Physical clutter is easy to identify in our lives because you can touch it, take a picture of it, and point to it during an argument with your roommate/co-worker/child/spouse.
“That thing, right there, should not be there!”
Other forms of clutter are more nebulous. If you are worried all the time, you can’t pack that anxiety up and sell it on Craigslist. If your schedule is overbooked, it’s difficult to know which of dozens of activities is the one too many.
To help identify the non-physical clutter in my life, I give myself a timeout. I’ll sit in a comfortable chair, holding a pencil and notebook, and close my eyes. I try to clear my head of all thoughts. Whatever thoughts slip in, I quickly open my eyes and write them down on the notebook paper. Then, I close my eyes again and try to clear my mind of all thoughts. After about 30 minutes, I’m usually able to settle down and enjoy a few moments of real silence.
When I get up from my timeout, I’ll look at the list and try to address everything on it as quickly as possible. Almost everything I write on the notebook paper is related to clutter in some way — I’ll pick up the phone and call a friend I’ve been worried about to see how she’s doing and if she needs anything, I’ll schedule 15 minutes to research information regarding a decision I need to make, or I’ll make a long-overdue appointment with my eye doctor. Even if I can’t solve the problem completely, doing at least something helps to relieve or reduce the clutter burden I’ve been carrying.
I’ve discovered that a monthly timeout helps me to keep the non-physical clutter from growing out of control in my life. If you haven’t tried it before, give the timeout a try and see what happens. Worst case scenario, you’ll fall asleep and conclude you are free of non-physical clutter.