Why De-Cluttering Your Home Could Lead To Better Mental Health

Clinical psychologist and author Dr Tony Ortega says…

There are many ways in which decluttering can be beneficial to our overall mental health. Decluttering does not have to be this monumental task – it can be done over time and we don't need to watch any Netflix specials to do it. All it takes is some simple introspection and to go at it little by little. 

Our external environment is a reflection of our internal state of mind. You can take this mantra a step further and say our external environment can help change our internal state of mind. If you’re a messy and cluttered person, chances are you might feel messy and cluttered in your head. Looking around and seeing the clutter might even trigger increased anxiety and low self-worth. This can often lead to complete inaction and keep us in a confused state internally and externally. 

If you feel any kind of discomfort looking at the clutter, take a moment to breathe. Then, ask yourself, how do you want your external environment to reflect who you are and what do you want to feel when you enter a space? These answers will set a simple barometer to how to handle decluttering. 

A good rule of thumb is to tackle one small section at a time. It could be the corner of a room or just one drawer. If that is all you’re able to do in a given day, at least you made some progress. Use that momentum to keep you going. After that drawer or corner is done, what's the next small section you can do? If you operate on the momentum over motivation principle, you’ll feel better about the actions you’ve taken, regardless of the time frame. 

Take a look at some of the things you are holding on to. It’s easiest to start by seeing what you’ve used within the past 12 months. If the answer is you haven’t, it’s likely you won’t need it. If it's something you don't use regularly but has its uses, maybe just set it aside. This will progressively create a sense of empowerment and teach you to trust your judgment which can then be applied to other areas of our lives.
 

Inspired? Here Are Eight Practical Tips From Two De-Cluttering Pros…

1.

Focus On The ‘Daily Debris’ 

The experts largely agree, if there’s one way to get on top of a cluttered life, it’s to start with the day-to-day mess and work up to big projects like the attic or the garage. Not only will it help you develop good habits, the sense of achievement is instant. “There is so much focus on what’s under the bed/in the cupboard these days, but why worry about what’s under your bed if your kitchen surfaces are covered in mess?” asks organisational expert Diana Spellman from Serenely Sorted. That is what causes the mess stress.”

2.

Modify Your Behaviour

“Think about your behaviour mindfully for a week as you come and go in the house – what mess are you creating that you could avoid?” says Diana. “For instance, when you come in the house do you put your bag down on a chair or away? Think of it as your first mindset change: if you put your bag into a basket or another specific place as soon as you walked through the door and not on the surface, you’ll already feel better. Crucially, you also eliminate the need to tidy it later.”

3.

Establish ‘End Homes’

“For the activities you do at home, you need to establish ‘end homes’ for all those things that mess up the room,” explains Diana. “Still do everything as you would – have fun, do crafts, let the kids play, work, but ensure you clear up everything and return it back to the end home. You will realise that as soon as you don’t need to think about where things go, tidying will become easier and faster – you won’t be tempted to brush it to the side or not bother at all.”

4.

Find A Place For Emotional Items

“Items we’re attached to emotionally are hard to let go of but if you have a dedicated ‘memory box’ for those items, it becomes much easier,” says Lizzie Grant, founder of Declutter On Demand. “Ideally each member of a household should have one. By having one place for these items to live, you can really evaluate which hold the most value for you.” Practically, says Lizzie, spend some time walking around your home and gather together any items which are sentimental, but you don’t use or want to have out on display. Then, pick out your favourite items – those items which really make you happy, and let go of items which make you feel guilty or negative. 

5.

Use The Right Equipment

“When it comes to creating your end homes, use a cupboard or drawer nearby, and divide up the space into smaller chunks using baskets or space dividers,” shares Diana. “My favourite is a Poundland basket but the Curver Range and Wham collection found at all of the main supermarkets and B&Q are perfect to get started. You don’t need to spend much to have an effective sorting system.”

6.

Tackle Your Shelves

It’s easy for shelves and surfaces to become cluttered with miscellaneous items. As Lizzie points out, we’ve all been guilty of judging people’s Zoom backgrounds during lockdown. “Take all items off the shelves so you can really evaluate each item – this gives you a fresh start for styling your shelves,” she suggests. “Pick out which items you really love and place them on the shelves immediately. Look at what you have left and decide what will look good on the shelves.  You may need to rearrange shelves a few times so play around with the space but remember to keep it simple and symmetrical, where possible.

7.

Get On Top Of Paperwork

If there’s one thing that can cause a lot of stress, says Lizzie, it’s disorganised paperwork. It’s a great category to declutter during lockdown because you can easily let go of documents and organise those you are keeping. “Start with the piles of paper that have drifted around your home and decide which to keep and which to discard,” she explains. “You can then move on to the papers for which you may already have a filing system. Clear a table, bed or floor so you can spread out the papers. Have recycling bags, bin bags, labels, post-it notes and stationery to hand. It may also be worth investing in a small shredder to discard any confidential financial or personal information.” 

8.

Be Realistic

“My system is realistic – while The Home Edit and Marie Kondo have great shows and transform houses, for most people it’s not possible as they either don’t have the room or the time to maintain it – Serenely Sorted is a realistic approach with sustainable, practical solutions,” says Diana. “Right now, and especially in this pandemic, it’s understandable that busy people are on a mission to learn how to live a more organised life.”

Dr Tony Ortega has been a clinical psychologist for 27 years and written two self-help books, the latest being #AreYouHereYet: How to STFU & Show Up For Yourself available here. For more information and help with decluttering, visit Declutter on Demand, Simplify Stuff and Serenely Sorted.

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