There is plenty written about the practicalities of decluttering and how to do it. The question is, is it worth spending your valuable time doing it? Frankly, can and should you be bothered?
The pandemic may have nudged you into some de-cluttering action. But be honest, have things slipped? Has the clutter re-amassed and undone all your good work?
Let me be clear, I’m not making the case for creating a perfect minimalist show-home! Decluttering is not just concerned with the aesthetics of your home. I encourage decluttering because clutter actually affects your physical and mental wellbeing. Even a small amount of de-cluttering will help you. The benefits are much greater than you think and far outweigh the case for leaving your stuff lying around.
We all have things that are not, strictly speaking, necessary, lying around. So why should you get rid of or store such items? What harm could they possibly do?
Well, here are 5 compelling reasons why you should get started on your decluttering today.
1. Improve your productivity
Clutter increases the opportunity for distraction and side-tracking. You know those instances when you move from one thing to another and sometimes even forget what you started in the first place! And we already know that multi-tasking does not work. Time-management goes out through the window, and things that needed to be done are left undone. Studies have shown that clutter can make it significantly more difficult to focus on a particular task, especially when the clutter is in your visual field. It also makes it difficult to find what you need.
When you organise your workspace and reduce it to the bare minimum you will find it is much easier to focus and work productively. Do keep your favourite signature piece on show – such as an award, trophy, family photo or other item that brings you joy. In fact, after decluttering, your chosen piece will stand out more.
Finding important items suddenly becomes easier. Things such as your keys, wallet or important papers don’t seem to ‘disappear’ anymore. You can move around your home more easily and enjoy the space, instead of stepping over things in your way. The less you have the more your overall productivity will improve.
2. Increase your energy and focus
As we age, we accumulate more stuff! However, possessions simply add stress, worry, and burden onto our lives. Having less stuff around us is beneficial for two reasons. First, having excessive amounts of clutter is an invitation for a whole lot of dust, which in turn can aggravate symptoms of respiratory diseases like asthma. And even if you don’t suffer from asthma, you can still feel the harmful respiratory effects of dust piling up and polluting your air quality. Cleaning out your environment is refreshing. You will start breathing easier and feeling better physically. The added bonus is that less ‘stuff’ means less to clean!
Second, having visible clutter around you encourages ‘mind-wandering’. When you have less things around it creates a sense of focus and energy for your work or other activities – whatever they may be! You will be able to focus your energy on the things you enjoy instead of being distracted by less important things. You will begin to notice a genuine sense of liberation and vitality that comes from decluttering.
3. Reduce your stress
You may be making excuses at this point, but it is a known fact that clutter stresses us out! Whether it is dirty dishes piling up in the sink or stacks of papers covering your desk, everyone experiences negative effects from too much clutter around them. Fact: when things are cluttered and out of order it makes us feel anxious. It is therefore no surprise that clutter in your physical spaces can have adverse effects on your mental health. The more “stuff” you have piling up in front of you, the more reminders you have of all the things you need to do.
Untidy environments increase stress. In one study, women who described their homes with positive language had a lower level of the stress hormone cortisol than women who described their homes as cluttered or unfinished.
Sensory overload can produce physiological states of distress, such as increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, irritability, and confusion. Seeing large piles of dishes, unfolded clothes, or unreviewed documents in front of you adds to your anxiety and stress.
And it is not just you. Clutter can create family stress. You might argue with your partner or children about their untidiness. You might be moody or yell at someone because you can’t find something and now you are running late. Decluttering will reduce this stress.
4. Feel better about yourself
Decluttering creates a sense of confidence and self-efficacy (seeing yourself as competent). In a study, conducted by UCLA’s Centre on Everyday Lives and Families, researchers examined 32 families and found that clutter had a strong impact on their mood and self-esteem.
When we are disorganised, we feel out of control. Feeling out of control is always a stressful feeling. Improving your living or working space can restore your feelings of competency, pride, and control. It will inherently help improve your mood, self-esteem, and your feelings of effectiveness in the world.
When you clear the excess clutter from your life, you will notice the positive effects it has on your mental state and overall wellness. Many studies have shown the psychological power of clearing out your space in various areas of your life. For the sake of your overall health and happiness, take the time to declutter and start seeing the positive changes that occur. You will feel refreshed and ready for whatever challenges come your way.
5. Reap the financial benefits!
Curtailing your shopping for material possessions (which become clutter) obviously benefits your purse/wallet and bank account! Your home won’t get filled with costly things you don’t really need. And, importantly, you can build up savings for more important things (such as treats, trips and even holidays). It also helps keep you protected in case of unexpected emergencies.
When you declutter, you often find items you’d forgotten you even had! I’m moving house soon and in my big clear out I’m finding lots of things I had forgotten I had. Such finds can either be something you actually do want or need, or something you can donate to a charity shop (which always makes you feel good). Finding lost items creates a sense of serendipity and abundance which boosts your mood and increases your energy for tackling bigger issues.
The case for decluttering is overwhelming. Get started today and begin to reap the benefits! You’ll feel so much lighter, energetic and more productive once it’s done.