Over the last few weeks, I’ve been making a start on decluttering and re-organising some parts of our home. So far, I’ve got rid of some unwanted clothes, purged my vast collection of magazines and begun the mammoth task of clearing out and re-organising my craft room. I have a lot of ‘stuff’ and, at times, the process has been overwhelming and stressful but I’m doing a little bit each day and slowly, I’m seeing the difference it’s making. For today’s Monday Matters, I thought I would consider some of the main benefits of decluttering your home as I feel that knowing the effects it can have on health and wellbeing will help me to keep going and also might encourage some of you to dedicate a small amount of time each week to tackle an area of your home or a particular type of clutter. I’ll also offer a few ways to get started including some ideas based on the popular ‘Kondo’ method.
So, let’s start with some of the main benefits which can make a real difference to your life…
- You’ll have more energy
A house full of clutter is very draining. There’s always things out of place and constantly seeing your stuff everywhere will likely consume your thoughts as soon as you enter your home or spend time in a particular room. Also, you’ll regularly have to make decisions about where to put things and this can cause stress and deplete your energy levels.
Clutter can make you feel both physically and mentally tired and can also prevent you from relaxing and replenishing your spent energy after a busy day. On the other hand, a tidy and clutter free home lowers stress levels as it is an inviting and calming place to be, where you can fully wind down.
2. Your sleep is likely to improve
A tidy and clutter free bedroom promotes peaceful sleep and allows you to switch off more easily. Whereas a cluttered environment fills the mind with uneasy thoughts and has been found to cause disrupted and less restful sleep. You might think it doesn’t matter if you have lots of stuff in your bedroom because you can’t see it when you turn out the light but your brain will be stimulated as soon as it sees the ‘chaos’ causing feelings of overwhelm and stress.
It’s best to make sure most of the items in your bedroom are put away and that a small number of carefully chosen objects are on display which reflect the style you want to achieve. So, for example, your bedside cabinet or table might have a pretty lamp, your Kindle or book and a single framed photograph.
3. You’ll feel more organised
Having an orderly home will mean that you can find things more easily. If all of your things have a particular home and similar items are grouped together, you’ll feel super organised and you’ll know exactly what you have and where each item is located. Less clutter will help you feel in control whereas an excess of stuff will have the opposite effect.
You’re also likely to feel extremely proud of your home and want to show it off!
4. Fewer allergens will be present
This is a really important one for me as I’m asthmatic and have a condition called allergic rhinitis which is triggered by dust and molds. If you have stuff everywhere, it’s very difficult to keep your home free from dust. Also a build up of clutter has been shown to contribute to poor ventilation in your rooms which can cause mold. Surfaces with only a select few items on them can really help reduce the number of allergens in the air and on your furniture which is great for anyone with asthma and other similar health conditions.
5. Cleaning and tidying will become a breeze!
Whilst I was struggling with depression and anxiety, my support worker helped me to plan some small housework tasks throughout the week to encourage me to contribute to the many chores involved in running a home so I was able to feel a sense of achievement. On one of the days, in my weekly plan, we decided that I would dust and vacuum our bedroom. When asked the next week how I’d got on, I mentioned that I’d got overwhelmed and upset because just tackling my dressing table had been a gargantuan task as there was so much clutter to clear before I even attempted to clean the dusty surface. I ended up just doing the dressing table and my chest of drawers when all of the other furniture really needed doing too.
Having less clutter will make keeping your home clean much easier and so much quicker. I’m not saying that dusting, vacuuming or mopping floors will become enjoyable, but it’s likely to be much less of a chore.
6. You’ll be more productive
If you want to get things done quickly and easily you need an environment with as few distractions as possible. This is why many offices have a tidy desk policy as it promotes efficiency and effectiveness at work. Less clutter in your home has the same impact. It means you can focus on the task at hand rather than being drawn towards your stuff which needs sorting out or has just become too much to deal with.
7. Overall, you’ll feel happier in your home
Clutter is known to fuel depression and anxiety as it promotes feelings such as sadness, stress, guilt, despair, shame or inadequacy. It can also make you feel embarrassed and apologetic if you have any visitors. A clutter free home, however, can have a really positive effect on our mood by freeing us of these negative emotions making us feel more content and generally happier.
As you can see, doing a spot of decluttering can really help improve your physical and mental health and generally make your home a more pleasant place to be. But, getting started isn’t easy, especially if you have a lot of stuff. Here’s a few suggestions to get you going…
Visualise what you want
Once you’ve committed to decluttering, try a little visualisation exercise. Think about your ideal lifestyle and create a picture in your mind of what it looks like. Also, imagine how decluttering will help you work towards or achieve this and how you will feel as a result of your improved home. Perhaps you’ll have a well-ordered space where everything is neat and tidy. Maybe you’ll feel more organised and happier. Or, you might be able to relax more easily when you finish work. You could even find that you have more time to do the things you love with the people you care about. Obviously, this will differ greatly depending on your personal goals and the lifestyle you want. You might even want to write down some of your ideas after visualising so you can re-read them to help you stay motivated. If you prefer pictorial representations, you could make a vision board for your bullet journal or to pin to your wall.
Dedicate some time
It’s a good idea to regularly schedule a block of time in your bullet journal or diary and think about what will work best for you and your lifestyle. You might choose 10 minutes and set a timer for a quick spot of decluttering or an hour on a Sunday afternoon if you want to tackle your entire wardrobe. If you have a family and the stuff doesn’t all belong to you, try to get everyone involved in the process ensuring everyone takes some responsibility and can reap the rewards too. Make sure, whatever timeframe you choose, you stick to it, just like you would any other commitment.
In her popular first book The Life-changing Magic of Tidying, Marie Kondo identifies a particular order to decluttering your home. She suggests starting with clothes and invites you to get all of your clothing together and work through it to decide what you want to keep based on if each item sparks joy. However, if you have lots and lots of clothes like I do, it might be worth starting much smaller. A good way is to categorise your clothing and just working on, for example, t-shirts or trousers. Working on a small number of items can help to prevent overwhelm and make the process less stressful.
Think about what bothers you the most
Although organising expert Marie Kondo suggests a set order for decluttering, you might want to start with something else or a particular space. For example, if the mess in your living room stresses you out when you sit down to watch TV, you might want to start with visible clutter in there. Or, if the state of your bedroom may be contributing to a less than restful sleep, you could tackle this first. Whatever would have the most impact, as long as it’s not too big a job, may be the best area to start.
Deal with visible clutter first
Also related to impact and choosing what to work on is visible clutter. You might have a cupboard under the stairs which is full of junk but does it bother you all the time or only when you need something from the back of it? You might be best off starting with your desk top, your dressing table, the top of your chest of drawers or floor space if you want to really see your progress. Then, when surfaces are cleared, you can tackle cupboards, drawers and cabinets.
Make a decision about the items you don’t want or need straight away
As soon as you’ve decided what to keep, including what sparks joy and which items are useful in your life right now, make plans for your discard pile. Some of your stuff will be fit for the bin (and you’ll wonder why you still have it!), some might be perfect for donating to charity, and a small number of items could potentially be sold on ebay (but only if you have the time to photograph and list them straightway and then deal with them once they sell / don’t sell). It’s really important to take action on the items immediately, so take the bin bag(s) out as soon as you can, place donations in a box and head straight for the charity shop that same afternoon and create your ebay listings as a matter of urgency. The quicker the items are gone, the sooner you can start enjoying the benefits.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading today’s Monday Matters post and it has prompted you to do some decluttering. Let me know in the comments if you’re already enjoying the benefits of less clutter or if you are keen to get started. It would also be great to hear any other tips you have for beginning the process.