Mantra motivation

With my foot still in a cast, I’m obviously not running my typical 15 miles a week. Since I can’t take to the streets, I have been doing a lot of reading about running instead. I’ll admit, it’s a bit frustrating to read about something I can’t do, but I’ve learned a great deal and will use this knowledge when I start running again.

During my readings about running, I came across an article in the February 2011 issue of Runner’s World magazine that has potential application for unclutterers. The article “The Magic of Mantras” explores using positive self-talk to help push you through the difficult parts of a race, and could easily work for helping you continue through the onerous parts of uncluttering.

So what makes a good mantra? One that’s short, positive, instructive, and full of action words. Walker suggests preparing multiple mantras before a race tailored to various challenges. And don’t limit yourself to “real” words. A made-up word works for Tara Anderson, a 34-year-old runner in Boulder who recites, Lighter, softer, faster, relaxer. “I repeat it with each footstrike, and if I’m having a problem, I’ll repeat the relevant part until I’m in the flow,” she says. Her phrase helped her set a three-minute P[ersonal] R[ecord] in a 10-K in 2009.

Here are a few mantras I think could work for someone embarking on an uncluttering and/or organizing project:

  • One box at a time.
  • Less stuff, less stress.
  • Love it or lose it.
  • A place for everything, and everything in its place.
  • Five minutes or less? The answer is yes.

Do you have a mantra? Could using some positive self-talk help you to achieve your uncluttering and organizing goals? Tell us what you tell yourself in our comments section of this post.

64 Comments for “Mantra motivation”

  1. posted by Maura on

    * Don’t put it down. Put it AWAY.

  2. posted by k.sol on

    Whenever I’m tempted to procrastinate: Today IS tomorrow.

  3. posted by Mimi on

    maybe it sounds negative because of the “don´t” but it´s absolutely positive for me because it contains a feeling of freedom:

    i don´t need it.

  4. posted by jess on

    Everything is permissible— but not everything is beneficial. 1 Corinthians 10:23

  5. posted by Marjory on

    Bless someone else.

  6. posted by Dawn on

    Live The Life You Love.

  7. posted by Mel on

    My de-cluttering mantra sounds grammatically incorrect, but it reminds me to see each item for what it is: a “need” or a “want”. Therefore, I repeat to myself, “everything I need, and nothing I don’t”.

  8. posted by Biscuit X on

    When sorting stuff:
    Will I move this with me to the nursing home?
    Do I want the nieces to find this in my house when I drop dead?

    On a less dire note:

    I will put no worthless thing before my eyes (Psalms I forget where)
    Eat the fresh food first!

  9. posted by Carol in Mpls on

    Less stuff, more fun!

  10. posted by Carlee on

    I like “One box at a time”. It makes tackling my clutter seem completely reasonable and doable. I can do one box each night and that seems like a victory rather than saying get it all done now.

  11. posted by me on

    Probably the best post of those last years. Loved it.

  12. posted by Jen Strange on

    When I start thinking about shopping or have a hard time letting go of something, I tell myself: I have everything I need.

    The other mantra that I repeat to myself is when I’m upset with interpersonal things: There is only love.

  13. posted by Anita on

    Whenever I get overwhelmed by all the projects I have on the go, all the errands I need to run, all the things I want to put on my to do list etc, I pause, take a breath and tell myself “one thing at a time”. Then I sit down and write them down, one at a time, in whatever order they pop into my head, and then start on them in the order that makes the most sense. Pretty much the only thing keeping me sane at the moment.

  14. posted by Julia on

    Longer than a mantra, but: I’ve assembled a play list of about 8 songs that make me feel warm and “together.” It’s like a set of love songs to myself. One of the most important songs on the list is “Have a Little Faith in Me” (John Hiatt) – another is “You’re Aging Well” by Dar Williams and Joan Baez.

    The songs remind me that I’m more likely to underrate myself than to give myself full marks; that I should relax and have faith in my own abilities.

    I made the list about a week ago, and so far I’ve played it (or parts of it) at least once a day.

  15. posted by Mimi on

    i would like to precise my “i don´t need it”: it´s not a mantra that i use for motivation, it just pops up in my mind when i detect clutter.

    i especially like “less stuff, more fun”! very motivating!

  16. posted by Annette on

    We used “no pets, no kids.” It worked until 1999!

  17. posted by Annette on

    But seriously, when I’m racing (triathlon) I say, “forward motion, I have forward motion.” I always finish!

  18. posted by Kate on

    I use this quote from Thoreau as my motivation ‘slogan’ (a little longer than a mantra) in my weight loss efforts, but it could also apply to uncluttering:
    “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you’ve imagined.”

  19. posted by Erin on

    Just out of curiosity, what running books are you reading? I’m in a huge running book craze at the moment in an effort to begin a running habit (New Years and whatnot).

    As far as mantras go, it’s a little Oprah, but,

    “Will this help me live my best life?”

  20. posted by Erin on

    “No pets, no kids” was our married motto too! We failed on both accounts… Ha ha!

  21. posted by Kris on

    I’ve long admired the spare interiors designed by the architect Hugh Newell Jacobson. So when I’m in a store and I’m tempted to buy a decorative something or another for my house, I ask myself this: Would Hugh Newell Jacobsen use this object in one of his interiors? Generally the answer is no.

    Then this is what I silently chant to myself:

    “Hugh Newell Jacobsen. Hugh Newell Jacobsen. Hugh Newell Jacobsen.”

  22. posted by Lee on

    “Choose the essential.” borrowed from Leo Babauta of Zen Habits. It applies to many different choices in life.

  23. posted by Madaco on

    The one that is working very well for me at present is: “Use what you’ve got”

  24. posted by Erin Doland on

    @Kris — One of my best friends lives in a Hugh Newell Jacobsen house. She’ll get a great laugh out of your mantra. She has _other_ words about him 🙂

  25. posted by Britty on

    @Julia: John Hiatt–the best! “Have a Little Faith in Me” is a wonderful, special song!

  26. posted by jbeany on

    When I was starting to get serious about sorting, decluttering and organizing, it was
    “I will not to into my grandma; I will NOT turn into my grandma….”

    Packing to move, it was “Is it worth a dollar a minute?” (My movers charged by the hour.)

    When I’m looking at decorative objects that I like in a store, it’s “It’s clutter, it’s clutter, it’s clutter.”

    To stay organized, it’s “Seven seconds, seven seconds…” The 7 second rule = if it takes less than 7 seconds, do it now.

  27. posted by Chris2 on

    @Mimi – “I don’t need it” is my mantra at the Dollar Store! I wander around looking at bargains and this phrase helps keep me focused on getting only the items I truly need.

  28. posted by JC on

    I struggle with computers, hence my bouncing screen saver reads: “I am a genius!”

    “I am a competent parent doing what is best for my children” is something I force through my mind everyday, especially when I am making really hard decisions.

    I grew up hearing the following poem.
    Use it up.
    Wear it out.
    Make it do,
    Or do without.

    Living this can really help prevent a lot of clutter. That doesn’t mean that I don’t have a lot of stuff, or specialized stuff for sewing and cooking/baking. It has helped me use things creatively and make purchasing decisions more wisely.

  29. posted by Ann on

    Erase the Trace (of whatever I got out or brought in during the day)

  30. posted by Trinity on

    My Mantra for uncluttering is “when in doubt throw it out.” Also when folding my laundry, which I HATE to do, I ask myself “do you ever want to wash or fold this thing again?” If the answer is no, it goes in the charity box or the trash.

  31. posted by Sky on

    My favorite….

    “would I buy this item again?”

  32. posted by *pol on

    Mine is


    It is wonderful at stopping me from bringing more into the house, eating the right amount and listening to my inner vocabulary too.

  33. posted by Another Deb on

    “Eh, it’s future garage sale junk”

  34. posted by jbeany on

    “Eh, it’s future garage sale junk” LOL!

    There’s an iphone app we could all use – one that calculates the expected time between purchase and garage sale.

  35. posted by Jen on

    One I use to motivate a friend who has lots of clutter that could be sold:

    “Turn your stash in to cash!”

  36. posted by Fiasmom on

    From the world of the 12 Steps – Do the next right thing.

  37. posted by Maryann on

    I think to myself before I buy something: Do I already own something that could do the same job?

    I was looking for recycle bags/ boxes to stash plastic bottles and aluminum cans in the basement until we redeem them. Then I found a huge box that our giant shredder came in. Added a garbage bag liner, and voila!

    I’m embarassed to think I was about to BUY something to do that job…good thing I didn’t shop impulsively.

  38. posted by Charity on

    “Do It Now”. Flylady. Also “outer calm, inner peace” which I think is Gretchen Rubin.

  39. posted by Shawna on

    Heave ho, away it goes.

  40. posted by Chris Shaughness on

    I have to keep telling myself that if I stay organized, I have less stress and I’m not as cranky!

  41. posted by Heidi on

    Progress not perfection.

    Helps me get started when I am unmotivated because there is so much to do.

  42. posted by Amelia on

    Don’t put it down, put it up!
    When in doubt, throw it out!

  43. posted by Debbie B. on

    I’ll feel better when it’s done!

  44. posted by alison dale on

    When feeling overwhelmed and don’t know where to start. Start one hour at a time. Where is just one hour a day when you get home from work before you hit the couch.

  45. posted by Kate on

    @Trinity – I also use something similar for my clothes… I HATE doing laundry (mostly because I don’t have one in my apartment, so I have to go to a laundry room and PAY to do it) — so if I’m looking at a piece of clothing in my drawer and think to myself “I’d rather do laundry then wear that” I know it’s time to get rid of it!

  46. posted by save time, live better on

    Our favorite organizing mantra is: Put it away, right away.

    And our favorite mantra for living is: Do less, accomplish more.

  47. posted by Jody on

    Inch by Inch, It’ll be a cinch!
    (and the contrary, Mile by Mile, it’ll take awhile!)

  48. posted by Maura on

    I frequently move the same pile of clean, folded clothes from my bed to my dresser top (at night), then back to my bed after making it (in the morning), intending to put them away during the day. Inevitably they are moved back to the dresser top at night. This morning I was moving the pile back to my bed – then paused:

    “No time like the present!”

    Clothes were put away in less than two minutes. Duh.

  49. posted by Annie on

    My mantra comes from a Bill Murray movie called “What About Bob?” He is having to face his fears and do all of this stuff that terrifies him and he keeps repeating the term “Baby Steps” for everything he does: “Baby Steps to the door, baby steps to the car…” and so on.

    I remind myself that every “Baby Step” I make is a step in the right direction. It may only be a piece of paper or a broken paperclip, but each baby step is another step forward in my goal to lead a more peaceful life with less.

  50. posted by Kencho on

    Slow down
    Don’t hurry
    Don’t worry
    Trust the process!

    ~Alexandra Stoddard

  51. posted by Kencho on

    One day is better than none days!

  52. posted by Kencho on

    Clear your space to clear your mind!

  53. posted by Kencho on

    A little each day can go a long way!

  54. posted by Natalie in West Oz on

    when i was a runner (oh, so long ago) I used “breathe, breathe, in, in, out, out”. Now we all know we dont breathe in twice or breathe out twice but it was a way of slowing my breathing down (breathe in til I say out) AND i said one word with each foot fall so it also got me into a rhythm.

    As for cleaning…”I am so sick of this mess” doesnt seem to work. Sincerely telling myself ” I dont need this ” has had a degree of success at the shops, both physical and online. My issue is more getting rid of what I already have. When I’m REALLY angry I can make great ditching decisions that I rarely regret. Shame I’m generally really happy!!!!!

  55. posted by Kat on

    Nice one Ann! I love “erase the trace”.

  56. posted by Bryan on

    There is No Tomorrow

  57. posted by Jasmine on

    Does singing along to “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger” while working or exercising count? 🙂

  58. posted by KT on

    Doing a little bit is better than doing nothing at all.

    Also when walking I say I am walking with purpose and cleaning with purpose. Sounds silly but it keeps in mind that I have a goal.

  59. posted by Andree on

    “Set aside”. When lot of thoughts going in and out in my head, this mantra reminds me to set those aside and focus on the present instead.

  60. posted by Joy from Just Plain Joy on

    This too shall pass.

  61. posted by Carrie on

    Beautiful or useful?

  62. posted by Ann on

    What can I do now to make it easier for myself later?

  63. posted by Alex on

    “Do I love it? Does it love me?”

    This works particularly well when I’m cutting down on the size of my wardrobe. Sure, that shirt is REALLY adorable (I love it) but on me, it’s really unflattering (it doesn’t love me). I love these shoes, but I can barely make it out the door without developing a blister, so they don’t love me.

    And, of course, if I don’t love it, it doesn’t matter whether it loves me or not; we can part ways peacefully and it will find another fish in the sea – one who loves it back – at Goodwill.

  64. posted by The Slapdash Sewist on

    First comment, but I have been reading and benefiting for several months. I have found mantras essential to my decluttering!

    1) “It’s a process.” I don’t have to do it perfectly or all at once. It’s a process.

    2. “Fight the junk!” This is my mantra for when I start a new area and, more importantly, for when I am in a store. I’m not really a mindless shopper anymore (not having a car and not going to big box stores helps), but I still make the occasional dumb purchase. I’m hoping “Fight the junk!” will keep me from acquiring more, well, junk. Stuff that seems shiny and exciting now but will eventually become junk.

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