Declutter Your Mind: 3 Tips For More Peace

by Leah McClellan

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Woman in yoga position at sunsetNothing can bring you peace but yourself. —Ralph Waldo Emerson

I crave peace. I like happiness too, and I’m often happy, but my primary goal is peace.

I see happiness as periodic episodes, not as a state of mind or emotion that’s ongoing and steady. If I’m peaceful—neither high nor low, just nice and steady—those lovely moments of happiness and feelings of supreme well-being have a better chance of blossoming.

Peace is like equilibrium or homeostasis. It’s a routine on a balance beam and smiling while firecrackers are popping off.

Happiness, on the other hand, is an emotion that’s a reaction to things, people, or events. We get happy because of something, but peace is something that wells up from within, independent of anything outside of ourselves. It’s always there, really, but mental clutter drowns it out.

We can be peaceful in the midst of turmoil and uncertainty, but we might not be particularly happy.

When we’re peaceful, we’re less likely to get aggravated or irritated, less likely to say things we regret, and more likely to enjoy life and be happy—often.

How do we get peaceful if we aren’t already?

Most of us have some degree of un-peace or dis-ease within us. Stress causes a lot of problems, from nervousness and anxiety to full-blown anger and misery. Stress also wears us down, physically and emotionally, and it makes us more susceptible to every little germ or virus that flits by as well as stress-related diseases such as heart disease.

Stress is not peace, and it’s hard to feel peaceful when we’re stressed.

I put together a very long list of tips of tips to reduce stress and cultivate peace, but it just got longer and longer. They’re all good, but I realized most of them deserve a post of their own. I finally whittled it down to three. Three tips that almost anyone can use and adapt to his or her own life situation to reduce mental clutter and find peace.

First things first

Stephen Covey wrote the time management classic First Things First, and while the book is loaded with worksheets and helpful tips, just the title alone is great: First Things First. Ask yourself:

What basic needs or priorities do I need satisfied or fulfilled to have a peaceful day, week, month, or life? It could be anything.

For me, as a freelance writer and editor who works at home, my main priority is to do a great job with all facets of my business. But behind that priority are others and without them, the number one priority cannot exist—or I’ll lose my mind trying.

I need

1) healthy food in the refrigerator or cabinets, ready to go with little preparation needed

2) food for my dogs and cat and any supplies they may need

3) an organized home, clean clothes, and basic supplies stocked

If I don’t have basic necessities in place, stress and frustration build.

How can I work long and hard on a project if I have nothing to eat? I live in the suburbs, and it’s not a simple matter to get reasonably-priced takeout, and most fast food isn’t an option since I don’t eat meat.

I have two dogs and a cat. I can’t work steadily and peacefully if I have to take an hour out of the day to go buy dog or cat food or other supplies. And if I don’t have clean, comfortable clothes available—I’m talking basics—or if I can’t find things I need when I need them, I’m going to be distracted.

What about you? What do you need in place to have a peaceful day or week?

Finish unfinished projects or tasks you’ve been putting off

If something was worth starting, it’s worth finishing. I don’t know about you, but I don’t feel peaceful when I start a task and don’t finish it, especially when the remnants of that task remind me about it.

A few months ago, I started to install a safety bolt on a back door, but I broke a drill bit while pre-screwing for the screws. A whole bunch of other stuff needed attention at the same time, and I left the tools and supplies out—for weeks. No big deal, really, but it was an extra thought every time I let the dogs out, which is 4-5 times a day. Oh yeah, gotta do that. Or grrr what a mess.

Why not just do it so I don’t have that clutter in my head?

Today I finally cleaned out my refrigerator. Every time I opened it I thought, Oh God, I have to clean this up. It only took 20 minutes for a total clean-up and wipe down, but I put it off for weeks. I resolved today to make a weekly routine so it never gets that bad again.

What projects are you constantly reminded of, at work or at home? Maybe it’s a cluttered closet or desk (or refrigerator), or some project you started months ago. Just do it, get it done, clear your mind.

Repair relationships and situations or let them go

This is easier said than done, I know. But here’s the thing. So many people complain about their husbands or wives, friends, relatives, a coworker, a job, or a neighbor, and I wonder: What are you doing to fix this? Instead of complaining about it or living in conflict, why not make changes, resolve things, apologize, forgive, request changes, or accept things as they are? In extreme cases, sometimes it’s best to end the relationship or quit the job or situation, as hard as that can be.

I’m talking from personal experience. My marriage ended in divorce four years ago, for example, and the years leading up to that were far from peaceful. There was a never-ending clutter in my mind, and my emotions were on a rollercoaster. I didn’t complain so much; I took action and read stacks of books, and I spent a lot of time talking or listening and going to couples counseling and a marriage program. I tried to fix it, but it wasn’t fixable, so I ended it. There’s a lot more to it than that, of course, and I probably should have ended it long before I did. But the goal was peace, and I took it in stages.

What is cluttering your mind?

Think about times you have less patience with your kids, coworkers, husband, wife, partner, yourself, or any situation. You can’t relax, and you’re on edge or frustrated. Have you taken care of your priorities and put first things first? Do you have unfinished tasks or projects begging for attention? What about your relationships?

If you want more peace in your life or want to reduce stress, irritation, or frustration, think about what you need to take care of—before you do anything else—so the rest of your day and life can be more peaceful.

What do you think? Do you have situations in your life that are robbing you of your peace? Comments are always welcome.



Amit Sodha - The Power Of Choice

Hey Leah, I genuinely found that a process I experimented with recently called unedited thinking really helped me to de-clutter, it gave me greater clarity and really started to allow my creative juices to flow naturally. I also started a physical clear up of possessions and a general tidy-up which also made a massive difference too.

Lastly, as you did, I also let some people go too. It was painful but I’m so glad I did, I realised those relationships were no longer serving either of us and once it was done, it was as if a massive burden was lifted.

Great piece!
Amit Sodha – The Power Of Choice´s last [type] ..Sponsor Me For The Virgin London Marathon 2011

Leah McClellan

Hi Amit, “Unedited thinking” sounds like it might be something that I do–just let it flow, don’t worry about it, don’t hang on to it. Especially when I want to fall asleep! Sounds like you’re in great shape with the physical decluttering and letting go of relationships that aren’t working–good for you.

Thanks for stopping by!


The amount of times I’ve had my mind cluttered up because I’ve started too many projects, and finished too few, is astonishing.

Tying up loose ends, narrowing our focus; it’s all part of the same theme. To clear our heads and give ourselves some breathing and thinking space.

Thanks for sharing Leah :-)
Stuart´s last [type] ..The Bull

Leah McClellan

Hey Stuart, I love how you put it: “astonishing.” I find my mind getting cluttered with projects I wish or hope to do in the future even when something else isn’t done. I usually finish things, but once in awhile…other things pile up and there it sits.
Definitely a theme–great to clear our heads! Feels good :)

Debbie @ Happy Maker

Hi Leah,

You are right if you want peace you have to unclutter the mind. I have found that as we get a little older we learn what is really important and what isn’t as important. And that is the key to peace and happiness. When you get to this point you also have better relationships, because you know what relationships to keep and which ones to let go off.
Thank for the 3 great tips. Have a very peaceful day.

Leah McClellan

Hi Debbie, Great point about seeing the difference between what’s important and what’s not as we get older. That’s definitively been the case for me, though sometimes it takes some thinking. Knowing we can make a choice is the key!
Thanks for stopping by!

Tess The Bold Life

Hi Leah,
This is filled with great tips. As I read “repair relationships and situations that don’t work, repair or let go…” for the first time I saw that both of those choices can be difficult and are a process. I knew this but just got it on a deeper level.

I’ve been releasing a person from my life and it’s not been easy. I have guilt because she is sick. I swear if I was positive there were other live times, we’ve been together before!
Tess The Bold Life´s last [type] ..50 Quotes to Inspire the Dreamers of 2011

Leah McClellan

Hi Tess, You’re so right–repairing or letting go is so difficult. Neither one happens overnight. My preference is always to repair if possible, but sometimes that can’t be done because the other person doesn’t want to take part in it. Or, in some cases, I’ve grown in a different way from some people and we just don’t have anything to share anymore, or their behavior is too challenging or so unhealthy I can’t handle it. The other person being sick–that’s a tough one, for sure. Best wishes for that.

I think there were other lifetimes, and even if not, there’s always a reason for everyone we encounter :)

Jane Rochelle

I can’t concentrate on what I need to do, on peacefully creating my work when there’s clutter around, or unfinished projects. I have a huge task hanging over me right now, that will take months, and the more I dread it, the more I put it off, the worse I feel. Also, my list of ‘things to do’ is forever! I tend to get in a whirlwind every week or two and knock several things off of my list in a short period of time, and then I’m able to settle back into my creativity, cooking, or relaxation. Those are my peaceful times.

Next time I’m wondering why I just can’t get that peaceful calm, I’ll be sure to check my surroundings, and see what needs to be taken care of. First things First :)
Jane Rochelle´s last [type] ..How to Pick a Workout Partner- and 14 Reasons Why My Dog is My Favorite Hiking Buddy!

Leah McClellan

Hi Jane, I know what you mean about those big projects. I’m trying to take them in small sections that are more do-able than the whole thing, and then I don’t dread it so much–or at least it doesn’t take so long. Some things aren’t practical to do in steps, though (like painting one wall of a room at a time lol).

Good luck with it!


Hi Leah, I also find it impossible to work or concentrate on anything when there are things hanging over me that need to be attended to…be it personal relationship sort of things or chores that ‘must’ be done. Having said that, like Debbie, I’ve learned over the years to ignore many of the voices in my head…such as the one screaming at me to wash the kitchen floor right now this minute, or clean the doggy pawmarks off the doors or put on just one more wash before I get down to work…otherwise I’d never get anything done. However, as a divorcee rearing three teenagers (two dogs and two cats) I often find that there is just too much to be done between errands, taxi duties for the kids, animals to vets or taking someone to the doctor that there just isn’t enough of me to go around, and that’s when I get none of my own projects done. It can be extremely frustrating and a constant balancing act trying to do a bit of this and a bit of that in the hope that some of the (guilty) voices will be appeased…but then there are other days where everything falls into place. Those are the truly peaceful, blissful days, when I quit moaning and sometimes I even remember to thank the Lord for all that is wonderful in my life!
Rosemary´s last [type] ..Are You Afraid of Your Authentic Self

Leah McClellan

Hi Rosemary, I agree, some things you just have to ignore. I don’t even have kids other than the furry kind, and there’s just so much to do. Taking care of a home (and kids in your case) takes so much time, and we only have so much of it. For me, as long as things are relatively tidy and organized I’m OK–for 2 years I’ve been (mostly) ignoring the curtains in my office that I hung way too high and they’re clearing the floor by 5 inches but heck, they’re OK if I don’t stare at the bottoms. It’s tolerable, compared to dishes piled up or something lol

Angela Artemis

Great post Leah. It’s so true – how can we peaceful if our head’s are full of stressful thoughts? It’s the same in Feng Shui they say if you keep bumping into the coffee table over and over – you need to either move it or get rid of it because it is causing a disturbance in your household. I’d say cleaning out the fridge is same sort of irritant. Address the small things that get under you skin and then we’ll feel more peaceful – what a sane solution! I love it.
Angela Artemis´s last [type] ..Intuition- Developing X-Ray Vision &amp A Remote Viewing Experiment

Leah McClellan

Thanks Angela, Great comparison to Feng Shui. A disorderly, disorganized home–without even getting into placement and all that–is definitely not any friend to a peaceful mind.

I have such a hard time concentrating on anything when I have little stuff bugging me!

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