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Someone shared the concept of mental decluttering with me about two years ago, and it has been one of the most helpful parenting/adulthood tips I have ever received!

The dictionary definition of decluttering is “the removal of unnecessary items from an untidy or overcrowded space.” Mental decluttering is the same concept, but the untidy or overloaded space is an intangible one.

As a mom, my thoughts are often messy or overcrowded. When I first heard the concept, I thought, “I could really use the removal of some extraneous ‘To Dos’ from my day.” What mother of preschoolers wouldn’t think that?! However, with motherhood, it isn’t as easy as simply cutting out tasks because, let’s face it, who else is going to do them? Lunches still have to be made, toilets still have to be scrubbed, and work still requires that I actually do the job I was hired to do.

Rather than removing actual tasks, the goal is to make tasks quicker and easier without using much mental capacity. For example, a friend has a baby or their dad passes away and you need to bring them a meal. Without evening thinking about it you are taking them chicken tacos with black beans and rice. It can easily become gluten or dairy free if needed and is both toddler-friendly and delicious, so that is your “go to” meal. You declutter some of your mental space by eliminating the work of evaluating all the factors and figuring out what you are going to bring each time that situation occurs.

Another example would be that you buy the same teacher gifts every year. For example:

  • You provide a gift card to Door Dash for your child’s teacher the first weekend after school starts because you know he or she will be exhausted by Friday and won’t want to bother with cooking.
  • At Christmas, you always provide a gift card to their favorite store, a Christmas candle, and a handwritten note.
  • For teacher appreciation week, you send a tea cup filled with tea/coffee and a gift card saying thanks for being and awesome “tea”cher!

The point is that you do the same thing each year so you don’t have to give mental space to coming up with new ideas year after year.

A similar idea is with birthday party presents. We have a “gift closet” (which is really just a box at the back of my kids’ closet). Whenever I find a good deal (I’m looking at you, Cyber Monday) on toys/gifts appropriate for my kids’ friends, I will buy a bunch and stock the gift closet. When that birthday party invitation pops up, I don’t have to scramble and think about the perfect gift AND go find it – I just send the invited child up to the gift closet to pick out something for their friend.

There are so many areas of our mental capacity that we can free up if we look for ways to declutter. The examples I gave may not be areas that take up much mental space for you, but surely there are other areas that you can clean up mentally to allow for more freedom in your busy life with kiddos.

We’d love to hear more examples of areas that you mentally declutter! Please share them with all of us so that we can help one another as we all seek to be more engaged and less distracted parents!

-Kara R, Marketing Director

A mom of a preschooler and toddler balances work and mothering.