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The Many Mental Benefits of Decluttering

February is "Declutter for a Cause" month.

During the month of February, people are encouraged to declutter their homes and donate unused or unwanted items to charitable organizations. If you need some motivation to make room for the new holiday gifts you received, or to organize your closets, now is the time. You know that sweater in your closet that doesn't look good on you, but you never got around to returning? How about that extra toaster oven you have been storing in your basement for years? Someone out there could be enjoying these items. Donating feels good. As does living in a tidy and organized environment.

Clear Your Home, Clear Your Mind

Clutter creates chaos, which impacts your ability to focus. It also limits your brain's capacity to process information. Clutter is a form of visual distraction, which increases cognitive overload and can reduce working memory. If your space is unorganized and filled with clutter it can be difficult to focus or concentrate. Research has shown that people are less irritable, less distracted, more productive, and better able to process information with an uncluttered and organized work area.

Staying organized can be a challenge for anyone. It can be a daunting task for those with ADHD, brain injury, and/or executive function deficit or disorder. Clearing the clutter and developing systems for keeping certain things like keys, phone, and wallet are essential to managing day-to-day activities and improving time management.

Image by user15285612 on Freepik
Source: Image by user15285612 on Freepik

Not only is it hard to physically function in a cluttered space, but clutter bombards the mind with excessive stimuli. Addressing the heaps of paperwork, laundry, and thoughtfully organizing helps to calm the mind.

Improve Mental Health

Several studies show a correlation between disorganization, clutter, and mental health conditions, including, depression, anxiety, and stress. Messy environments can cause frustration, helplessness, and feeling overwhelmed.

Excessive clutter often leads to feelings of shame, hopelessness, and guilt. The feelings can spiral, making it difficult to find the motivation to address the clutter. If someone is already suffering from depression, a cluttered home can worsen that depression. It is often a cycle. The more depressed you get, the harder it is to clean and organize.

Decluttering increases self-worth, creates healthy habits, and boosts productivity. A clean and tidy home can also improve sleep, boost mood, and promote relaxation.

More Energy and More Space

Everything we own and bring into our home takes up some of our time, energy, and space. While some things are worth it, there are usually items that no longer serve us and we could do without. The more things we have, the more things we have to clean, organize and manage. Trying to stay on top of it all in a cluttered home requires more time, energy, and effort.

When our closets and drawers are jammed packed with stuff we don’t use, we spend more time looking for the things we need. How frustrating is it when you know what you are looking for, but you just can’t lay your hands on it? Getting rid of the things we don’t use creates more space and breathing room, allowing us to focus on the important things.

Declutter and Donate—It's a Win-Win!

It seems easy to accumulate all sorts of things we don’t really need, yet difficult to let them then go when they no longer serve us. There are many reasons people hold on to things, from sentimental to monetary value, but at what cost? More often than not, the things we fear getting rid of end up negatively impacting our lives, rather than benefitting them. Another reason we hold on to things that are in good condition, but we know we will never need or use again, is because we don't know what to do with them. The answer is simple: donate. Decluttering not only improves your life, it improves the lives of others in need.

Image by macrovector on Freepik
Source: Image by macrovector on Freepik

Steps to Declutter

  • Start Small: Set small, manageable goals. Tackle one task, one pile, or one room at a time.
  • Ask for Help: Enlist the help of a family member, friend, or paid consultant who can help you make decisions. Sometimes getting "permission" from someone else makes it easier to put your items in the donate pile.
  • Take a Picture: If you have trouble parting with your children's baby clothes and books or mementos from a vacation, take a picture of them. Giving them away often feels like giving up a piece of our identity or our past, making it difficult to let go. By taking a picture of an item that carries sentimental value, you can still have that connection.
  • Decide what you’re going to do with your unwanted items: The goal is to get the items out of your house and into the hands of someone who needs them. Contact local homeless shelters or donation centers to schedule a drop-off or pick-up.

If clutter is overwhelming you or you are experiencing anxiety or depression, either causing clutter or due to out-of-control clutter, a therapist can help. You are not alone. There is help and hope. There is a way.

To find a therapist near you, visit the Psychology Today Therapy Directory.


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