Mark Twain

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Monday, April 4, 2011

C - is for Clutter, the mental kind

"Don't own so much clutter
that you will be relieved to see your house catch fire."
Wendell Berry (Farming: a hand book)

Clutter is a topic that holds a special place in my heart. I am so fond of the topic of decluttering that I made it one of my goals of the next 20 years. And you can find my September 2010 post on this topic here.

That posting focused on environmental clutter - the stuff that fills your home, the things that were once important enough to buy, but not important enough to use. Our family has made great strides in 2011 getting rid of stuff that fits that description. We are far from done.

But clutter comes in many forms. Over the years I have struggled with the clutter of thoughts, ideas, concerns, worries, that sometimes bounce around in my brain - causing me distraction, stress and sometimes lack of sleep. I find myself "crossing bridges" before I get there.

The clutter that fills your mind can be much harder to manage and control. After all, my brain can hold only so much before it starts randomly spilling stuff out of my ears.

Over the years I have figured out a few ways to manage the mental clutter that sometimes over-flows and takes over.
  • To-Do lists - Yes, this isn't rocket science. But to get stuff out of my brain and on paper works tremendously for me. Keeping track of where the paper is at any given moment? - More challenging with every year. What I find remarkable about to-do lists is this ... sometimes I stuff them in a pocket of clothing, then that clothing gets put away for a season, the season then rolls around again, I pull out that clothing and at some point, I stick my hand in that pocket and find that old list. And here is the remarkable part ... some stuff got addressed, some stuff didn't - and the world did not come to an end!
  • Keep paper and pencil beside the bed at night. Nothing is more annoying that waking at 2:00 am with racing thoughts. Write it down and go back to sleep. All those nagging details will be there in the morning.
  • Do less - Strip down your commitments so there is less to keep track of. This one can be very hard, and I have done it several times. I am sort of like the person who says "I can stop smoking at any time. I've done it many times before." Drop commitments, recommit, drop them again, find new commitments, castigate one's self and drop them again, promising to never succumb to temptation. (There is a problem here, and it is not clutter. Check back with me again when we get to the letter "J" - and you will see what I mean.)
  • Exercise - yes, really. Exercise. Something as simple as taking a walk settles the brain - even if it is only that you are too tired after exercising to fret about stuff. I sincerely believe that our generations' issues are not more complicated than any previous generation. We don't deal with it as well, because we are so sedentary. (maybe a generalization but a kernel of truth is there.)
So how do you reduce the clutter of your brain? I love to hear your coping skills.

Oh, I just thought of another tip. This one might be the best one yet!!
  • Ear plugs - to stop the spillage!


  1. These are all great tips! My mind also races at night and when I do write my thoughts down, sometimes they're not as clever in the morning!
    I especially like the ear plugs idea as my husband snores!

  2. Writing things down is one of the best things you can do to declutter the mind. Its something I believe in whole heartedly but fail to do myself a lot of the time. Thanks for the reminder.

  3. Some of that old accumulated clutter/baggage in our brains is pretty darn hard to get rid of. The original source of crazy glue perhaps.

  4. I love this post, I can really relate to the feeling of mental clutter. For me exercise has been the best medicine, I feel like I cope much better since I have been exercising regularly. I'm really happy that spring is here as I love walking outside in the nice weather, it helps me clear my head.

    Great post! :)

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    Go to and pick up your award.

  6. hi Elaine:)

    i'm in need of using a list these days. the only problem is that unless it's stapled to my forehead....i won't find it because i'll set it down someplace and forget where i put.

  7. I was just browsing by and this post caught my attention :) I'm a bit of a clutter-kid myself, but mostly because I am a huge hoarder of memories, lol. I love stuff that holds emotional value to me so I keep a lot of stuff.

    Visit Us @ App-O-Plectic

  8. I found the to-do lists the most helpful. Also the simple act of straightening up my work space helps me get organized.

  9. Do less...that's an excellent tip and probably one of the best ways to get rid of clutter. But I find myself doing more and more as I grow older. Maybe I'm in more of a hurry to get it all done! So prioritizing is essential and lists can really help with that.

    Enjoyed the post. Mine for "C" was about Captain Cook.

  10. Wonderful advice. I'll too have mental clutter that keeps me awake.



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