For something that the majority of Americans struggle with, we really should be talking more about clutter. Especially since over half of Americans are overwhelmed by it.
Whether it’s contributing to the overall space of the home, or hidden in a closet somewhere, our clutter has a negative impact on our overall happiness and our mental health.
Living around and amongst clutter adds to our general level of stress, even without us knowing it. This constant stress is actually our fight or flight response which releases the stress hormone, cortisol.
It’s a helpful hormone when we need to be alert or are in sudden danger, but having our bodies constantly responding to a stressor like clutter can cause unwanted effects on our mental health.
Being surrounded by clutter is a constant reminder of what we need to do. This causes our body to release varying amounts of cortisol in response to our stress. This constant low-grade fight or flight response of stress taxes our body’s resources and leads to anxiety, depression, and a weakened immune system.
The overwhelming feeling of clutter also activates our body’s natural coping mechanisms which can express themselves by “shutting down” or consuming more. One controlled study found that when participants felt out of control (by a cluttered, chaotic environment), they were more likely to consume unhealthy snacks. Being stressed by our clutter, then needing to cope with it can be a dangerous cycle until we make the conscious effort to break it.
Our brains can only visually process a few things at a time. So when we’re surrounded by visual cues that activate our attention, it deflects our brain’s attention. We might not even be aware of the deflection, but it still pulls energy away from our focus and decreases our productivity in the task at hand.
Your mental health is sacred, and providing a safe and peaceful space can help lower your stress and protect your mental health.
Here are some suggestions to declutter your space for good:
It’s easy to want to just dismantle the mess and attack it all at once, but realistically, it’s more likely we’ll keep putting it off until we find the time to do that.
Instead, declutter your spaces room by room. Put out four boxes of things to keep, store, donate, or toss. When you integrate the things to keep and store, choose an intentional space for every single item to belong and keep it there.
Don’t move on to the next space until that room is 100% complete, and don’t let anything stay in the “I’ll find a place for this” stage. This is the hardest part, but it’s going to feel so great when you’re done!
In both decluttering and maintaining a clutter-free home, it’s a daily practice.
When you’re decluttering, continually work on each room with patience and compassion with yourself. Progress is progress. Even if it’s taking longer than you thought it would, it’s better than the alternative.
Once your space is decluttered, it can only stay that way with daily maintenance (which is a lot less work when everything has a place and nothing piles up).
Be in the practice of not putting things off. If you do need to delay addressing a task, make a scheduled time the next day to handle it and don’t let anything else interfere with that time slot.
With a truly decluttered and maintained space, we want to keep it that way!
Before you get something new, know exactly where it’s going to go. Make the space for it before purchasing a new item. That might mean donating or selling something else that’s in that place.