Regardless of its size, there’s one thing I do before starting any project at home. It might be fixing something on my workbench in the garage, whipping up a batch of lemon bars, or sitting down at my computer to write this essay.

The one thing I do every time is clear my workspace.

And it is not just clearing a space to work. I mean a full clearing. This means putting all the tools back where they belong, clearing the countertop of dirty dishes (and washing the dishes in the sink), and putting away all the loose papers and pens.

I need it all clear and then I can get to work. This is because with any project I start, I know I will be making another mess. And one mess on top of another is, well, a really big mess.

Clearing Our Mental Workspace

I started to apply this same idea to my mental space. Before moving ahead on something, I take stock of what’s going on inside my head and ask, “Do I have a clear space or is there a something in the way that needs attention first?”

Just like there are suggestions on how to rid ourselves of clutter in our homes, I have two ways that I tidy things up in my head.

Lower Expectations

A study released a few years ago from the University College of London showed a correlation between happiness and low expectations. The thought is when we expect less, the “bar” is set low. Therefore, most outcomes will exceed our expectation. And how do we feel when our expectations are exceeded? For me, I feel pretty good.

We should not allow consistent disappointment, based on our expectations of people or situations, to affect our mental state.

When you think about the times you’ve been let down, or perhaps let someone else down, it’s usually accompanied with the thought of “this is not what I expected from you.” While our bars of expectation should not be set so low you could drive right over them; it is a reminder to set realistic expectations for ourselves and others.

Consider parents seeing their newborn take its first steps. Those few steps are all that is expected. There’s no disappointment because the child didn’t walk around the house, run down the hallway, or climb a set of stairs. The small expectation of actual baby steps was enough.

For myself, I’ve set fewer expectations and also committed to working harder at them. This can be as simple as creating a to-do list for the day that is more manageable. For instance, having five “must complete items” vs. 10. Completing those five items leaves me feeling accomplished instead of disappointed I didn’t finish everything.

Clearing our heads of abundant expectations clears a path for happiness.

Eliminate Excuses and Blame

When things don’t go our way, it’s easy to place fault everywhere except ourself. The best example I have is my struggle in booking clients for my DJ service. This is especially prevalent when it comes to my wedding DJ service.

I offer a premium service when it comes to weddings, and therefore, my price tag reflects that. When people reach out to me and do not book me, they sometimes note that I’m “out of their budget.” That phrase was making me extremely frustrated.

In my head, I would think, “why do they not understand that quality comes with a price?” Other times, people would decline without any explanation, and I would assume that it had to do with pricing.

I would often place blame on other DJs for charging too little, or wedding articles that provide budget numbers suggesting how much DJs typically charge — it’s usually less than I charge.

A conversation with a friend made me realize I was making excuses and misplacing blame. Deep down, it was not about their allocated budget or how my prices compared to others and market value. In the end, the failure to convert is my failure.

The phrase “out of our budget” really means “you did not convey your value enough for us to hire you.” That change of thinking — the decluttering of excuses and blame in my head — have changed my whole approach to potential clients.

Rather than wasting mental energy on excuses, I now focus on being better and working harder to make others believe in the value I can bring to their event. I already strongly believe in myself; I just need to have others believe in the same way.

Decluttering to Create Headspace

While decluttering our physical spaces leaves us with labeled storage bins, a place for everything, and a house full of items that spark joy. Decluttering our mental spaces is imperative too.

As I mentioned earlier, if I didn’t start with a clean slate before cooking dinner, there would be a growing pile of mixing bowls, utensils and pots littered around the kitchen. This makes cooking a chore and not an enjoyable experience (which I do genuinely enjoy).

The same goes for piling up all that negative energy and thoughts in our heads. Clean it up, consistently, and see if an uncluttered mental space brings as much satisfaction as an uncluttered physical space.

Photo by Dustin Dagamac on Unsplash

Before starting any project, Justin Kanoya always clears his workspace. He makes a case for the importance of Clearing Our Mental Workspace too.