Beginner’s Guide to Decluttering the Mind

We’ve all heard of minimalistic living, decluttering, and living simply. On the other hand, we’ve all seen at least one episode of Hoarders and you know at least one person who has a storage closet, room or even a unit rented out for their extra stuff, you may even be the guilty one. There are books and Ted-talks and tv shows all about purging your living space of the belongings creating clutter rather than serving you. But what about internal clutter and the emotional baggage we haul around with us?

When I first came to Costa Rica, I brought only a hiking backpack and a carry-on. Every thing I needed for those 5 months fit into those two bags, and I survived just fine. I wasted no time, energy or money with extra baggage. Now, three years later, I have about 5 suitcases filled with stuff. It’s surprisingly easy to hold on to all that has passed me by on this journey. I hold onto just about everything, the things I love, the things I hate, the things I like but never use, the things I haven’t used once but think I maybe will someday; I even hold onto things I want to get rid of. That doesn’t even make sense! I can come up with a good excuse for every item I own as to why I must keep it. But the reality is, I got along just fine without before. So, why do I hold onto it now? I know, for me, it’s comfortable and gives me some sense of security and certainty, it’s something familiar to me in this ever- evolving world. On a larger scale, maybe it’s just human nature. And on an even larger scale, we interestingly enough, seem to hoarder more than just materialistic things, but emotional and mental things as well.  We hold onto grudges, anger, sadness, negative thought patterns, bad habits, and limiting beliefs.

If these things are no longer serving us then they are simply clutter in our space that’s getting in the way of wherever we are headed.  I think it’s time we start focusing on internal minimalism. Just as physical clutter has psychological effects, science shows holding onto such negativity can actually cause sickness in the mind and the body. So you want to declutter, you want to let go, you want to move forward, but then comes the question of how? How does one clean out the inner self of everything that’s been hoarded over the years?


1. Remember it’s a process.

Only in Hollywood do hoarders get healed in the time span of one tv episode. Emotional and mental detoxing takes time. First and foremost, allow yourself the grace and patience you need to walk out your de-cluttering journey. Just like your house, you’ll realize one day that all the clutter you once moved out has replaced itself with new clutter and you have to clean it all out over again, only the second, third, fourth time around you will have realized you are becoming quite the expert at internal minimalism.


2. Identify that which no longer serves you.

Not until somebody pointed it out to me, did I realize how many things I was believing about myself that kept me down in defeat and my dreams forever just right outside my reach. Know your goals. Know where you’re going. Then map out what you’re believing that’s keeping you from getting there. One of my limiting beliefs was simply, “I can’t because….” fill in the blank. This is called an excuse. I have a whole storage unit filled with them, and they get me nowhere.


3. Forgive yourself and others.

None of us are experts on forgiveness. Not only do we struggle to forgive others, but we even wrestle to forgive ourselves. I have got bags filled with bitterness and resentment and not as often as I should am I trying to toss them out. You could even say I have befriended them and secretly use them as evidence to justify future offense toward others or even myself. Until I forgive, they will continue to rot inside me. Forgiveness can seem abstract or unattainable at times, but two things that help me are first, talking to the person if possible and secondly, if I can’t talk to that person, I just have to understand and take to heart the quote that says, “hurting people hurt people.” Compassion is my compass when it comes to forgiveness.


4. Out with the old, in with the new.

Think about a few things you would like to believe about yourself, your life, or those around. Think about the habits that cultivate the things you value, whether it be productivity, creativity, happiness or love.  No more pilling a million pounds of invaluable junk on the kitchen table, all you need is a nice center piece and maybe a place mat or two. When you find your mind cluttered with all the invaluable junk that’s made its way in there, clear off the table and place that center piece down. Put into practice your new way of thinking and habits and in time, you will find yourself breathing a little easier in your new space.

Just like our houses, bodies, or our cars, we live up to our maximum potential when we fill ourselves with the right amount of the right stuff. Even if it’s scary, uncertain, or painful, it’s time to stop hoarding and to let go of the grudges, bad habits, and limiting beliefs that are keeping you in the shadow of your best self. You’ve got the steps now put them into practice. And on the days you lack the motivation, here’s a little inspiration to get you through.


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