Deadlines, financial difficulties, and competing responsibilities are some well-known causes of stress in our lives. Research shows that clutter can also be a hidden cause of stress at home and work. Experiencing less stress in your life may be as simple as getting rid of your excess stuff!
A 2011 study at the Princeton University Neuroscience Institute examined the effect of clutter on the brain. According to the study, “Interactions of Top-Down and Bottom-Up Mechanisms in Human Visual Cortex,” clutter does more than take up space in our homes and offices:
Clutter limits the brain’s ability to focus and process information.
Individuals that limit clutter in their home and work environment are less irritable, less distracted, and more productive.
Try these steps to pare down and organize your belongings:
- Start small. If you’ve been living with too much stuff for a long time, you probably feel overwhelmed at the thought of going through your things. Maybe you’re uncertain about how to even begin. Get started by setting small cleaning and organizing goals.
- Avoid setting an unrealistic goal of cleaning your whole house overnight. Set small goals, like organizing a desk or closet. As you experience success on a small scale, you’ll receive the boost in confidence that you need to continue your efforts.
- Once you’ve established order to a small space, keep going. Build upon your success. After your drawers and closets, focus on cleaning an entire room. Clean and organize one room at a time until your entire home is filled only with necessary items that you use on a regular basis.
- Keep your closets and drawers organized by adopting a “one in, one out” rule. Get rid of one old item each time you buy something new.
- Be ruthless. If you haven’t worn or used an item in a year or longer, do you really still need it? Get rid of duplicate items, as well as worn out and broken items that you haven’t fixed.
- Items received as gifts from loved ones can be particularly difficult to part with, especially if the loved one is now deceased. Take the time to acknowledge your loss, but realize that holding on to your loved one’s possessions won’t bring them back.
- One option that may make it easier to part with an item and honor your loved one’s memory, is to sell the item and donate the proceeds to their favorite charity.
- If you feel guilty at the thought of throwing an item away, consider donating it if it’s still in good condition. This boosts your energy and self-esteem, in addition to getting rid of your clutter!
- Straighten the focal points of your bedroom, living room, and kitchen at the start of each day. Set the tone for your day by spending 15 minutes straightening the central areas of your home each morning.
- Make your bed, wash any dirty dishes, and eliminate clutter from the living room, counters, and kitchen table.
- Reverse this strategy at work, and clear your desk before you leave at the end of the day.
- By removing the clutter from these key areas, you’ll feel more calm and relaxed when you return.
Having too much stuff is visually distracting and it adds to your daily stress level. Following these simple steps will contribute to greater feelings of serenity in your life as you say “goodbye” to clutter.