From the countless outfit varieties in our wardrobes to the non-stop information our phones bombard us with around the clock, endless distractions, choices and stuff creates mental, emotional and physical clutter.
“The brain can only pay attention to three things at once. Too many choices overload the system and deplete brain chemicals,” says Daniel J Levitin, neuroscientist and author of The Organised Mind: Thinking Straight In The Age Of Information Overload. “Cortisol rises, leaving us stressed.”
Here are three ways to de-clutter your life however much time you have.
5 minutes: Clear out mentally
Brain on the brink of exploding? “Externalising plans – getting them from your head, into the world – makes them easier to keep track of,” says Levitin. But never make lists on your phone – it’s the ultimate source of distraction – “We become addicted to the fact we’re interrupted and begin to look for distractions,” warns productivity coach Clare Kumar – plus it’s too easy to write down limitless goals, with important items lost among vague wishes. “It takes more cognitive resources to write things longhand, so we remember them clearly,” says Levitin. “Use index cards for daily to-do lists – one item per card – and reshuffle them as your priorities change.” Then Kumar recommends a “mind dump list” in a notebook.
10 minutes: Clear out emotionally
Next, clear ‘people cutter’. “The labour required in maintaining multiple friendships at a significant level can be draining, and feeling overwhelmed by obligations gets in the way of your own mental wellbeing,” says Professor Suzanne Degges- White, author of Toxic Friendships. “Friends should be a source of sustenance; if they feel more like ‘energy sinks’ or ‘time drains’, it’s time to de-clutter.” Degges-White recommends asking yourself four questions: do I avoid calls, ignore texts, or frequently find plans with this friend are cancelled? Do I feel worse after spending time with them? Do I ever wonder how we became friends in the first place? Yes? Time to step back.
30 minutes: Clear out physically
Holding on to birthday cards from exes or your graduation day dress is often a destructive wish to feel a certain way again, according to June Saruwatari, author of Behind The Clutter. So how can you let go of the notion that hoarding is a good idea? Dedicate 30 minutes to clearing out one area of your home at a time. Saruwatari recommends looking at items through a “fourfold lens of truth, love, meaning and purpose”. Ask yourself: do I need this? Do I love it? Is it significant? Does it serve a purpose? “And be ruthlessly honest with yourself, now,” she adds. Then, pass your clutter on; snap with the Gone For Good app and your chosen charity will collect. One woman’s clutter is another’s treasure.