Generally speaking, cultures from across the world have an innate ability to maintain an uncluttered home. They simply don’t have the need to accumulate a bunch of unnecessary items. Because of this, they live a simpler and more balanced way of life. Less clutter equals less stress. However, here in the states, we tend to equate status and wealth with more and more stuff. We also tend to hold onto things after a loss or stressful time in our lives as a way of holding onto a deceased loved one or a missed opportunity. This leaves us feeling scattered, stressed out and unhappy; which can effect our mental health and overall happiness.
If we wish to achieve a simpler and less stressful way of life, we first need to get rid of all the things that are holding us back, overwhelming us and depleting our mental health.
If you’re unsure of whether or not it’s time to declutter for a little piece of “om”, take this short quiz.
You own items that no longer bring you joy.
You don’t let things go because you’re emotionally attached.
You have an entire room or dresser filled with items you never use, let alone know what exists inside.
You have more than one junk drawer.
Instead of decluttering, you buy more stuff to “organize” your existing stuff.
You are overwhelmed at the thought of starting to declutter your space because you feel as if you have too much to clear out.
You worry that if you get rid of something that you may need it some day in the future.
Things from one room are spilling out into other rooms.
You’ve been late on a bill because you’ve misplaced it.
You have no place to put away your clothes. So they end up on the floor or on top of your dresser.
It is a challenge to park your car in your garage due to an overflow of clutter.
It takes you twice as long to find something because you can’t find what you’re looking for.
Your night stand is covered with stuff.
You wish you had extra room to store more stuff
You’ve considered renting a storage locker.
You feel stressed out or embarrassed at the thought of friends coming over because you have so much stuff to hide away.
You have a difficult time determining where to start the decluttering process, so you don’t even start.
You have to move things before sitting down.
If you answered yes to less than 3, you may be lucky to have a neat and tidy abode, in which case -- congratulations! I can feel the smile beaming from you already. Yet if you answered yes to more than 3 of these, it’s time to get to work.
Many of us are guilty of owning too much stuff. That cupboard full of pots and pans from your mom, the old china given to you by your grandma, the boxes of half broken crayons and dried out glue bottles from your little ones. We have become a country of hoarders, because we are so attached to things as bringing us value or holding memories. Maybe you bought something you thought you needed at some point and then never got around to using it. Now you don’t even need it, yet think maybe, just maybe, I’ll use it some time next month. Yet next month comes around, and then next year, and the same stuff is still sitting there.
Making time to declutter, creates more time to enjoy what really matters.
When our space is cluttered and in disarray, it can also effect our mental health. When clients of mine are struggling with depression or anxiety, they tend to experience an increase in clutter. They are too exhausted to clean up after themselves, or too stressed to even begin to think about picking up or organizing anything. Their mental health then suffers even more, because their place of rest is in a state of disaster. Clutter makes it hard to relax and can also inhibit our creativity, which helps us with day to day tasks and problem solving.
So, while de-cluttering may feel overwhelming, it is not impossible -- it can also be incredibly therapeutic. Making space for yourself can ease financial burdens (you may find something you didn’t remember having, like a $20 bill), emotional stress (letting go can feel so good), and physical stagnation (when you organize, you move your body).
So, let’s get started!
Here are 10 easy ways to help make your space feel less scattered and you less stressed.
1. Create an organization list. Write down what needs to be tackled and check things off as you go. It’s so satisfying to see everything you have accomplished on your list.
2. Give yourself 15 minutes each day to organize. A little bit of de-cluttering goes a long way towards your de-cluttering goals (this is also true in life). Playing a bit of music while you organize can also provide the additional benefits of stress relief.
3. Go through one room at a time. If you’re moving from one room to another, your piles will become just one more mess to clean up and you will start to feel overwhelmed.
4. Designate boxes into three categories: keep, toss, donate. This keeps you going and as soon as one box fills up, take it to your car for a donation drop off or outside for disposal. Make sure to keep the puppy.
5. Reduce clutter areas. We all know about the table that accumulates bills, homework, school projects and art creations, or the bin by the door that hasn’t been gone through in over a year. Dedicate a space for each item in your home, such as a bin for each child’s homework, a dedicated corner of the room to store art supplies and creations, and a mail sorter on your office desk for bills. If it doesn’t have a place, it’s time to let it go.
6. Clean out your closet. Take everything out. You heard me. Take everything out. Put everything back in order of preference. Anything that doesn’t make you feel fabulous when you wear it, donate it to someone who will. For some of you, this may take an entire day, but the result is a happier and more confident you.
7. Make a memory box. There are just some things that are too precious to throw away. For me, it’s my children’s art work. For others it may be concert tickets, letters from a loved one, or photos. Each of my children have a memory box. It’s where they keep their dried up flowers from grandpa, cool rocks, vacation photos, award ribbons, etc., and it’s all contained in one tiny box. This means only the truly special items get a home.
8. Keep a basket by the stairs for items that need to go up into other areas of the home. This is especially helpful for children’s toys, books or toiletries from the store that need to get put away in bedrooms of the upstairs storage closet.
9. Touch it once, then be done. When getting the mail, place any junk mail immediately in the recycling bin and sort the rest as soon as it arrives by filing it away or placing it in the pile of bills. Same goes for children’s school stuff. Get them in a routine to put their items away and place any papers that parents need to be signed in a designated bin. This saves you time and energy trying to find things later.
10. Remember the “one in, one out” rule. If one item comes in, another item goes out. This is especially true over the holidays. We make a donation bin with all of the kid’s outgrown clothes and toys at the end of each year. This gets us ready for the holidays and helps us make space for new items to come in. We also do this before birthdays and right before summer, packing things up and gifting them to others that need the items most. Plus, giving to those in need provides you with a healthy boost of the feel good chemical serotonin, which contributes to your overall well-being and happiness.
If you or someone you know is struggling with a mental health disorder, visit the National Alliance on Mental Illness website for valuable resources to find help and support, or call the toll-free helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264).