The Wellbeing Advantage of De-Cluttering Your Life
Posted by Michael Taylor on 5 July, 2018
All of us, at times, take a glance at our surroundings and think ‘maybe I have too much stuff?’ Many of us, when we think of clutter, think of hoarders with homes jammed to the rafters, but clutter can occur anywhere. It could be the stack of papers on your desk that have been sitting there for months; that drawer in the kitchen that seems to get filled up with take-away menus and nick-nacks; or even the staggering amount of unread emails that sit in our inboxes. Clutter can occur anywhere, both physically and mentally, and can have a massive effect on our personal wellbeing. Below are some of the biggest impact areas, plus a few simple steps you can implement to help de-clutter your life!
Your Mental Health
The first and most obvious effect of clutter is on mental health. It has been proven that a messy environment increases levels of the stress hormone ‘cortisol’, with the effect being more profound on woman than men. Our mental health also benefits greatly from having a ‘home environment’. A place where we can go and feel happy and relaxed. If your home environment is cluttered it can disrupt this process, giving you less time to recover from stressful situations.
Kitchens are a key area that suffers from clutter. If your kitchen is cluttered it can lead to ‘easier’ and less healthy eating habits due to a lack of preparation space. Preparing healthy food takes space to chop and prepare vegetables and other great food items. Without that space, people are more likely to choose oven-baked foods and resort to snacking more often. Another problem is the negative mental health impact of clutter causes stress eating, which can be catastrophic to your health.
The chances are if you’re messy at home, you’re more likely to be messy at work. This can put a serious dent in your productivity, with stress levels remaining high. Your inability to find things when asked for them can cause problems and can really get on the nerves of colleagues around you, affecting your work relationships. It can also limit your prospects, a CareerBuilder study showed that 28% of employers are less likely to employ someone with a messy workspace.
One of the biggest problems with clutter is the shame we associate with it. If you know your house is messy you are more likely to try and hide it, meaning you are less likely to invite friends over or even make new friends in the first place. It can also be damaging to your relationships, especially if you have a partner who is a ‘neat’ person. It’s also been shown that children and mothers associate clutter with an ‘unhappy home’, meaning it could potentially damage your family life.
If there were a fire to start in your home, the things you own will burn. Therefore, the more things you own, the hotter that fire will get and the quicker it will spread. Unnecessary clutter can also block routes to potential fire exits such as doors and windows. Make sure you always have a planned escape route!
Finding the Solution
I myself operate the very successful 6-month rule. It’s the simple act of taking something and saying to yourself ‘have I used this in the last six months?’ or ‘Will I still need this in six months time?’
Of course, this is a very rough rule of thumb. I haven’t looked at some of my holiday photos or touched some of my ornaments in years, that doesn’t mean you should get rid of them! Instead, make sure everything has a place on a shelf or tucked away in a cupboard. Using this rule though with stop you from keeping things that you don’t really need any more, especially clothes and shoes. It’s hard, but be ruthless!
This may not also be the best rule at work, but just going through your trays once a week and moving out the unnecessary papers or taking time to clear out all those junk emails can leave you feeling refreshed and more organised. Doing this regularly can keep things under control and stop it from becoming a ‘big job’.
Another key here is to not attempt too much at once. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither should you try to do everything at once. Tackle things room at a time, or if that still feels like too much just a closet or drawer at a time. If you decide that you want to put things in storage or throw them away, do it immediately! Otherwise, they can sit around for a long time making the problem worse, not better.