For many of us home has become not just the place we live and sleep, but the place we work and spend most of our social time. And as our homes become multi-functional, with families and housemates using the space at the same time, it’s easy to let things get little... disorganised.
A little mess might seem harmless, but it has been linked to lower mood, stress and lack of focus. So get ahead and plan your spring clean.
Clutter means different things for different people. “Clutter is anything that gets in the way of you getting on with your everyday tasks in life,” explains Sue Spencer, a professional organiser and founder A Life More Organised. Perhaps the washing drying in your new makeshift office is affecting your focus or the toys in the living room are stopping you from relaxing after the kids have gone to bed.
There are many reasons that clutter can get out of control. For starters, life is busy. “It’s very rare that we stop and put aside time to look at all the stuff we have around our homes and make decisions about what we keep and let go of,” explains Spencer.
For Lee Chambers, an environmental psychologist and wellbeing consultant, clutter is inevitable given the society we live in. “We exist in a disposable consumer culture, where we are bombarded with the latest possessions worth acquiring, marketing tailored to our preferences and designed to influence our behaviours.” Chambers says. What’s more, the value placed on possessions makes them hard to clear out: “We attach value to many of the items we own, from sentiment and experience to value and identity. We can find it challenging to let go of many things for various reasons.”
But it’s important to look at ways to declutter if mess and disorder are impacting your mind. Chambers tells HuffPost that clutter can affect our mental health in various ways from our anxiety to sleep quality and even our attention. “It can also impact our productivity levels, trigger avoidance strategy and impact what we consume. Clutter has a cumulative effect on our minds, increasing the potential of cognitive overload and reducing our resources, and causes elevated cortisol levels. This increases the likelihood of feeling overwhelmed, having a lower mood, and worried,” he adds.
Moreover, with time, clutter can affect the way we function as it affects our cognitive abilities and physiology. Chambers says: “In a cluttered environment, we have more information to process, visual reminders of our disorganised environment, which continually distracts us as we live in space.” This can become an issue when we’re trying to focus on another task as clutter distracts us from processing information and getting into a state of flow. “It can also impact our emotional balance by affecting our sleep, which can impact our communication with others and our overall feelings daily,” Lee adds.
Convinced? Now’s the time start planning that clear out.
Spencer is one of a handful of the KonMari™ Consultants in the UK who have trained with decluttering queen Marie Kondo. The celebrated method focuses on decluttering and organising your home in a way that supports your everyday and future life. “Having a view of how you’d like to live your life moving forward and what ‘sparks joy’ (things you love) really helps you to create this environment,” she adds. And it’s not something you have to do alone: involving those you live with, should help lighten the load and ease decision making – especially if you get your children involved. Remember lots of the things you may no longer want can be donated.
Once you’ve got rid of everything you no longer want you can get started on finding a home for each item – this should be easier now you have more space. Be sure you don’t run out of steam in this phase, it might be worth doing it in stages or early on a weekend morning – whenever you know you’ll have more uninterrupted time and energy.
After going through a clear out, your mind and space will feel renewed but the process isn’t easy. It’s normal to feel overwhelmed by the number of things you have so it’s imperative to make some sort of plan before you begin your clearout journey. Chambers believes we should have clear boundaries and take pictures of space uncluttered as a point of reference. “If you find yourself struggling in the process, there is professional help available, and it certainly helps to involve others as support in the process,” he says. Think about how you can make the process easy by considering storage spaces and make most of the space you do have. Clearouts require a huge amount of effort but your wellbeing will thank you for it later.