How to Organize Your Mental Clutter

There has been a big push in the last few years to de-clutter our homes and organize our physical spaces.

There have been many, myself included, that can attest to the positive effects of decreasing physical clutter and creating an organizational system that works for you.

But what about our mental clutter?

Mental clutter includes all those pesky to-dos, appointments, and schedules that are constantly running through our minds.

Our mental clutter consists of all those things that are completed silently and without celebration but are what keep our family’s lives flowing easily from day to day.

If you talk with any mom they will tell you that often this form of clutter is the hardest to deal with and the greatest cause of stress and anxiety.

But why?

The thing about physical clutter is that it usually has limits and can be relatively contained. For instance, a cluttered playroom doesn’t usually create so much clutter that it spills into our front yards.

And thankfully, even if there are a lot of toys, the number of toys cluttering the playroom does have an end. We can put a bit of work into the room and other than some general maintenance, the job is pretty much done.

Unfortunately, mental clutter doesn’t work that way. Mental clutter is everything unseen that keeps our family’s life going smoothly each day. And because this involves living people, the load is in many ways, never-ending.

the mental load of motherhood

From sports and school schedules to doctor appointments to meal planning and grocery shopping to know when it is time to buy new clothes for ever-growing little ones. These are just a few examples of the constant to-dos that are falling on the shoulders of mothers everywhere.

Added to these day-to-day to-dos is also a whole host of emotional things moms handle every day. The constant pressure from society to be a certain “type” of mom and the coming and going of mom guilt that we each wrestle with.

All of these things are contributors to burnout, anxiety, overwhelm and stress for moms everywhere. This mental clutter and mental load, when left unaddressed, robs us of valuable, enjoyable time with our people.

How to Organize Your Own Mental Clutter

The good news is, that while the non-physical to-dos of our family’s lives are ever-growing, there are things we can do to improve the load of mental clutter and finally find some peace.

I have touched on this subject before in my previous post 6 Ways to Improve Your Mental Load Today, but I am truly passionate about helping moms overcome their mental load and so today I want to share even more tips.

Related: 6 Ways to Improve Your Mental Load Today

Here are a few of my tried and true tips for making sense of and organizing mental clutter and finding a way out from underneath the stress and load of it all.

1. Start by Clearing the Clutter

Clearing the clutter happens best by completing a brain dump. I have talked about the idea of a brain dump before but I can’t stress enough just how important this step is in organizing your mental clutter.

The thing about mental clutter, just like physical clutter, is that it can become so overwhelming that it actually makes a person feel paralyzed and unable to move forward with organizing.

A brain dump is simply a way to clear out all the clutter and start fresh.

To complete a brain dump, all you need is an empty notebook or sheet of paper and a few minutes of quiet. There is no fancy guide or step-by-step process… just sit down with your clean sheet of paper and write out everything that is floating in your head.

Clear out your mental spaces by putting onto your paper all of your to-dos, worries, fears, projects, wishes, and goals. Everything from household goals to school appointments… it doesn’t matter. Whatever is in your head causing stress and anxiety put it on the paper.

There is often peace associated with putting pen to paper. After you see it all laid out before you, you can begin to organize it all and find some freedom from the clutter.

2. Use a Paper Planner

Now that you’ve cleared the clutter, it is time to organize it. Many swear by the digital planners on phones and tablets these days, I just don’t think they are as valuable as paper for day-to-day life.

Related: Well Planned Daily Planner

The use of our phones and tablets puts us at risk of being distracted by any slew of apps before actually achieving the things that need to be done. And when you are trying to organize all of the mental clutter, wasting time is counterproductive.

When it comes to organizing your mental clutter, I can’t recommend enough using an old-fashioned pen-and-paper planner method.

I recommend using a planner that provides a monthly and weekly view. Each of these views will be helpful in different ways.

3. Make Use of Your Planner’s Monthly View

Use this view to keep track of important dates that can be accessed at a glance. For instance: when bills are due, doctor’s appointments, school functions, etc.

monthly calendar spread

Being able to see your month in advance will help you know what you have planned and will keep you from overbooking yourself.

Related: How to Set Up Your Daily Planner for the Month

4. But Don’t Forget Your Planner’s Weekly/Daily View

Monthly and Daily views give us a great overview of our upcoming life but daily views give us space to create an in-depth plan for our life.

In this space, I recommend using the “Top 3” rule. Top 3 things to accomplish each week and Top 3 things to accomplish each day. By focusing on only 3 things each week and each day, you can eliminate the paralyzing effect of a long to-do list.

The weekly top 3 will usually consist of larger goals than your daily top 3 but maybe not.

Each week come up with your Top 3 things you want to accomplish that week. These need to be the 3 most important things for the week. Maybe it is remembering to pick up snacks for pre-k or finally taking the Christmas ornaments up to the attic. Whatever it is, pick just three things to focus on for the week.

For your daily top 3 pick, the concept is still the same. Pick three things you want to accomplish that day. For daily, it can be as simple as loading the dishwasher or putting away the folded clothes.

Some days will be super productive and you may accomplish more than just three things while other days you may only accomplish one thing. And both are perfectly okay! If you accomplish more than your three, pick a few other things to knock off your list. If you can’t get past one thing, roll the other two over to the next day.

The idea is to keep moving forward on all of your to-dos each day. So any progress is perfect.

5. Keep a Monthly Running To-Do List

You might be asking yourself, “where am I supposed to be getting my Top 3 each week? Well, here it is friend! Your running to-do list!

Inevitably there will be things that pop into your head that you need to do and it will always be at the strangest time. And remember I am a supporter of a pen to paper, so this list provides you a place to put all of your to-dos as soon as they come to mind.

There are no rules with this running to-do list. It can be a part of your planner or it can be a separate notebook. Whatever it is, make it work for you.

When something pops into your mental space that you want to accomplish, don’t tell yourself you will remember later (because you might not and it will frustrate and annoy you)… write it down! Free yourself from having to remember and from the annoyance of not remembering later.

creating a monthly to-do list to help eliminate mental clutter

As you create your weekly and daily top 3, review this list and see what you can cross off each week. When you get to the end of the month, whatever isn’t accomplished, simply roll it over to the next week.

Bonus tip: As you roll things over you might notice that the same thing keeps popping up but not getting accomplished each month. If this is happening take a minute to really evaluate this goal or to-do. Is it truly important to you, or do you feel like you “have to” do it to please someone or something else? If it is more of the latter… consider taking it off your list and freeing yourself of that unhealthy and unhelpful obligation.

6. Create a Household Binder

Creating a household binder provides you a place to keep track of all the necessary bits of paper clutter that often transfer into mental clutter as well.

Using a household binder

From meal planning to grocery shopping to bill payments to household projects, a household binder will provide you with a place to keep all of these things organized.

7. Focus on The Areas That Matter Most to YOU

I read once that the moms of today are experiencing the hardest motherhood journey of any generation before us. The author stated that due to social media and decreased face-to-face human interaction, so many moms are left feeling the weight of society’s expectations but not having the same tribe of supportive women our own mothers did.

This has led to us each filling our plates with extra projects and to-dos because we feel like we have to do these things in order to be good moms to our babies.

But here is the truth… our kids don’t care about perfectly decorated birthday parties, all organic homemade meals, or elaborate sensory tables. Our children only care about having a happy, healthy mom.

So take some time to evaluate what extra things truly make you happy and focus on those alone and let the others go. If you love to create beautiful home-cooked meals but can’t stand the sight of glitter… You do you mama! Don’t feel pressured to create art projects that you and your kiddo both end up hating.

Free yourself of that stress and those added to-dos and focus on what truly makes you happy. Because the fact is we all already have things that don’t bring us joy on our list (hello laundry and dirty dishes), let’s not add anymore!

8. Let it Out

There are components of our mental clutter that can’t be fixed and organized with a planner and forethought. Things such as mom guilt that keeps you up at night. Or loneliness that makes you sad. Or fear of time moving too quickly.

These bits of mental clutter are often hard to talk about and even harder to address. We fear letting those around us see or hear things that make us scared or worried because we are afraid it will make us somehow seem “less than others”.

Mama, I encourage you to let these things out. Whether it is in a journal (something I love to do) or sharing it with your closest girlfriend… let it out. You will see that you are not alone in these thoughts. You will find that you will grow stronger as you work through them.

I have journaled for as long as I can remember and looking back at my entries from when I first stepped into this wonderful world of motherhood, I can see a scared, naive new mom. I am able to see over the years how I have grown as I acknowledge and faced my fears.

After speaking with moms around me, I have found that these things didn’t make me a less successful mom, in fact they are part of everyone’s motherhood journey. And just like we share the good stuff, let’s also support each other in the tough stuff.

9. Take Time to Practice Self Care

We hear it everywhere and for good reason, we all need to start making ourselves a priority.

The fact is, Moms, we are carrying a very heavy load in the family, and just like a hard-working machine needs TLC, so do we. We just can’t pour from an empty cup.

practicing self care

So figure out what fills your cup and without shame make time for it every week. Whether it is a hot bath and quiet time, a good run, or a time in a good book, give yourself permission to prioritize yourself too.

Mental Clutter is a real plague of today’s moms and I am here to share with you that you are not alone! BUT the good news is that are ways to improve that clutter. So give a few of these tips a try and let me know how they work for you. And if you have some awesome tips, feel free to share!


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