Before you read on, it may be worthwhile to note that clutter is in the eyes of the beholder.  Meaning if clutter doesn’t bother you, then it won’t affect you negatively so the rest of this article will be of little help to you.  However, if you’re like me, who is bothered by clutter at home, work, or in your mind, then this article may very well be just the thing you need.

What’s clutter?

Personal possession is important to all of us.  The items we keep say something about who we are, and can store our treasured memories.  They can be a comfort to look at and to behold, and offer us much joy.

However, excessive personal possession i.e. clutter can do the opposite.  Clutter means multiple sets of screw drivers, old newspapers and magazines from 2005, kids toys that haven’t been touched in 2 decades, kitchen appliance that no longer work, clothes that no longer fit or fashionable

How does clutter affect our wellbeing?

In recent years, a number of scientific research has been conducted on the effects of clutter on mental health, personal relationships, and even our attitude towards food!

The results show that excessive clutter can cause feelings of ‘stressed’, ‘imprisoned’ and ‘depressed’.

One study shows that people make unhealthier food choices if you’re in a kitchen that’s cluttered, messy, and disorganised.  Read more about the study here.

Another study found that in couples who lived in ‘cluttered’ homes, the female partner exhibited higher levels of cortisol i.e. a stress hormone.

According to the New York Times, clutter creates inefficiency and procrastination.  If you’re finding yourself constantly leaving it to the last minute to lodge your tax return, or completing an assignment, it could be because of clutter.  The idea of sorting through all your paperwork is simply too overwhelming and daunting that you want to delay it for as long as possible.

Clutter also deters the achievement of many personal goals.  From personal experience, if I wake to a messy kitchen, then I’m much less likely to feel energised about the day because I started the day by cleaning the mess from last night!

Why do we clutter?

The reason why we hold on to lots of things is highly personal.  But some researchers believe that we subconsciously retain clutter in an attempt to avoid other important tasks or actions that would help us fulfil our goals.

Our fear for change keeps us in the status quo, because a clearer space and mind may just give us that psychological boost to get on with positive changes in our lives e.g. getting a new job, re-evaluating relationships, or begin exercising!  Wouldn’t that be exciting?!

Can a little decluttering bring you fresh energy for the new year?

Given the opportunity the new year brings, it may be a great way to kick off the new year with some decluttering at home and work.

Now before we start, it’s important to acknowledge that decluttering isn’t as easy as just throwing things out!  Because if it were simply that, then you would’ve done it already; and no one would have any clutter.

Clutter in our life serves a purpose, and it’s different for each individual.  Until you uncover WHY your clutter exists, anything you do get rid will eventually come back and become clutter again.  Or you may try to get rid of a few things and realise that you can’t bear to part of them.

For some, clutter happens because of the possible rainy day, the ‘just in case’ scenarios play out in their mind every time they want to get rid of something.  For others, clutter happens because they want to hold on to a memory – kids’ old drawings or their toys.  For those, it may be a good idea to hold on to a selection of meaningful items, rather than each and every piece of artwork the kids have done.

So it’s worthwhile asking yourself what do you find hard to let go, and why.

How to tackle decluttering?

Now in the pursuit of feeling lighter and freer, here are some helpful resources to get you going with your decluttering.

When I declutter, I ask myself 3 questions –

  1. Have I used this item in the past 12 months? [Yes – keep.  No – move to the next question.]
  2. If I get rid of it, and find that I need it down the track, can I easily get it again or find a substitute? [Yes – move to the next question.  No – keep.]
  3. Does this item give me joy? [Yes – keep.  No – trash, sell or donate.]

(Notice I don’t remind myself how much I paid for it, who gave it to me, or what it can do.)

Other helpful declutter tips include –

  • Start with a small room, or a small area in the room e.g. the bookshelf.  If you attempt a declutter on a large scale, you’ll soon find that the place would look messier during the decluttering process, and this could create additional stress and resistance to continue the effort to declutter.  Therefore start small, and build on the momentum of seeing a nice, neat space being created.
  • Know where the donation bins or charity shops are, and when council curb-side pick-up times are.  If you have large items to be thrown out or donated, it’s worth planning in advance how and where you can get rid of them.  It may be worthwhile to schedule your declutter days close to the next council curb-side pick-up, so you can easily get rid of unwanted items.
  • Get others to help you decide what to keep, what to let go!  If you have a lot of sentimental items e.g. kids old toys or clothes, then the act of simply touching them can cause you to shy away from giving them away.  So it can be helpful to have a friend to do the decluttering of those sentimental items for you.

Need more resources to get started?

Here are some of my recommendations to get inspired!

Happy decluttering!

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