We very recently found ourselves in the position of having to move from our rented apartment on rather short notice. The thought of moving was overwhelming at first, but even more overwhelming was the sight of all the stuff we’d accumulated over the last decade. I was disgusted with myself, to say the least. This month we’ll talk about clutter and how it affects our lives.
The Disease of Consumerism
Statistics from the US indicate that the average American home has 300,000 items stashed in it. We’re bombarded by society with pressure to buy the latest, greatest, newest products out there to make our teeth whiter, our laundry fresher and our phones smarter than ever. Did you ever consider that all this stuff has to be stored somewhere?
All of those piles of clutter not only get in your way, they weigh on your mind. They represent decisions to make, goals to meet, and chores to get done. They take up space in the closet, desk, car and yes, your day as well. And, they don’t move you towards a productive and happy life. That’s why a new year is often a great time to take a good, hard look at your accumulated clutter and make some decisions. Discover why and how your collections of goodies might be impacting your stress levels and ultimately your ability to make choices that can be life-changing.
The Benefits of Decluttering
As a life and health coach, one of the first things I talk with my clients about is clearing the clutter in order to receive new information that, when utilized, can make behavioral changes easy. My own experience deepens my conviction around this concept because I’ve seen first hand, in my own life, the impact of clutter and the freedom of decluttering.
Imagine this – always knowing exactly where to find your keys, glasses, and water bottle! What a concept. Achieving an organized home, office, car, desk or life greatly reduces stress in your life. A study published in The Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin found that women who considered their homes more cluttered or unfinished felt more depressed and had higher levels of cortisol than women who described their homes as more restful. http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0146…
Stress isn’t the only way clutter connects to your well-being. Another study from the Indiana University compared the tidiness of participants’ homes to their physical activity and overall health. As it turned out, the healthiest and most active participants were those who kept their living spaces clean. And, consider this … getting rid of clutter helps eliminate places for dust and mold spores to hide.
The health connection to clutter is fascinating and important. In yet another study on clutter, people working in a clean environment were more likely to choose an apple over a chocolate bar at snack time. This was likely due to the fact that clutter activates stress, which can lead you to reach for that sugar fix. http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0956797613480186
In 2011, a study at the Princeton Neuroscience Institute found that having clutter in sight can make it more difficult to focus on a task without feeling distracted. Basically, the more visual stimuli your brain has to take in, the more you stress your brain and limit your processing power.
What, Exactly, Is Clutter?
According to home declutter expert Helen Sanderson, “Clutter is actually a pile of decisions that haven’t been made.” The piles on your countertop are made of things “you’ll do tomorrow,” or projects set aside for that elusive “someday.”
We all have our own clutter battles; for me it’s books I have yet to read (and probably won’t) as well as books I’ve read and boxed 20 years ago. I have been a collector of health, wellness, fitness, nutrition and psychology books and articles for more years than I can remember … and guess what, I was carrying all that around from country to country. Over time, these grew in number and, when we had to move this last time, I was overwhelmed with the sheer volume of volumes I’d collected.
Is There Hope For Me? How Do I Let This Stuff Go?
I guess the big question for me is “Why is it so hard to make the decision to let go of my stuff?” If that’s your question too, here are some possible reasons: Maybe you feel guilty for wasting money, or for tossing objects you bought connected to specific goals (like those expensive hiking boots for that trek you bailed on). How about, “I might need this sometime,” or “this is probably worth something.” Then again, maybe you’re like me and you’re simply overwhelmed by the immense pile of stuff, like I was.
Truth told, you’re the only one who can determine what is trash and what is treasure. When we get clear on what we don’t want in our lives a funny thing happens at the exact same time; we get clear on what we do want. And this overflows into other areas of our lives. On an energetic level, we free up space for new experiences, new relationships, new opportunities and new goals and aspirations.
Check out the next article for some tips on how to declutter.