How to declutter your mind

Here we are with summer in full swing, a time that used to be about vacations and enjoying a nice, quiet pause. But right now, those options are not really available, and many of us are struggling with that. That’s partly because built-in summer breaks are usually a good opportunity to declutter our minds from stress.

Without a much-needed break, you might be feeling more stressed and notice your mind more cluttered with worry and to-do lists. And you’re right, that’s probably at least partly because you don’t have that weekend getaway, a planned staycation, or kids going to camp on the schedule.

So how do you quiet your mind and refocus when the schedule you thought you’d have changed, or when the break you anticipated gets kicked further down the road, leaving you feeling stranded? We have to find other ways to declutter our minds.

Here are three skills you can try today to work on getting some brain space back!

Declutter your physical space. Start by checking your work or living space. If your physical environment is cluttered, it can lead to mental clutter. When we start to feel overwhelmed or distracted, when our minds are stuffed to the brim, our physical space can start to represent how we are feeling.

The inside of our car might look like a teenager’s room, or our workspace might be overcrowded with paper and leftover coffee mugs. When our minds are cluttered, we often feel like we don’t have much bandwidth to take care of our environment. But taking care of that environment can often help us take care of our minds.

This isn’t to say you need to have a spotless house or office to make this strategy work for you. Try cleaning up or organizing your workspace or that one room in your house that’s your “mindful zone” or “Zen space.” See how that makes you feel.

Practice journaling. This skill can take as little as two minutes, and it can make a huge difference. Think of your journal as a place where you just fill pages with your thoughts, worries, and mental lists. When we carry our thoughts with us in our minds alone, it rarely helps us process or organize what we are thinking about or decide how to prioritize what’s most important.

Everything just ends up being a jumbled mess internally, creating more stress and more clutter in our thoughts and emotions. Writing things down not only creates space in our brains, but it also allows us to tangibly see what we are thinking and gives us an opportunity to organize, prioritize, and problem-solve.

Take one thing at a time. When we’re overwhelmed, sometimes we quickly jump from task to task in an effort to get everything done at once, but then we end up feeling like we’ve gotten nowhere with anything. I often think about a conveyor belt for this strategy. There might be many things on the conveyor belt, but you can only pick up one thing at a time.

Multitasking can be helpful at times, but when you are trying to declutter your mind, taking on many tasks at once only adds to the clutter. Write down (journal!) what’s on your conveyor belt, organize and prioritize, and tackle one thing at a time. You will notice your mind feeling more free!

I hope you find these strategies helpful.


  • Angela Ficken

    Boston-based psychotherapist and entrepreneur

    I am a therapist who will challenge you to work on becoming the happier, healthier self you envision. I am an active listener in sessions and believe that providing feedback is the best way to challenge behavior patterns and to ultimately help you connect with your own strengths, wisdom, and inner resources. I ask questions and will engage you in a thoughtful way while providing you with a non-judgmental, supportive environment. I use several therapy strategies to guide patients toward accomplishing goals: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) Supportive Psychotherapy Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) – Exposure therapy is specifically used for people diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) Each individual comes with different experiences and needs, therefore we might use one or all of these strategies based on what you want to work on. I believe in progress, not perfection and that with every problem there is an opportunity for growth.