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Clear the Clutter Out of Your Life

Organize and simplify your life for better emotional health.
By Jennifer Nelson
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Simi Nwogugu of Brooklyn, New York, felt that her life was filled with clutter. Her drawers were filled with old notes and books from business school and years of paid bills. Toys that her sons had outgrown still littered the house. In fact, she felt so mentally cluttered that she couldn’t do the one thing she wanted: write.

To get out from under the clutter, the founder of HOD Consulting rented an expensive New York City office. Problem was, the clutter followed her.  Finally, she stopped trying to escape clutter and began to organize it.

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“I know where everything is and it is so much more pleasing to work from home. Most of all, I am writing again,” she says. Even her aching back and shoulders feel better.

When you can’t find things, you can feel frustrated, angry, and unproductive, says Kelli Ellis, an Orange County, Calif., design psychologist who’s appeared on TLC’s Clean Sweep television show. “You see that person who has papers flying out of files, or you see their handbag, and you say, 'I know exactly what your car looks like or what your home office looks like.'” Clutter spills over into every aspect of life.

Clutter, both mental and physical, can do a number on our productivity and eat away at our time. Think of all the minutes we waste looking for items that aren’t where they should be. Plus the sheer stress of a cluttered life means we may miss deadlines, work longer hours, and lose important stuff. Clutter equals stress. Where to start simplifying?

The Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Clutter

Between a zillion to-dos, work and family life, errant worries, and obligations, it’s no wonder you have a cluttered mind. Start by learning to let go.

“To be truly happy, sometimes you must eliminate unhealthy people and situations from your life,” says Alex Lluch, author of Secrets to Love Life and Be Happy. For instance, if you feel stuck in a dead-end job, resolve to make a change. 

Or if there’s someone in your life who constantly brings you down with a negative attitude, find a way to disentangle yourself. “It may take some courage to eliminate this stuff from your life, but you will feel much more fulfilled once you are able to concentrate on the people and things that do make you happy.”

Lluch advocates clean sweeping your thoughts with a hot bath, a meditation practice, a long walk, a phone call to a friend -- whatever works for you. Spend at least 15 minutes a day in a pursuit that allows you to decompress, clear your mind, and rid your thoughts of the mental chitchat that clouds your creativity, passion, and productivity.

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