How Basic Mindfulness Skills Can Help You Declutter

a grpahic image of a lady with long black hair wearing a blue top - the top of her head is open and there is a joyous colorful scene of 2 people tending to an overflowing garden in her head.

I will show you how using a few basic mindfulness skills can help you declutter your physical and mental space. I am talking about really simple stuff here, nothing complicated or woo-woo, out there kinda stuff. By borrowing some tips from a tried and true mindfulness practice you will learn to declutter like us professionals.

The reason I am a fan of mindfulness techniques is because I found that using some basic mindfulness skills to change my thinking made me feel a whole lot better than the old way I had of looking at things.

For example, a long time ago I would complain about how much I hated paying my mortgage each month. My thinking was I would have some extra money if I didn’t have to send in a mortgage payment each month.

a graphic image of a sweet pink house with a dark pink emblem above the curved brown front door and pink hearts floating out of the chimney

One day it occurred to me how lucky I am to be able to own a piece of the American dream. I realized I could stop paying my mortgage anytime I wanted to although the fallout from such would be less to my liking than paying the mortgage every month. See what I mean?

Changing my mind about how I looked at paying my mortgage made all the difference. That was my first realization about how my thinking could change my outlook and attitude. I decided to run with this example and see what else I could change.


The basic tenets of mindfulness are observe, describe and participate using your all your senses. The 5 senses are touch, sight, hearing, smell and taste.


Because I am a Type A recovering perfectionist workaholic with urges to multi-task I practice doing one thing at a time. Once a day, I stand at my kitchen sink and wash any dishes in the kitchen sink. Yes I have a dishwasher.

a pair of hands over a sink with running water and sudsing a coffee mug while washing

I deliberately let anything I use during the day pile up in the sink so I can have my practice time. This practice helps to remind me I only have one pair of hands and they are presently wet and can only do the one task at hand. In this instance the task is dishwashing.

A core component of mindfulness is to observe what is in front of you. Simply use all your senses to describe what you see, without judgement.

I let go of thoughts unrelated to this one thing, to stay in the current moment of dishwashing. In fact I recite a mantra. Being ‘all in’ to my present experience is a powerful way to achieve any goal.

This exercise works well for me which is why I practice it. By practicing I am sure to be reminded to observe the important stuff.

colorful cards tacked to a cork board spelling out the word practice


The thing about my strategy is it is simple and requires nothing from me except to be present in washing what is in the sink. There are no overwhelming emotions and it is easy to focus on washing a few things in the kitchen sink.

I am not judging how the stuff got in the sink, I have accepted there are dishes in the sink and they need to be washed. No judgment. No stress that I won’t get the act of dishwashing right. By focusing on what I am doing I can precisely describe, in vivid color what I am doing.

We’ve all been there, all stressed out when we are trying to do some things, especially for the first time. It is magical how much easier tasks are when I am fully present and not distracted, especially by trying to multi-task.

Negative emotions seem to vanish when I am present and I am more confident I will succeed.

Participate – jump all in!

The best way to learn a new thing is to immerse yourself in the subject matter because this gives you a high level of focus.

a young boy jumping into an inground pool filled with sparkling blue water

I love to jump right into a subject or new project that I know nothing about! Jumping in the deep end and immersing yourself in whatever is in front of you eliminates the opportunity to multi-task.

You have likely read all the reasons multi-tasking is not a good or helpful idea.

I felt like a winner when I was reading this article written in the Stanford University publication because I have always engaged in the one form of multi-tasking that can reap benefits!

You know how you drive home and you have no recollection of having driven home? This is the opposite of participating.

Emotional regulation

When people tell me they want to declutter and feel too overwhelmed to declutter what they are telling me is this. They are in a cluttered mess and don’t know how to change the situation because they don’t know what they want. People also report they don’t know where to start decluttering for this reason.

Often the reason people are stuck is that they don’t know what they want. If you don’t know what you want knowing what to keep and discard would be a very difficult task. It would be like going on a road trip without an address and directions.

Journaling is a great tool to use to learn what you want.

You know you want to get rid of stuff though you don’t know what stuff you want to be free of and part of the reason is you don’t know what you want. If you have decided you never want to cook again there is no reason to keep your collection of cookware.

a graohic image of a 2 lane paved road with points mapped out.

Before starting your decluttering journey take the time to learn what you want. most people know what they ‘don’t’ want. Answering the question ‘what do you want’ is not often on the tip of your tongue. Sometimes you have to dig for the answers.


If I had to move today I know the few things I would take with me and I would discard the rest. If you love clothes and want to have closets bursting with clothes this is what you want. Living minimally is a choice too.

Make up your mind before you begin to lay out a decluttering plan. When you know what you want you will be able to devote your full attention to decluttering.

What is Mindfulness?

In the words of the renowned meditation teacher, Jon Kabat-Zinn, mindfulness is “awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.”

We can be fully present. Did you ever wonder why you react well and appropriately during times of crisis and not fall apart until the event passes?

Even so it can be challenging to:

  • Not be effected negatively by the events taking place around us
  •  Not get stuck in the past with regrets or fears about the future
  •  Be present where we are, and stay aware of what our goal is
  •  Not get sucked into all the outside stimuli

Mindfulness exercises bring us back to what we already possess. They can ground and center us and put us in touch with our deepest selves.

Body scanning

Shavasana is the resting and restorative pose used at the end of each yoga class. I used to think I loved this pose because it was indicative the class was over. This never squared though with me because I love practicing yoga.

Shavasana is simply doing a body scan. I realized long ago this practice will be helpful outside a yoga class too, even while walking.

a  lady laying down in on the green grass in a park wearing purple and black work out gear

I love Shavasana so much I use this practice when I close my eyes at night. Sleep usually finds me before I have scanned my whole body. I also turn to a brisk walk to reset frustrating moments in my day into a mindful walking exercise by employing the same Shavasana body scan.

What shavasana does for me is allow me to zoom in on each specific part of my body. When I find tension I know how to release it. A body scan allows me to feel exactly what is going on.

This is a powerful tool for me because I feel in control. If I am taking the temperature of my scrunched up forehead and this is due to stress I can release the stress and relax my forehead. 

I have not found a more awesome and powerful technique. I go through each part of my body like I was taught to do while in my yoga class.

You may be asking what all this has to do with decluttering.

It is valuable when undertaking a decluttering job to become aware and accept the present condition exactly as it is. Do not judge the cluttered situation. You are cluttered (awareness) and you need to accept this.

We all experience life’s challenges in our daily routine, with difficult emotions and feelings from time to time. There are different ways to mitigate these trying times.

For me using a breathing exercise and accepting my current situation for exactly what it is are effective ways for me to assess where I am and a great place to start to learn what the next right thing is that I need to do.

I don’t need to waste a bunch of energy bemoaning the fact my dog ate my homework. I can use the energy to simply reproduce my homework.

a person's pair of feet in yellow sneakers and green cuffed pant legs showing a person walking

Oh! And the multi-tasking technique I intuitively know to use that rates high in Stanford’s publication is when I am frustrated I unplug, go for a brisk walk, and mull over my options for whatever obstacle is in my path. At the end of my walk, I always know what direction to take!

​Using simple mindfulness techniques, and knowing what you want before you start decluttering will save you a whole bunch of angst and time. If you experience anxiety thinking about decluttering you will find knowing what you want to be a helpful step before you start the decluttering process.

Of course, any of life’s frustrations can only be helped with the help of simple mindfulness techniques.

Help yourself to to a quick start guide on how to declutter kitchen things!

For more articles about smart decluttering check out Declutterbuzz!


Marj Bates is a life long ridiculously organized declutter-er and artist. Less is more are words Marj lives by in everything she does except collecting dogs. “Dogs are like potato chips! Can’t have just one.” says Marj. Marj wonders if growing up with a fanatically clean Jewish mom means her decluttering and organizational skills are in her blood.

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