Let’s talk about some very good reasons to declutter your space, your time, and your mind.
Decluttering can lead to better peace of mind and free up time for what really matters
Maybe it’s just me, but this time of year I am thinking about simplifying my life, which in my case led me to think more about decluttering–purging my space, my schedule, and my mind of stuff that’s not adding value to my life.
We’ve talked about dealing with clutter in previous episodes. Check out, for example, episode 163, where we talked about Clutter, Stress & Simplicity, episode 83, where I talked about The Art of Decluttering with friends and fellow podcasters in France and Israel, and episode 277, where we looked at 10 Things to Declutter. We’ll link to these episodes–and others where we talked about clutter–in the show notes in case you’re looking for more inspiration.
This week, let’s take a very quick look at some good reasons to declutter. I’m mostly talking about decluttering our physical space, but the same applies to our digital life, our calendars, and every other area of our life in a day and age where “more is better” seems to be the guiding principle.
What is clutter?
“Clutter is not just the stuff on your floor, it’s anything that stands between you and the life you want to be living.” ~ Peter Walsh
Decluttering doesn’t require you to get rid of everything and live in sparse, spartan surroundings or even to become a minimalist. Maybe a better way to think of it is simplifying your life by simplifying your space.
Remember, too, that one woman’s clutter is another woman’s treasure. In other words, whether something constitutes clutter is very situational, depending on the person and the circumstances.
9 good reasons to declutter
One: You’ll save time for what matters most to you
The less stuff you own, the less time you have to spend caring for it, cleaning it, moving it to clean around and under it, looking for it
Two: You can foster peace of mind, even in a busy life
Consider the impact of cluttered space on our minds. An article on an Australian website for physicians discussed various studies regarding the effects of clutter on our minds:
“The visual distraction of clutter increases cognitive overload and can reduce our working memory.”
“Clutter can make us feel stressed, anxious and depressed. Research from the United States in 2009, for instance, found the levels of the stress hormone cortisol were higher in mothers whose home environment was cluttered.
A chronically cluttered home environment can lead to a constant low-grade fight or flight response, taxing our resources designed for survival.
This response can trigger physical and psychological changes that affect how we fight bugs and digest food, as well as leaving us at greater risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease.”
. . .
People who sleep in cluttered rooms are more likely to have sleep problems, including difficulty falling asleep and being disturbed during the night.”
All of this dissipates when our space is less cluttered.
Another way decluttering is good for your peace of mind is the way it helps avoid decision fatigue (because the less stuff you have, the fewer decisions you have to make about “stuff”).
One perfect example: If your closet is stuffed full of clothes (whether or not everything fits and is in good shape), you’ll spend more time deciding what to wear each day than if you have a more curated wardrobe of only things that fit, look good on you, and so on.
Three: You’ll have greater enjoyment of the things you have
From the Australian article I mentioned earlier: “Research does indeed show cluttered home environments negatively influence the perception of our homes, and ultimately our satisfaction of life. The study authors note the strong effect is because we define ‘home’ not just as a place to live, but as: ‘The broader constellation of experiences, meanings, and situations that shape and are actively shaped by a person in the creation of his or her lifeworld.’”
When we have lots of stuff, each individual item can get lost in the mass. Consider the impact of one excellent, beautiful painting on a wall in the place of many pieces of art. Think of the idea of less but better–in belongings, in activities, etc.
Four: You’ll create safer space
One article puts it this way: “It has been proven, sometimes the hard way, that cluttered homes can be unsafe. It is hard to fully enjoy our home life if boxes tumble down from shelves or we stub toes walking down hallways. When clutter takes over we find ourselves buying more boxes, adding more shelves and storing stuff up and out into what should be living space. Don’t wait until a box falls on your head to start your decluttering habit. Safety first, now is the time to put your boxes and bags to good use by filling them up with clothing, shoes, linens, toys, books and all that other stuff you have not used in a long time.”
Five: You’ll be more efficient and productive
Less distraction = improved focus (“Our brains can only focus on a limited amount of stimuli at a time” [from The Negative Impact of Clutter on Mental Health])
The same article cites research showing that “people with cluttered homes tend to procrastinate on important tasks.” This likely because of the difficulty in overcoming the friction that results from having to dig through clutter to find the items needed to complete the tasks.
Having a place for everything and everything in its place contributes to efficiency in completing tasks. You don’t waste time looking for the tools, supplies, materials, etc., you need to accomplish your task. It’s easier to achieve this if you have less stuff.
Six: You’ll experience reduced stress
Studies cited in various sources found that “ women who reported more clutter in their homes had higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol throughout the day compared to women who had less clutter.”
Another article cites “Dr. Robert London, a New York City-based mental health professional, who says:
“Clutter leads to anxiety, embarrassment, family stresses… When you relieve the problem and learn to throw things away, you feel better.” If you have ever felt anxiety rise at the thought of guests coming over, you know what the doctor is talking about. Anxiety can rise when we open a messy closet door or take a look in our garages. Science has shown that unnecessary stress and anxiety can lead to unforeseen health issues.”
Seven: It’s better for the environment
In general, when we consume less stuff, it’s better for conserving finite resources. By donating the things you purge you make them available to others who will use them, thus improving their life as well as yours. If you donate to a charity that serves those in need, even better: e.g., clothing to an organization that serves women who’ve experienced domestic violence.
Eight: It can improve relationships
From that Australian article:
“Clutter might also have implications for our relationships with those around us. A 2016 US study, for instance, found background clutter resulted in participants being less able to correctly interpret the emotional expressions on the faces of characters in a movie.”
At minimum, we’ll have fewer conflicts with spouses, partners, and roommates over clutter-related disagreements. (“You have too much stuff taking up too much space.”)
Nine: You’ll save money
If you’re not accumulating more stuff, you’re not spending as much money. (And if you sell some of the excess, that’s money in your pocket.)
You can also save money when you don’t need as much space:
- smaller house or office
- you don’t have to pay for outside storage–as nearly 40% of Americans do, according to some studies, providing around $38,000,000 in annual revenues to the self-storage industry, 80% of that coming from households, rather than businesses; interestingly, Gen X most likely to use self-storage units, followed by Boomers; this doesn’t account for all the stuff people store at other places–like their parents’ attics or an extra storage shed in the back yard–or the garage, so full that you can’t park a car there)
If you move, it costs less to move less stuff–which is why so often people start to get rid of stuff when they’re preparing to move. Why not enjoy the spaciousness now?
Some final thought
According to an article on WebMD, benefits of decluttering include better focus, higher self-esteem, better relationships, lower risk of asthma and allergies, and generally improved lifestyle and well-being.
Please note that when I talk about decluttering I’m not saying you personally have to get rid of a single thing. If you enjoy your space (and your schedule) and are content with how you feel in your space and your life, then celebrate that!
But if you’ve felt stressed or frustrated or overwhelmed in any of the areas we’ve talked about, it might be worth taking a look at your space and your calendar and considering whether some level of purging might help. If so, remember you can start small and see how it feels as you go.
“Decluttering your life changes more than the way your home looks and feels. It makes space for your soul to discover that your happiness never was found in all that excess stuff.” ~ Julia Ubbenga (Rich in What Matters)
What do you think?
Resources and Links
- TPW163 – Clutter, Stress & Simplicity
- TPW83 –The Art of Decluttering
- TPW277 – 10 Things to Declutter
- Clean Your Space, Boost Your Mood: 10 Stress-Free Ways to Declutter
- 8 Closet Organization Tips For Seniors
- 10 Important Reasons to Declutter • Terra Movement | An Artivist Hub
- 10 Reasons to Declutter Your Home – BALANCE THROUGH SIMPLICITY
- Research Into the Negative Effects of Clutter – BALANCE THROUGH SIMPLICITY
- How Decluttering Can Reduce Stress and Improve Focus
- $38 billion is spent yearly on self-storage | The Gazette
- Over 20 Percent of Americans Use Self Storage, Are You One of Them? – MishTalk
- 1 in 5 Americans rent self storage units, study finds
- Survey: Almost 40% of People Use Self Storage | StorageCafe
- Rich in What Matters blog (Julia Ubbenga)
- RACGP – What does clutter do to your brain and body?
- 6 Reasons Why Decluttering Improves Your Life – Pickup Please
- Clutter and Mental Health: What’s the Connection?
- Less Stuff: 10 Reasons Why Owning Less Will Make You Happier – Minimalism Made Simple
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Royse City, Texas