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What Kind of Clutter Do You Have?

By October 20, 2018June 15th, 20245 Comments

Did you know that there are several different types of clutter? The first thing that comes to my mind when I think about clutter is physical clutter. This kind of clutter is obvious. You can see it, touch it, and sometimes taste it and smell it.


Examples of physical clutter are piles of magazines, unopened mail in piles, shoes left around on the floor in no apparent order, clothes piled on chairs, toys left laying around, cleaning supplies, dirty tissues or paper towels, used plates and cutlery. I bet you can think of even more examples of physical clutter.

But what about non-tangible clutter? The clutter that you do not see, touch, or smell but that is lurking there in the background. It can hold you back from making progress and can be even more bothersome than physical clutter. I’m calling it mental clutter.
For me, mental clutter is all the ideas and notions of things to do that swirl around in my head.


This mental clutter sometimes prevents me from participating fully in the activity in which I am currently involved. You see, my body is there but my mind is thinking about remembering the things that I want to do for the rest of the day.

Mental clutter can even keep me awake at night. Does this ever happen to you? I’m so busy trying to remember all the things that I want to do that I don’t let myself fall asleep. We all know that it’s important to your body to get rest – to sleep. Did you know that it’s also important for your brain? Here’s an interesting article that talks about the importance of sleep and your brain.

Recent research shows that your mind is very active at night. Your brain essentially reboots while you sleep. It files away things you’ve done that you no longer need to think about and ponders solutions for things that are bothering you. That’s why you can sometimes wake up with a solution to a problem – it occurred to you suddenly in the middle of the night.


I clean up my mental clutter by doing a brain dump.

A brain dump is sitting down and making a list of all, and I do mean all, the things I want to either remember or do. I am a paper and pen girl, so I make my list in a notebook that I can carry around with me. If you like to use electronics you can make a list in your device.

Then I sort my list. I prioritize my tasks and projects and ask myself these questions:
1. What are the time sensitive tasks?
2. What needs to happen first?
3. Is there a task that hinges upon another task?
4. How long will these tasks take to accomplish?
5. Can I delegate any of these tasks?


Once my list is sorted and my questions answered I get out my planner and schedule my tasks. My planner is a physical calendar. This system works just as well with an electronic calendar.

I try not to over-schedule myself as then I get to feeling overwhelmed and wonder how on earth I’m going to get everything done!

Just as organizing physical clutter is never a once and you’re done forever project clearing your mind is never a one-time event. Things crop up. I do a brain dump when I’m feeling like it’s time to get things off my mind and onto a piece of paper.

I have been following this routine for five or six years and find that it works really well for me. I don’t stay awake at night trying to remember everything I want to do tomorrow, and I am very present in what I am doing now. My mind isn’t tempted to wander thinking about the various ideas and notions.

If you find that you not only have physical clutter but also mental clutter give this system of doing a brain dump a try.

Do you have a different way of dealing with mental clutter? Write me back and let me know!


  • Ahhh. That mental clutter can cause so much stress and agitation. Like you, I believe in getting it out of my head as soon as possible. While I use my electronic task list to keep my to-dos flowing, that list is not always with me. So I make sure to have pads of paper in various key spots like next to my bed, in the bathroom, in the car, and even in the shower (love my AquaNotes pad!) I then transfer the thought or idea to my electronic system. So often ideas pop-up when I wake or when I’m in the shower. So having the non-tech spots to record the thoughts is really helpful.

  • This doesn’t happen to me very often, because I usually add something to my task list as soon as I think of it. But I agree that a brain dump is very effective!

  • Seana Turner says:

    Mental clutter creates so much stress and we don’t often realize it! I have to do the brain dump as well. I love my paper planner and call it my “2nd brain.” If it doesn’t get into the book, it has a good chance of being forgotten. I find the planning time to be very calming…