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We Don’t Need More Stuff, We Need Less (a Lot Less)

We Don’t Need More Stuff, We Need Less (a Lot Less)

Roughly this time last year I was hit with a sudden, overwhelming feeling of stress. I would come back to my messy, cluttered room, my mind on studies, social life, plans, life choices, my bank account, and the crazy ending to the season finale of The Walking Dead. I’d rest for a bit and then leave to go to either the library, class, or work. I came to realize that my mind was as cluttered as my bedroom.

Our minds and lives can be weighed down by unnecessary extras (clutter) affecting our thoughts, behavior, and health. Lots of little things can become pretty heavy, and though things in our minds have no physical weight, they nonetheless can weigh us down. It makes you wonder how much is really needed.

What can be done?

We have come to think that having our lives and minds cluttered is just an ordinary part of life in the 21st century — that it’s part of being an adult because with age comes…stuff. However, that isn’t the case. You need to ask yourself what you actually need. Much like your bag becomes lighter when you take out unnecessary items, cutting stuff from your mind makes it lighter and your life easier.

It’s often very difficult to ascertain what is necessary and what is unnecessary, but you don’t have to do it all by yourself. Here is a list of ways to declutter your mind and your life, and walk unburdened by unnecessary weight. Don’t worry. I’m not going to suggest getting rid of everything and living off the grid although that might work, too! First let’s try baby steps.

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1. Declutter your house.

We form emotional connections with our possessions. They may represent a future we want, or a past that we don’t want to forget, so choosing what needs to be eliminated can be difficult. It takes time to sort through our belongings. Things that you want can be organized and put away; things you no longer need can be donated. (Being charitable has been shown to have a positive effect on your mood.)[1] Decisions may be tough, but they are worthwhile.

2. Declutter your yard if you have one.

This follows a similar logic to decluttering your house. The tidiness of your entire living space has an effect on your mental well-being. However, whereas sorting and clearing clutter in your house may have a long-lasting positive impact, your yard will require continual attention. This isn’t due to an abundance of things, but rather to the processes of nature. If ignored, the growth of grass and weeds can get out of control and turn your yard from a place of relaxation to a tangled mess. The solution is to tool up and garden! Research[2] has shown that gardening is a great stress reliever. The act of removing offending weeds and overlong grass will lessen stress in your life.

3. Find peace of mind with meditation and mindfulness.

Before you click away, this article hasn’t taken a sudden turn for New Age solutions! What was once the domain of yogis, Buddhists, and slightly strange young men, meditation has recognized health benefits through decluttering the mind and calming runaway thoughts.[3] Though meditation has been practiced for thousands of years, only recently have the myriad benefits become widely known, and its popularity has exploded.

Through simply sitting comfortably, closing your eyes, and focusing on your breathing, you’ll increase mastery of your mind and thoughts. You’ll be less prone to distractions, become generally more relaxed, and stresses in your life will seem less severe. Though meditation is pretty close to literally doing nothing, its positive effects are numerous and far reaching.

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Meditation is an ancient practice, yet there are countless classes, websites, and books, as well as the religion of Buddhism which will give you understanding of it. It’s not just decluttering; it’s making more mental space.

4. Sharpen your mind with sleep.

Our bedrooms have long ceased to be places for mere sleeping. These days they have become vaults for stuff or even offices or mini-gyms, allowing us to do many things at the expense of good sleep. Our rooms are full of so many distractions that sleep becomes more difficult.[4] Studies[5] have shown that the light emitted from a phone or laptop screen at night signals to your brain that you need to stay awake, regardless of your intention.

Sleep deprivation has numerous serious effects[6] which harm your health, your cognitive abilities, and lead to depression and anxiety. Having these distractions is just not worth it. The solution to this is to declutter your room, removing any potential distractions. (It may be a good idea to consider setting up a sleep regimen ensuring you get the vital eight hours of sleep that your body needs.)

5. Cut your bad habits.

We all have little quirks–everyday actions that we hardly notice. It could be something as innocuous as cracking our knuckles, or as serious as regular weekend benders. Some may be affecting your health, so what do you do about them? There are numerous techniques[7] for stopping bad habits and some are surprisingly simple. Merely being aware of them is a great step towards their eventual elimination. One effective way to cut out bad habits is to replace them with good ones, substituting positive behavior to declutter or de-stress your life.

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6. Eliminate your addictions if you have them.

This is a more serious version of the step above. Addictions have more negative effects than habits. This paragraph isn’t going to provide the miracle solution to a smoking or drinking addiction, or the over-usage of certain (cough) websites. However, if decluttering your life is your intention, you will likely find few things as profoundly powerful as eliminating negative dependencies. Addictions may seem a core part of your being but have a severe impact on your physical and mental health, so their elimination can be a good thing.

7. Declutter emotional baggage from your friendships.

If you are like me, then your friendships are the single most important part of your life. However, there may come a time when communication with a friend becomes strained and difficult. Were they not a friend you could cut them from your life, but you generally enjoy their company. Such difficult situations may be causing you significant stress.

The key to resolving this is in communication.[8] Try to become aware of particular words and phrases you use which may be having negative consequences. For example, if in conversation you use the word “not” frequently, it adds a negative tone. Instead of “I’m not going to that” (which implies “with you”) try “I think I’d rather stay at home” or “I think I’m going to X”. (It may sound small and nit picky, but consider what you would rather hear. You may have experienced a pang of negativity when someone structured a sentence poorly which made them seem brusque with you.) Even though these are small steps, over time you may find that your relationship improves.

8. Declutter negative people.

This may be severe, but the people you surround yourself with have an effect on you. Even if you intend to become a more positive person, this will be tougher if the people around you are obstinately negative. You don’t have to do something as drastic as getting rid of friends, but merely increase your social circle to surround yourself with people who are how you want to be and you will find it easier to become more positive.

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9. Declutter your fridge.

It is important to be mindful of your weight and eating habits and it will be easier to do if your fridge is clean and organized. This can affect your physical and mental health. There is a link between mood and eating well or poorly.[9] If someone feels stressed, they are more likely to overeat or eat poorly. If their eating habits are causing them unhappiness and stress it can start a vicious cycle. A clean, decluttered fridge stocked with healthy choices can help us make more effort to eat well.

10. Declutter your work life.

There are many ways to do this. If you have a desk or work station that is a mess, it could be causing you extra stress at work. If you find yourself overwhelmed by a ridiculous number of tasks, then taking some time to plan and prioritize your tasks and to organize your work area will make the job a little easier.[10]

If you consider and put into action the above ten steps, then you will find the clutter in your home, life, mind, and work fall away. Life doesn’t need to be so stressful!

Reference

More by this author

Arthur Peirce

Lifestyle Writer

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Last Updated on March 23, 2021

Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

One of the greatest ironies of this age is that while various gadgets like smartphones and netbooks allow you to multitask, it seems that you never manage to get things done. You are caught in the busyness trap. There’s just too much work to do in one day that sometimes you end up exhausted with half-finished tasks.

The problem lies in how to keep our energy level high to ensure that you finish at least one of your most important tasks for the day. There’s just not enough hours in a day and it’s not possible to be productive the whole time.

You need more than time management. You need energy management

1. Dispel the idea that you need to be a “morning person” to be productive

How many times have you heard (or read) this advice – wake up early so that you can do all the tasks at hand. There’s nothing wrong with that advice. It’s actually reeks of good common sense – start early, finish early. The thing is that technique alone won’t work with everyone. Especially not with people who are not morning larks.

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I should know because I was once deluded with the idea that I will be more productive if I get out of bed by 6 a.m. Like most of you Lifehackers, I’m always on the lookout for productivity hacks because I have a lot of things in my plate. I’m working full time as an editor for a news agency, while at the same time tending to my side business as a content marketing strategist. I’m also a travel blogger and oh yeah, I forgot, I also have a life.

I read a lot of productivity books and blogs looking for ways to make the most of my 24 hours. Most stories on productivity stress waking up early. So I did – and I was a major failure in that department – both in waking up early and finishing early.

2. Determine your “peak hours”

Energy management begins with looking for your most productive hours in a day. Getting attuned to your body clock won’t happen instantly but there’s a way around it.

Monitor your working habits for one week and list down the time when you managed to do the most work. Take note also of what you feel during those hours – do you feel energized or lethargic? Monitor this and you will find a pattern later on.

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My experiment with being a morning lark proved that ignoring my body clock and just doing it by disciplining myself to wake up before 8 a.m. will push me to be more productive. I thought that by writing blog posts and other reports in the morning that I would be finished by noon and use my lunch break for a quick gym session. That never happened. I was sleepy, distracted and couldn’t write jack before 10 a.m.

In fact that was one experiment that I shouldn’t have tried because I should know better. After all, I’ve been writing for a living for the last 15 years, and I have observed time and again that I write more –and better – in the afternoon and in evenings after supper. I’m a night owl. I might as well, accept it and work around it.

Just recently, I was so fired up by a certain idea that – even if I’m back home tired from work – I took out my netbook, wrote and published a 600-word blog post by 11 p.m. This is a bit extreme and one of my rare outbursts of energy, but it works for me.

3. Block those high-energy hours

Once you have a sense of that high-energy time, you can then mold your schedule so that your other less important tasks will be scheduled either before or after this designated productive time.

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Block them out in your calendar and use the high-energy hours for your high priority tasks – especially those that require more of your mental energy and focus. You also need to use these hours to any task that will bring you closer to you life’s goal.

If you are a morning person, you might want to schedule most business meetings before lunch time as it’s important to keep your mind sharp and focused. But nothing is set in stone. Sometimes you have to sacrifice those productive hours to attend to other personal stuff – like if you or your family members are sick or if you have to attend your son’s graduation.

That said, just remember to keep those productive times on your calendar. You may allow for some exemptions but stick to that schedule as much as possible.

There’s no right or wrong way of using this energy management technique because everything depends on your own personal circumstances. What you need to remember is that you have to accept what works for you – and not what other productivity gurus say you should do.

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Understanding your own body clock is the key to time management. Without it, you end up exhausted chasing a never-ending cycle of tasks and frustrations.

Featured photo credit: Collin Hardy via unsplash.com

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