How to Declutter Fast – Healthy Benefits to Having Less Clutter
Let’s face it… we have too much STUFF! Our Stuff has too much STUFF! We have boxes that are filled with boxes that are filled with stuff in boxes!
Most lives are filled with clutter at some point. Clutter is not about having a lot of things it’s also about having lots of things that leave a mess.
Life with clutter can be messy. Too much stuff is messy. Having clutter and too much stuff is stressful on our overall well being and leaves us feeling disorganized and less calm.
First, let’s try and understand clutter and how it affects our lives.
How Clutter In the Home Affects Your Brain
Clutter unconsciously causes your brain to stress out. Your brain automatically tries to deal with every bit of sensory input you receive. This means that the things you see, touch, hear, smell and taste all have to be dealt with by your brain. When you have too much input coming in, especially when it is unnecessary, this clutter creates anxiety and stress.
Clutter can be frustrating. You can work all day long and feel like you accomplished very little. You just seem to push around piles of papers or piles of junk. It’s always there and it feels heavy.
Aside from simply being aggravating, it turns out that the stress which clutter promotes can lead to a host of physical and mental health issues. It all has to do with how your brain reacts to the clutter around you.
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The Pain of Giving Up an Object
Researchers at Yale University in Connecticut have discovered that 2 different pain-related areas of your brain go crazy when you give up some item or object that you have developed a sense of connection with. Those areas are the anterior cingulate cortex and insular cortex (insula).
Your anterior cingulate cortex sends off warning signals when your hot chocolate is too hot, or you experience some other type of physical pain. Remarkably, when you give away or sacrifice a possession or item to which you are attached, this part of your brain reacts in the same way. When you are heavily invested emotionally or financially, the feeling of loss is accelerated.
Your insula is related with pain, how you empathize with others, and your awareness of your own emotional state. This area of your brain also reacts as if you have received some emotional or physical pain when you let go of a possession which has some type of personal value.
The Mental Difficulty of Beating Clutter
This hardwired response to giving away possessions is what makes defeating clutter so difficult for some. Usually, the way your brain responds to giving up an object only triggers a physical pain response if that object meant a lot to you. However, in some people it is difficult to part with something as simple as an old newspaper.
How can you use this information to your advantage if you are trying to declutter your home and your life?
Understand that those painful emotions you are experiencing when you are contemplating giving up some item or object are natural. Give them their due. Experience them. Understand what they are, trigger reactions which happen to everyone.
Then, instead of surrendering to them, take control. If the best thing for you is to let go of a particular item, then do so. Look at your situation logically and objectively. Your brain is automatically reacting to the thought of “losing” something. However, that same brain craves order and discipline, which are 2 of the many rewards of a uncluttered life.
How to Get Rid of Clutter
Years ago, a lady named the “Fly Lady” made a lot of lives much easier when she said “if you only do one thing before you go to bed – clean and scrub your kitchen sink and make it shine!” Spit shining your kitchen sink was the key to happiness. This one simple thing turned into a national craze because it worked!
Less clutter in the sink and women all across America woke up in better moods.
START SMALL! – Start small and work on one space at a time. Throw things out or give them away if they are useful. Is the top of your refrigerator visible from space? Start there! Buy small glass storage containers to store cereal, pasta, and even cookies.
Use the 4 G’s of What to Do with all that Clutter to Quickly Assess What Goes Where –
- Good Will
- Give it Away
- Garbage or Recycle
- Garage Sale
What to Get Rid of First (Where to Start)
Ask yourself – Do I really need this and when was the last time I used this? Will I use this in the future?
- Mismatched drinking glasses
- Extra coffee mugs no one really likes
- Mismatched dinner plates
- Extra Tupperware or all those extra lids with no bottoms
- Pots and pans that have seen better days
- Kitchen gadgets that sit unused (donate)
- Plastic grocery store bags (recycle)
- Containers – any container that you don’t use
- Odd silverware that is leftover
- Old pillows (can be unhealthy to keep for more than a few years)
- Magazines (piled up there in the corner of your room)
- Clothes (go through everything – pajamas – socks – undies – shirts – pants – old bathing suits)
- Shoes and boots and SLIPPERS!
- Papers – are there papers scattered across your bedroom?
- Bedding – Old Sheets and Pillowcases
- Anything under the bed (harbors dust)
The Top 7 Benefits of Having Less
Some minimalists define this “less is more” practice as owning 100 things or less. Others who enjoy a minimalist lifestyle don’t obey a strict rule that dictates exactly how many items they have, they simply limit the number of possessions they own and obtain, and practice this way of life on an ongoing basis.
However you define minimalism (or having less), there are some definite benefits to the idea that you shouldn’t be defined by the number of things you have and having less is actually a good thing.
1 – Lower Stress Levels
When you own fewer possessions, you have less stress and anxiety. You don’t have to worry as much about maintaining, protecting, repairing and insuring possessions when you own fewer of them.
2 – Your Wallet Gets Fatter
Monitor all of your purchases for 30 days. Strictly judge whether or not you need any and every one of them. Ask yourself, do I really need that? You will notice more money in your bank account at the end of the month. When you own fewer things, you are spending less, so there is more money available for you to save – more money to save also helps to ease stress and anxiety.
3 – You Are Not Cleaning as Often
This is a benefit to owning less that not a lot of people think about. Obviously, the more things you own, the more things you have to clean, dust, wash and maintain.
Cleaning is now effortless and takes less time and needs less attention.
4 – More Free Time
Researching, shopping, negotiating, travel time and trial periods where you can test out a product for free all require your time. You treat yourself to a ton of free time when you are engaging in these activities less and less.
5 – You Feel Free
When you have a lot of stuff, you feel anchored to those possessions. People that practice a minimal lifestyle say that one of the first feelings they enjoy is a sense of freedom, as if a weight has been taken from their back, since they don’t have to worry about so many possessions.
6 – You Contribute to a Cleaner Environment
Yes, you help improve the health of the planet when you go minimal. Greedy consumption is leading to unsustainable earth practices. If everyone stopped making needless purchases tomorrow, the earth would instantly be a healthier planet. All this “stuff” we feel we need to collect, eventually ends up in a landfill somewhere. Do you need that or are you just going to feed the landfills?
7 – You Leave More for Others
Acquiring possessions can sometimes be a greedy endeavor. Even if you are not adding “things” to your life for greedy reasons, you are, by the very nature of supply and demand, limiting how many things are available for other people. Minimalism means leaving more for others, including future generations.