Spring Clean the Mental Clutter

Steven Kaufman, co-author of How to Get Out of the Dumps, shared ideas for spring cleaning your mental clutter.

Every season creates its own garbage. Fall has its leaves. Winter has animals and plants that freeze. As we move from childhood to middle age to retirement, each of these “seasons” also produces trash: thoughts, beliefs, and opinions about everything from how we look to how we fit in.
We’ve all heard the term spring cleaning: the act of doing a little cleanup. It’s a great time of year to lighten the load because spring is all about renewal. Trees sprout a new round of leaves. Animals emerge from their hibernation. Days get more sunlight to help us see. It’s the perfect opportunity to look at what you’ve been squirreling away, get rid of it, and start the season with a clean slate.
Why not do the same thing with your mind? All of us have trash in there; thoughts, beliefs, and opinions that we’ve been dragging around from one period of our life to another.


Here are three steps to help you do a little waste management for your mind.
Choose one area of your life that’s giving you trouble. Where is the clutter? Job? Money? A friendship? To help you find the area that needs a little spring cleaning, try this exercise. Find a time during the day when you can grab a few minutes of peace and quiet for yourself. In your mind, start flipping through the various aspects of your life: work, money, your spouse or partner. When you feel a quick stab in your stomach or your muscles tense up a bit, stop flipping and start digging. What aspect of it is troubling you? Get specific until you whittle it down to a single workable issue, using the way your body feels as a compass to guide you.
 

What’s the garbage that’s laying around? Once you find the issue, the next step is to uncover the trash that’s keeping it alive. Is there a conversation that you need to have or an issue that remains unresolved? To help you figure that out, all you need is pen, paper, and five minutes. On an empty sheet, write down words, phrases, or sentences that describe what’s bugging you. This an unfiltered brain dump, so don’t worry about finding the right word or composing great sentences. Scribble down whatever comes to mind. Writing is important for several reasons. It moves the garbage from your subconscious to your conscious mind. It makes it tangible and real. And writing it down helps diffuse some of the negative energy that usually comes with mental trash. Have a look at what’s on the paper. That’s the garbage you need to toss.

Toss that trash. Once you’ve uncovered the trash, it’s time to get rid of it. Here’s a great way to do that: Spring clean one area of your house or apartment. As you’re physically tossing trash, let your mind dwell on what you wrote down on the piece of paper. Ask yourself, “What steps would I take to get rid of that junk?” and listen to the answers that bubble up. Maybe it’s time to have that talk to make an appointment with a financial planner. The idea is to get it out of your head and into action—and a little physical spring cleaning is a great way to kickstart that process.
 

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