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How to Become Clutter-Free for Greater Happiness and Productivity

How to Become Clutter-Free for Greater Happiness and Productivity

    If an alien nation were to look down on Earth at this moment in time they really would think us a dumb race. They might say something like:

    “They buy things they don’t need with money they don’t have to impress people they don’t like.”

    But even if it’s not about impressing others, most of us have too much stuff and we know that the accumulation of goods won’t make us happier — yet we continue to consume. The aliens would also notice how busy the inhabitants of this planet are and how they work incessantly a lot of the time doing work that doesn’t need to be done. And if they asked us we would acknowledge that we work too much, knowing that it can lead to a high percentage of us feeling stress or anxiety (1.5 million people in the U.S. alone having heart attacks each year). But we continue to work longer hours. We would also tell them that we know simplicity can lead to greater happiness and wellness, yet we are prone to staring blindly at facts and doing nothing about them.

    So just in case some alien race is watching, don’t you think we should simplify our lives? Maybe we could also benefit from the other advantages. By making a commitment now to reduce, eliminate, and set yourself free this year, you will feel the liberation and the lightness as you rid your life of the physical and mental baggage that has being weighing you down. Clutter is stagnant energy and by removing it from your life you will free up time and space for the more important things in life.

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    How to Get Started

    Step by step and room by room, you can start to eliminate the unnecessary in your life. The books you have read but hold onto, the clothes that are too small but sit in your cupboard. The stuff that that lies on your kitchen table or clutters up your living room. Wouldn’t it be nice to be rid of it?

    Organizational expert Barbara Hemphill calls clutter “postponed decisions”. So start making some decisions. Get bags or boxes — one for recycling, one for the charity shop, one for the trash and one for the yet to be decided.

    Start with one area of your house or office, choose a drawer, a counter space or shelf. Don’t try to do it altogether or you may get discouraged and leave your house looking worse than before. If you have a lot to do, try setting yourself a time deadline rather than a space deadline. if you can commit to de-cluttering for an hour or two, you will be satisfied with what you have achieved if you stuck with it for that time period.

    For each object you pick up ask yourself the following questions:

    • “Do I need this?”
    • “Have I used in in the past 6 months?” (12 months for seasonal clothes or sporting equipment)
    • “Would it help someone else more than me?”
    • “Can I easily get it again if I dispose of it?”

    These questions should help you make a decision. If you end up with a box of things that you can’t decide what to do with or you are not ready to dispose of, keep them in this box in storage. After six months, go back to the box — and if you haven’t used anything from the box in that time you can pass them on to someone who may be able to use them.

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    Once you have eliminated all that is unnecessary, the next step is to make sure all that is left is organized and accessible when you need to get at it.

    Organizing the Rest

    The correct storage is important for your home or office; you need to decide where everything should go and whether it is necessary to get more storage solutions to accommodate your possessions. If possible, try to use existing solutions, as I find the more storage I have the more I will fill.

    Regardless of how few papers you need to keep, you will need a filing system. I don’t have enough papers at home to merit a filing cabinet, so I use a filing box. It holds about 40 hanging folders, enough to keep all my home paperwork — items such as birth certificates, contracts and certificates are all filed away neatly. Inside each hanging folder I have a manila folder which has been labelled clearly with a labeller. This means that when I go to look for a folder I can clearly see it and don’t waste any time searching.

    Once you have a place for everything and everything in its place, the way to keep it organized is to commit to cleaning as you go…and try to get everyone who lives in your house on board.

    “If everyone swept in front of their own door, the world would be a much cleaner place” – Mother Theresa

    De-cluttering the Mind

    To de-clutter the mind is to empty it of all the unnecessary thoughts that prevent you from living a happy, calm and stress-free life. The mind can be a busy place as it stores our commitments, responsibilities, hopes, dreams and plans along with the constant input that comes its way as we pass through our day.

    A mind should not be a place of clutter, but a place of calm and peace. Below are a number of ways that can help you to clear your mind and free it from the constant noise and clutter that resides there.

    1. Write it all down
    Get out a piece of paper and write down everything you need to do, from organizing a children’s party to starting a new project at work. Write down your chores, your duties and your responsibilities. Write down your plans for articles, books and businesses. This act will help to clear the mind and keep you from using it as a reminder system.

    2. Get Organized
    Just like clearing the physical clutter is not enough to complete the task, clearing the mind also needs an organisation phase to help completely free your mind from the responsibility of remembering. Once you have it all written down, you must plan and schedule all that needs to be done. Having a system to organize your tasks and projects can help to eliminate stress and induce a sense of peace and calm

    3. Focus on the essential
    If you identify the most important things in your life, such as your main goals and intentions, it will make it easier for you to identify the things that are not important — the things that clog your mind and clutter your space. Once you have identified and start to focus on the essential, the rest will fade into insignificance.

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    4. Reduce information consumption
    Where possible, reduce the amount of time you spend watching television, listening to radio and reading newspapers. Too much negative news can have a negative effect on your mind. Television is not as relaxing as people think; your mind is very active while doing it and it will remain active for a long time after watching. In particular, watching television reduces the quality of your sleep if you watch it before bedtime.

    5. Journal
    Journaling can help to quieten the mind. By writing down all your thoughts, worries, and dreams you take some of the pressure away from the mind. A lot of people journal before sleeping as this can free up their minds from these worries and stresses, allowing for a more peaceful sleep.

    4. Spend time in nature
    Nature can be a great detox for both body and mind. A fresh breath can clear out stagnant or negative energy held in the body, and walking in nature has grounding and purifying effects. Activity outdoors can also be a great way to be mindful shifting your thoughts from your worries to the present moment.

    5. Meditate
    Meditation, just like mindfulness, can help to relax the constant chatter of the mind. Stress and worry are caused by focusing too much attention on future negative outcomes. The more we can focus our mind on the present moment the happier and more peaceful we will become.

    If you follow these steps to de-clutter your physical and mental space, you will find greater peace and happiness. What you will also achieve is the ability to focus more intently on the essential and become more efficient and productive with both your time and space.

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    Oh, and you’ll likely impress the aliens a bit too.

    (Photo credit: Bad Day at Work via Shutterstock)

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    Ciara Conlon

    Productivity coach, speaker, blogger and author of Chaos to Control, a Practical Guide to Getting Things Done

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    Last Updated on December 2, 2019

    How to Develop Mental Toughness And Stay Strong

    How to Develop Mental Toughness And Stay Strong

    Are you the kind of person who wants to achieve massive success in your life? Do you have the mental toughness to make that happen?

    I think we can all agree that no matter your ambitions, achieving success can be difficult; and over time, the daily grind can take a toll on your physical, mental, and emotional energy.

    Achievers and high performers from all walks of life face ups and downs along the path to success—they face failure, burnout, discouragement, fatigue, self-limiting beliefs, stress, and so much more.

    How do some people continually strive towards their personal goals year after year while others give up on them? How do those people stay strong and persevere when there is so much stacked against them?

    Studies now show that mental strength is a critical key to success. If you haven’t read Angela Duckworth’s book Grit, you should. In it, she shows that “the secret to outstanding achievement is not talent but a special blend of passion and persistence she calls ‘grit.’” In other words, mental toughness plays a significant role when it comes to achieving goals.

    Sometimes, our goals wear us down and leave us feeling exhausted. Other times, our goals get difficult, and success seems impossible, so we lose hope, become discouraged, and want to quit.

    At its core, mental toughness is simply the ability to stick to something when the going gets tough. People with high levels of mental toughness can push beyond these obstacles and forge a path towards success while those with lower levels of mental toughness may abandon their dreams.

    Want to know the good news?

    No matter who you are, what you’ve been told, or what you currently believe, you can develop the mental toughness you need to be successful.

    All you need to do is learn to develop a positive mindset, focus on your why, and utilize the people around you for support.

    1. Develop a Positive Mindset

    If you’re going to increase your mental toughness, the first thing you have to do is focus on building a strong, positive mindset.

    According to the Cleveland Clinic, the average person has 60,000 thoughts per day. Of those, 95% of those thoughts repeat each day and, on average, 80% of repeated ideas are negative.[1]

    That’s roughly 45,600 negative thoughts per day!

    Carrying around these negative thoughts is like going on a hike in the mountains with a backpack full of rocks. The hike is hard enough on its own, but having extra junk weighing you down is a recipe for failure.

    Sometimes, building mental toughness isn’t as much about building new strength as it is about saving your strength for the right tasks. Wouldn’t it be easier to dump the rocks out of the backpack instead of trying to get strong enough to carry the extra weight?

    Absolutely!

    But how can we learn to spot those 45,600 negative thoughts and get rid of them? How can we empty our metaphorical backpack?

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    Well, it gets a whole lot easier if you know what you’re looking for. Some of the most prominent types of negative thoughts are self-limiting beliefs, all-or-nothing thinking, and dwelling.

    Let Go of Self-Limiting Beliefs

    It’s pretty hard to be mentally tough when you’re constantly beating yourself up. Self-limiting beliefs are any beliefs that hold you back in some way. Here are some examples:

    “I’m not smart enough to…”

    “I don’t have enough experience to…”

    “I’ve tried that before, and it didn’t go well, so I must just be bad at…”

    When we allow these self-limiting beliefs to flood our minds, negative self-talk runs rampant, and we crowd out our ability to think positively. We’re effectively working against ourselves.

    If you want to keep your mind strong on your path to success, you have to overcome the self-limiting beliefs that are holding you back by realizing one key truth: self-limiting beliefs are thoughts, not facts.

    When you recognize a self-limiting belief cropping up in your mind, quickly silence it by telling yourself that it’s not true and then back that up with some positive affirmations:

    • “I am smart enough; I may just need to do some more research first.”
    • “I may not have as much experience as someone else, but that’s not going to stop me from trying. I have enough experience to get started. I’ll figure the rest out on the way.”
    • “Just because I failed at this last time doesn’t mean I’m going to fail this time. My past does not dictate my future.”

    Get Rid of the All-or-Nothing Thinking

    Another form of negative thinking that could be preventing you from building mental toughness is all-or-nothing thinking.

    All-or-nothing thinking is the concept of thinking in extremes. You are either a success or a failure. Your performance was totally good or totally awful. If you’re not perfect, then you’re a failure.

    But this isn’t true!

    If you’re trying to lose 30 pounds and only lost 28, isn’t that still better than not losing any weight at all? I’d say so!

    If you allow all-or-nothing thinking to rule your mind, you’ll be on cloud nine when you succeed, but you’ll beat yourself up when you “fail.” Acknowledging the shades of gray in between will allow you to see success more often and it will help you celebrate your smaller wins.

    When you recognize an all-or-nothing thought, remember to look for the positive in the situation. What did you gain by trying? What would you have missed out on had you not tried? Could you do better if you were to try again?

    Ditch the Dwelling

    Self-Limiting Beliefs and All-or-Nothing Thinking can lead to a bad case of dwelling on the negative. If you want to build some mental toughness and keep your mind strong, you have to ditch the dwelling.

    Every day, bad things happen to each of us, and while there’s nothing we can do to prevent that, we can control how we react to these situations.

    When we dwell on our misfortunes, we waste massive amounts of energy that we could be using to achieve our goals. When this happens, we’re more likely to quit altogether.

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    But that doesn’t mean you’re not mentally tough; it just means you’re misusing your energy.

    The next time something bad happens, it’s important to allow yourself to feel the disappointment and frustration, but work on reducing the amount of time you dwell on the situation.

    Easier said than done, right? Try these:

    1. Call a friend or mentor and talk it through with them. Get some outside perspective on your situation.
    2. Time block your dwelling by allowing yourself to dwell for no more than one hour.
    3. Then, tell yourself to move on, that you’re human, and you’re allowed to make mistakes or experience setbacks.
    4. If all else fails, find a good way to distract yourself until you can calm down and reexamine things with a clear mind.

    The faster you can focus on the positives and move past the problem, the quicker you can get back to achieving success in your life.

    Be Patient about the Process

    No matter which negative thoughts tend to run around your mind, working to replace them with positive thoughts can take time.

    Learning to spot self-limiting beliefs, all-or-nothing thinking, or dwelling is one thing, but learning to quiet those thoughts is another thing entirely.

    If at first you don’t succeed, don’t fret. Instead, take a deep breath and try again. As you work towards improving your mindfulness and your mental toughness, remember that you’re going to get better with time.

    To make things a little easier, it helps to connect with your purpose.

    2. Connect with Your Purpose

    One of the most critical elements to building mental toughness and keeping a strong and focused mind is having a strong ‘why’ for everything you want to do.

    If you set out to achieve a huge goal that you don’t have a ‘why’ for, you’re going to find yourself distracted, discouraged, or disengaged as soon as you experience your first setback.

    Think about the last time you were working on a goal or resolution and things weren’t going well, maybe you even wanted to quit. Perhaps you thought you didn’t have enough willpower. Maybe you told yourself that you didn’t have enough discipline.

    Here’s the truth: you just didn’t have a strong enough why.

    Simon Sinek has been spreading his message “Start with Why” across the globe.[2] In short, he says that:

    “Your ‘why’ is the purpose, cause or belief that inspires you.”

    One of the biggest drains on your mental energy is pursuing a goal or a task that you don’t have a ‘why’ for. This is when we tend to look for external motivation or question our willpower, but those aren’t the issues.

    Often, we set goals because we like the idea of the goal, not the reality of the goal. Without connecting to our why, we can’t intrinsically motivate ourselves to achieve our most challenging goals.

    Find Intrinsic Motivation

    Intrinsic motivation is our innate desire to do something and it comes when we work towards something that satisfies ourselves above all else—not our parents or our bosses or our teachers.

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    Let’s say you think you want to quit smoking because you know it’s bad for you, but you really enjoy smoking. If you don’t truly want to quit smoking, it’s going to be nearly impossible, regardless of your willpower or mental toughness.

    But if you want to quit smoking because you just had a baby, and you don’t want your baby growing up around smoke, then that ‘why’ is going to give you intrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation is far more powerful than sheer stubborn willpower, and it’s far easier to maintain over the long haul.

    If you’re trying to develop mental toughness, connecting a why to everything you want to achieve will reduce the effort and energy it will take to achieve those things. Once you’ve found a strong why for all of your goals, you’ll find that you’ll have significantly more energy to pursue your more difficult challenges.

    3. Find Strength in Unity

    The final aspect of developing mental toughness is embracing the idea that you’re not in this alone. It’s a fact, anyone who’s ever achieved success in anything didn’t do so alone.

    Bill Gates didn’t build Microsoft alone. Oprah didn’t build her network by herself. Steve Jobs didn’t invent the iPhone without a team. Michelle Obama didn’t implement the “Let’s Move” campaign on her own.

    Behind all of these successful people were countless other people who were there offering support, mentorship, guidance, and encouragement.

    If you want to develop unmatched mental toughness, you need to understand that you don’t have to go it alone. Even the toughest Navy Seals have a team backing them up.

    If you want to stay strong in your endeavors, you need to build a team of supporters who will step in and back you up when it counts.

    Find a Mentor or Committee of Mentors

    The benefits of having a great mentor are far too many to list, but to boil it down to the basics, a mentor is someone who will help show you the path to success.

    A good mentor will help you discover your greatest strengths, spot and overcome your blind spots, and work through your weaknesses.

    If you’re struggling to deal with your internal negativity or with finding your purpose, talk it through with a mentor. Sometimes we lose the forest for the trees, and a mentor can help us take a step back and see the bigger picture.

    Here’s how to find the right mentor for yourself: How to Find a Mentor That Will Help You Succeed

    Recruit Some Cheerleaders

    If you want to stay strong, it never hurts to have a group of personal cheerleaders. Unlike mentors who are going to jump in and help you address your problems, a group of cheerleaders will help keep your spirits up.

    Even if you have a strong ‘why’ and a positive mindset, it’s nearly impossible to maintain a positive attitude 100% of the time. It doesn’t make you weak to need some help from time to time. Having a group of people cheering you on will make all the difference in the world.

    As you work towards your goals, tell a few close friends about what you’re doing, and when things get tough, tell them about it. And when they give you the pep talk you need, don’t resist their positivity or counter it with your self-limiting beliefs or your all-or-nothing attitude.

    Allow their optimism to refill your energy and use that energy to press on.

    Form an Accountability Group

    Cheerleaders are great, but sometimes we need someone to give us the kick we need to keep going. You might have a strong ‘why’ for running a marathon or losing 30 pounds, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy; and trying to force yourself to follow through is a sure way to tax your mental energy.

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    Why not save some of your mental energy by forming an accountability group?

    Find a person or a few people who have similar goals, or at the very least, the need for an accountability partner. Then, form an agreement within the group to push each other every day.

    Even if your goals aren’t the same, accountability partners are great for giving us the push we need when we need it most.

    Regardless of which relationships you choose, sometimes we have to be able to work through things on our own. Mentors, cheerleaders, and accountability partners are a great way for us to combat our naturally negative mindsets, but occasionally we have to be able to pick ourselves back up.

    4. Learn to Pick Yourself Back Up After Setbacks

    Building a strong mindset and developing mental toughness isn’t easy! Anyone who’s ever achieved massive success knows that obstacles, setbacks, and failure are inevitable, and you’re no different.

    As you work on your goals, you’re going to face many ups and downs, but this doesn’t mean that you don’t have mental toughness, willpower, or discipline.

    We all struggle. We all fail. It’s what we decide to do after we fail that truly counts.

    When you find yourself in a low spot, ask yourself these questions:

    • “Am I being too hard on myself?”
    • “Are negative thoughts such as Self-Limiting Beliefs or All-or-Nothing Thinking distorting my view?”
    • “What’s the positive side of this setback/obstacle/failure?”
    • “Why was this goal important to me? What was my purpose?”
    • “Is this goal still important to me? Do I still have a ‘why’?”
    • “Who can I ask for help? Who can mentor me or cheer me on? Who can help hold me accountable?”

    Asking yourself these questions is a great way to check in on your mindset. When we get lost in negative thinking or lose connection to our purpose, it’s far too easy to become discouraged. When we feel discouraged, we start feeling weak, maybe even a little hopeless.

    Also, this article provides some useful tips to help you get back on track: How to Deal with Failure and Pick Yourself Back Up

    Tying it All Together

    Are you still with me? I know I’ve thrown a lot at you, from developing a positive mindset and combatting your internal voice to connecting with purpose and building a committee of mentors. It’s a lot to take it!

    But here’s the bottom line:

    A crucial part of developing mental toughness is learning to recognize these tendencies and taking action to correct them early on. Developing mental toughness is not about eliminating weakness, but learning how to deal with it and overcome it.

    No one is perfect, but when we focus on the right things, we can develop a mental toughness worthy of life’s biggest challenges.

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    Featured photo credit: Zulmaury Saavedra via unsplash.com

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