5 Simple Steps to Do a Spring Cleaning on Your To-Do List


With the official start of spring finally here, you might be feeling the urge to pull out your rubber gloves, roll up your sleeves, and give your living space a good top to bottom scrubbing. And why not? Clearing out the clutter helps us prepare to enjoy the warm and hopefully productive months to come.

But as bullet journal creator Ryder Carroll pointed out on the TED Ideas blog recently, if you’re hoping going wild with the bleach will help you mentally reset, you’re going to be disappointed. Sure, de-cluttering your house is a great step, but if you really want a fresh outlook, you have to de-clutter your mind too.

How to do a mental spring cleaning

“Do you ever feel like your mind is one big, infinitely scrolling, incredibly cluttered to-do list? And are you always struggling to keep it updated, remember what’s on it, readjust its priorities, and delete what no longer serves you?” asks Hailey Reissman in the introduction to her post on Carroll’s prescription for a mental clear-out.

If you’re nodding yes, then you need to proceed the same way you would if stuff tumbled out of your overstuffed closets every time you opened the door: Take everything out, lay it in front of you, and sort the valuable bits from the discard-worthy junk.

What’s the best way to Kondo your mind this way? Carroll recommends a simple, old-fashioned, but highly effective tool: a journal.

“We have to externalize our thoughts to de-clutter our mind,” Carroll explains. “Holding thoughts in your mind is like trying to grasp water–it’s nearly impossible. But by writing down our thoughts, we can capture them clearly so we can work with them later.”

His personal solution is the somewhat complicated but wildly popular bullet journal, where you use color codes, indexes, and other visual cues to thoroughly hose down every nook and cranny of your crowded mind. But if this seems too fiddly for you, fear not. You don’t need to follow any specific journal format to do a mentally cleanse. You just have to commit to getting it all out and sorted through in whatever manner works best for you.

Here’s the five simple steps Carroll recommends everyone follow:

  1. Create a mental inventory. “Write down the things that you need to do, the things that you should be doing, and the things that you want to do,” Carroll instructs.

  2. Consider why you’re doing each of these things. “We burden ourselves with unnecessary responsibilities all the time,” Carroll says. “We’re so distracted by all the things we should be doing and could be doing, but we completely forget to ask ourselves: ‘Do I even want to be doing those things?'”

  3. Ask: “Is it vital?” and “Does it matter to me or someone I love?” “If your answer is no to both of those, you’ve just identified a distraction, and you can cross it off your list.”

  4. Divvy up what’s left. Now that you’ve whittled down your mental clutter to things that you have to do and things that matter, break each big project down into small, actionable steps.

  5. Spend time every day revising your inventory. If you only have five minutes, five minutes is enough. “We have to dedicate ourselves to a habit of keeping that map updated with all the new things that we discover. If we don’t, our map becomes inaccurate and we start to go off course. We drift, and all of a sudden, distractions start leaking back into our lives.”