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7 ways to de-clutter your life

Calm the chaos to get more out of your life.

Your house looks like the aftermath of a hurricane, and your weekly calendar is so full of meetings and activities your family has to book time with you months in advance. You don’t remember what your best friend looks like, and you haven’t been to the gym in months. Does this sound like you? Use these seven tips to calm the chaos and find simplicity again:

1. Know when you’re overwhelmed.

The first step is recognizing when things have gotten out of control, says Paul Fornell, MS, LPCC, a mental health counselor with more than 30 years’ experience who teaches graduate programs in counseling at University of Phoenix. “When the basics of your life are completely out of whack, it’s a sign of an unhealthy behavior pattern,” he adds. “Awareness is the first step towards fixing it.”

2. Take care of yourself first.

Making self-care a priority isn’t selfish, it’s a necessity, says Marilynn Irvine, PhD, a licensed marriage and family therapist who also serves as lead faculty area chair for counseling programs within the College of Social Sciences at University of Phoenix. “When we make the time to clean up our physical space and engage in self-care, we are also reclaiming sections of our lives and reminding ourselves and others that our own needs are important.”

3. Find and share space.

Whether it’s clearing out the clutter or rearranging the furniture, having neat and open spaces is healthy — and it also shows respect to others, according to Irvine. “Typically our external environments mirror our internal environments,” she says. “The more chaotic our lives are on the inside, the more this is likely to be reflected in clutter and disorganization in our homes. When you are sharing space with others, the agreement to clean up that space is also experienced as a renewed commitment to the relationship.”

4. Learn to say ‘no’.

Trying to be all things to all people is a surefire way to fail at everything and watch your life spin out of control, Fornell says. “Saying ‘yes’ to everyone is an attempt to fill some sort of emotional void, which never works out for you,” he says. “The question you should always ask yourself is, ‘are these my choices or somebody else’s?’”

5. Kick the bad habits.

Smoking, overeating, spending too much time on the Internet, and compulsive spending can all wreck your health and contribute to poor life balance. These are all unhealthy pursuits, which might feel good for a short time, but will do long-term damage, according to Irvine. “Caring about one’s self and the state of your overall health is needed to push back against these types of ‘quick fix’ enticements,” she says.

6. Ditch the “frenemies.”

Sometimes ending a friendship can be healthy, Irvine says. “If you come away from an interaction with a person feeling more depleted from the exchange than when you started, it’s not a healthy investment of your time and energy,” she adds. “Focus instead on nurturing the relationships that make your life experiences richer and more energized.”

7. Find balance.

“Take time to breathe deeply, soak in sensory beauty and experience pleasure through art, nature, exercise, massage, rest, laughter and play,” says Irvine. “Guard your personal and family time. Schedule it and hold those times as sacred. You will be justly rewarded for the effort.”

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