If you are overwhelmed or stressed from clutter, there is good news – it’s a fairly easy fix compared to other known stress sources like relationships or a job. But before we tackle clutter, we need to define what clutter is and understand what happens in our bodies when we encounter it.
There are all different types of clutter. “Memory” clutter, for example, can mean you are preoccupied with things in the past, which can lead to depression, whereas, physical clutter, can be a physical manifestation of anxiety. You may not want to toss out items because you worry, you’ll need them in the future.
Peter Walsh, author of Does This Clutter Make My Butt Look Fat?, suggests clutter may even be making you fat. Walsh says it comes down to a life of consumption — too much stuff, too much to eat. A Cornell Study seconds the notion that stress brought on by clutter may trigger coping and avoidance strategies, such as overeating and unhealthy food choices, oversleeping or binge-watching Netflix.
The science of clutter
Science has proven that clutter can trigger the release of cortisol, the hormone our body releases when we are under stress, is your body’s natural “fight or flight” response. Chronic clutter in your home can create prolonged stress, putting you in a continuous fight-or-flight state that can eventually result in higher levels of depression and anxiety, and a lower capacity to think clearly, make decisions, and stay focused. After all, it’s hard to rest and feel in control when clutter constantly signals to your brain that our work is never done.
Putting a stop to stress inducing stimuli, aka clutter
When we meet with a new client, one of the first questions we ask is, “What do you want from this space?”. This is the first step in removing clutter. Your vision for the space determines what you will keep.
Let’s take your bedroom, for example. Ask yourself, “What do you need for this space?” and “What do you want for this space?” Do you want it to be a calm, restful place to spend time with your partner? If so, you may want to move your computer or TV to another room. So, you are shifting from “What do I need for the bedroom?” to “What do I want from this space?”. This helps you figure out what is clutter and what isn’t.
With your criteria now in place, you are ready to start decluttering. The key here is to start small: Tackle one room or even one bookshelf at a time. Even dumping a whole drawer can become overwhelming, so try taking out items that can be thrown away or recycled, then things you can donate. Finish decluttering one area at a time before moving on to another. This will give you a sense of accomplishment.
Give every item its own home
If you have successfully decluttered your space, you should not only be able to visibly see the improvement, but also should already feel lighter and less stressed because you simply own less stuff. However, just because you own less stuff doesn’t mean that your space is organized. So, before you move on to declutter another area, you need to make sure everything – we mean EVERYTHING – has a home. Giving each item a home means you may need to invest in cabinet and drawer organizers, plastic bins, racks, peg boards, etc. from the Dollar Tree or The Container Store. We can’t emphasize this enough – whatever it takes, you must give each item its own home.
The last but equally important step of organizing a space you can embrace is identifying what each storage solution contains using labels. We make it easy for DIYers with our Well Kept custom and pre-made label packages. DM us on Facebook or Instagram for more information about our label packages or to purchase yours.
Keeping clutter at bay for good
Having a plan in place moving forward is the key to keeping clutter at bay. When mail and enter the house, we recommend the “do it now” approach. So, when you open a piece of mail, you have three options – toss it, file it or place it in a pending folder. A pending folder will keep action items in close reach and your workspace clean.
For clothes, shoes, toys, and household objects, we employ this philosophy: When something comes in, something must go out. Other good rules of thumb to follow include “If in doubt, throw it out” and thinking of toys and clothes as consumables, like toilet paper, cleaning products, and food. This can make it way easier to let go of items that have outlived their usefulness in the house.