Not many of us have a clear idea on where we stand with money. We either know that we’re in debt or not in debt.
Boot up a spreadsheet. Figure out how much money you’ve got (or haven’t got). Work out a game plan. Update it weekly. Do your taxes. Figure out your net worth. You might be surprised how much it gets rid of finance-induced anxieties.
You might be able to figure out a way to get rid of your debt faster as well. Or get creative on how to make more money to get that thing you’ve always wanted.
Clean up your table
Some people are convinced that they thrive on chaos. I was one of those people. Over the years, I’ve taken everything off my desk and noticed that I don’t really use anything other than my computer, a pen and notebook.
Life is now a lot easier now because I know exactly where everything is on my desk. I’m not playing scavenger hunt whilst trying to hold onto an idea. There’s more space for me to move my mouse around and mountains aren’t collapsing on me.
I know. I’m bad when it comes to my desk. It takes maintenance but a clear desk is absolutely worth it — especially when you’re trying to reduce distractions and mental clutter.
Use a pocketbook like Warren Buffett
I’ve been indulging myself with Warren Buffett and his habits lately. He may not be the richest man in the world anymore — but he did a pretty good stint as one for about 13 years.
So whatever he’s doing, it’s probably working.
And using a small pocketbook to keep all his important appointments and dates have helped him immensely over the years. He knows exactly when things are and how much time he’s got in between. His empty schedule gives him space to think and do.
I personally operate on a school’s kid, 80 pages ruled notebook I got for $2 — slightly bigger than a pocket book but only because I like the empty space. Nothing fancy and it gets the job done.
We maintain our cars by taking it to the mechanic. We go to the doctors to get ourselves fixed when we’re sick. We clean up the house when it starts to fall to pieces. But no one really tells you to do a mental clean up to feel like you’re not overwhelmed all the time.
Mental clutter is like dirt. You don’t really see the eventual build up until it’s right in your face.
If you’re not really in the mood of deciding which 50 items in your house to keep, you can do a mental maintenance instead. It’s like the equivalent of washing your windshield so that you can, at the very least, see again.