If you have a closet that is starting to overflow and take over your bedroom or junk drawer that has gradually started to expand from the drawer onto the kitchen counter top, then you’ve likely felt some level of stress brought on by piles of unnecessary junk. All of that stuff can be annoying to look at so it’s important to take control of your clutter.
The stress of clutter can be caused by the general lack of organization and the inability to find things when you need them, guilt over not using the items you own, and even confusion over what you really want and need in your life. According to an article in Psychology Today clutter can have psychological impacts. Living in a chaotic environment where the physical setting is noisy and disorganized can hold you back from getting things done and feeling a sense of accomplishment.
Getting rid of clutter may be a chore, but here are some of the benefits of letting go of your unnecessary items:
- You’ll have better concentration. Do you working at a desk overflowing with papers? Is it difficult for you to focus without being distracted by or having to move some of your papers out of the way in order to complete a project? Having an excess of things around you can be distracting and have a negative impact on your focus and productivity. Neuroscientists at Princeton University found that people’s task performance increased in an organized versus disorganized environment. The study showed that the physical clutter in your environment competes for you attention causing decreased productivity and increased stress.
- You’ll sleep more soundly. Do you lie in bed and stare at your messy closet or that pile of laundry on the floor and feel stressed out by it? A sleep study by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine found that people who doze in cluttered rooms are more likely to develop sleeping problems and are at higher risk for developing hoarding disorder. Clear out your clutter and create a more calming environment for yourself to catch some quality ZZzzz’s!
- Your mood will improve. Clutter can make you cranky and sends a visual signal that things are not in the place that you want them, causing sadness, anger and even self-deprecation. According to a study done at UCLA, “clutter has a profound effect on our mood and self-esteem,” with links between high cortisol (stress hormone) levels and high density of household objects.
- You’ll be able to let go of the past. We tend to associate material objects with specific events or people and in turn hold on to them after they’ve lost their value or relevance, like an ex’s old tee shirt or a broken Eiffel Tower key chain from your Paris trip. Hanging on to these things can carry a lot of emotional weight, so start by identifying the items that your feel it might be time to let go of. Get rid of anything that drags you down or causes you to have a negative emotional response.
- You can turn your focus to accomplishing goals. When you let items pile up it can stand as a reminder of the projects you have to finish or goals you have yet to accomplish. Sometimes this can be good. For example, a resistance band kept in the corner of the living room may be a daily reminder to incorporate physical activity and exercises into your daily routine. But if that same resistance band sits in the corner unused for months it turns into clutter. In reality we all have more items than we need, and instead of motivating us, they hold us back. Keep the things that inspire and motivate you to accomplish your goals and get rid of the things that hold you down or make you feel guilty.
“The old adage ‘less is more’ has many meanings. In relationship to our stuff, the more we have, the more anxiety it can provoke. Spring cleaning is a time for new beginnings. Staying organized can save us time, money and actually decrease our stress levels,” says Denise Driscoll, RNC, CARN, CS, NPP, Assistant Vice President of Behavioral Health at Mather Hospital. Letting go of material objects can be a hard task, but learning to live a more minimalistic life can be freeing by allowing you to appreciate and treasure the items you have that carry true meaning and value, helping you to live a more fulfilling life.