You don’t have to be a hoarder for clutter and disorganization to wreak havoc on your well-being.
Is clutter closing in and making you feel anxious and overwhelmed? If you have to move things to get something done or you have to watch where you step, you may have a clutter problem.
Decluttering has become a housekeeping trend, and for good reason. Study after study shows that a cluttered environment can negatively affect your well-being.
Declutter to Relieve Anxiety and Decrease Stress
Joseph Ferrari, a professor of psychology at DePaul University, conducted a study to examine how clutter can affect mental health. The study defines clutter as “…an overabundance of possessions that collectively create chaotic and disorderly living spaces.” The research investigated the “dark side of home,” the result when the quality of home life is compromised by clutter.
“It’s the danger of clutter, the totality of one’s possessions being so overwhelming that it chips away at your well-being, relationships, and more, drowning in a sea of stuff.”
According to Ferrari, our quality of life can become fragile when we identify too strongly with possessions. We can become increasingly stressed and even lose our sense of home. Ferrari’s study is just one of many; housekeeping trends that promote a more peaceful environment through decluttering have become very popular.
The University of California studied 30 couples to research the correlation between clutter and stress. Participants who described their home as messy or chaotic showed increased levels of cortisol, a stress-induced steroid hormone. The study also found that women were more likely to suffer anxiety over clutter than men. The evidence shows that decluttering and housekeeping reduces cortisol levels and contributes to a better quality of life.
Is Clutter Hurting Your Relationships?
The Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin measured the way 60 women discussed their quality of life in their homes. Women who described their living spaces as “cluttered” or full of “unfinished projects” were, not surprisingly, more likely to be depressed and lethargic than women who described their homes as “restful” and “restorative.”
Just like the University of California study, researchers found that women with cluttered homes showed higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol. When we’re surrounded by clutter, we become more irritable, anxious, and frustrated. From snapping at a spouse or child to disengaging from people we love, a cluttered home can lead to behaviors that damage relationships.
How Decluttering Can Improve Your Mental and Physical Well-Being
A study by Nicole R. Keith, Ph.D., researcher and professor at Indiana University, found that people who declutter their homes are healthier than those with messy homes. Keith and her colleagues tracked the physical health of nearly 1,000 participants. The results showed that participants who kept their homes tidy were healthier and more active than those who didn’t. In fact, house cleanliness was even more of a predictor for physical health than access to neighborhood outdoor areas and other factors.
A cluttered home and the behaviors associated with it can wreak havoc on our self-esteem and our health, affecting all aspects of our lives. Research proves again and again that organized and clutter-free spaces are key to healthier, happier lives. A Cornell University study even found that people living in clutter-free spaces consume less junk food.
The Benefits of Decluttering
Getting rid of clutter can be a life-changing experience. Having less stuff means you have less to worry about and your home can become the sanctuary you always wanted. Here are some of the benefits you can realize once you adopt a decluttering mentality.
Fewer things to clean
Cleaning is a tedious chore at best, but having to clean around things you have no emotional attachment to, or even dislike, makes housekeeping much more stressful.
Less to organize
Without all that clutter, things suddenly become easier to find. You can move freely around your home and enjoy the space instead of managing it.
Decreased stress and anxiety
Living with clutter can slowly erode your self-esteem and create anxiety. Without all that stuff, your home becomes an asset, not a liability, in your quest for a stress-free life.
Less debt and more disposable income
Most Americans live paycheck to paycheck—59%, according to a survey done by Charles Schwab in 2019. Nearly half of those carry credit card debt. When you declutter and adopt a less-can-be-more mindset, you reduce what you owe and increase what you keep.
More time and energy for your interests
With less debt, more financial freedom, and a decluttered home, you can focus your energy on the things you enjoy instead of worrying about cleaning and maintaining things you don’t want or need.
Simple Ways to Declutter and De-Stress
Now that you know how clutter can disrupt your life and the benefits of decluttering, it’s time to take action with these simple ways to get rid of clutter.
Be your guest
It’s easy to lose perspective on how your home looks and feels to a visitor. You’re too close to all your clutter, so you need a new point of view. Walk into your home as if you’re a visitor. Write down your first impressions and then list the things you would change or remove. Take this new mindset and go through your home room by room, making additional decluttering lists.
Just five minutes
If you’re new to decluttering, you can start small. Just five minutes a day will help minimize your clutter and put you on the path to developing good habits. As you build your stamina, you’ll be decluttering with the best of them.
One day, one item
Identify one item each day that you no longer need or want. This is an easy and painless way to adopt a clutter-free lifestyle. Think about it—in one year, you could get rid of 365 things that you don’t want or need.
One room, one trash bag
Choose any room or space in your home, grab a trash bag, and get to work filling it with items you can donate. Getting rid of clutter not only helps you, it helps others. An item or piece of clothing may not mean much to you, but it could make a difference in someone else’s life.
It can be clothes, toys, books, or anything else that’s taking up space. Fill it, donate it, and repeat.
Document the transformation
Choose an area of your home you want to declutter and take before and after photos. Once you see the documented transformation, you’ll want to move on to other areas.
Enlist decluttering help
Have a friend or family member go through your home and objectively decide what should stay or go. If you defend the item and want to keep it, your buddy has to agree with your reason or it’s gone.
Reward yourself with a deep clean
Once your home is fully decluttered, bring in a professional cleaning service to really give it some shine. Seeing how tidy and uncluttered your home can be will give you further motivation to keep it that way.
Get three boxes, bags, or other containers and label them trash, give away, and keep. Start with one room or area and go through the room’s contents item by item. No skipping items because you can’t decide—you need an accurate inventory of just how much stuff you have. This could take a while, but you will build habits that will help you live a less-cluttered life.
Start with the tips above to declutter, relieve stress, and enjoy a happier home. Your home will be more organized, require less cleaning, and you’ll have a home that feels, well, like home!