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The Mental Health Benefits of Decluttering Your Space

Spring symbolises renewal and rejuvenation, and as it approaches, many of us may feel the urge to tidy up our living spaces, a phenomenon often referred to as “spring cleaning.” In this article, I will be looking at the importance of this ritual and how it goes beyond mere tidying, allowing us an opportunity to declutter not only our physical spaces but also our minds.


From Simplicity to Excess

In previous eras, our living spaces were often characterised by simplicity and functionality, with only essential items occupying our surroundings. However, over the past few decades in particular, societal shifts and advancements in technology have led to an unprecedented accumulation of ‘stuff’. The rise of consumer culture, coupled with the convenience of online shopping and the constant bombardment of advertisements, has resulted in people having more belongings than ever before, with possessions often seen as markers of success or fulfilment. As a result, our living spaces have become increasingly cluttered.

This clutter, whether it’s stacks of paperwork, overcrowded closets, or chaotic countertops, can burden us physically and psychologically. Studies show that it can have a profound impact on our mental health, here are some of the ways how:

  1. Heightened Stress Levels
    A study conducted by researchers at UCLA revealed a significant correlation between clutter and heightened stress levels. Women who described their homes as cluttered or filled with unfinished tasks exhibited higher levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, compared to those in tidy environments.
  2. Depression
    The same study found that these women were more likely to be fatigued or depressed than those who described their homes as restful and restorative.
  3. Diminished Focus
    A study conducted by researchers at Princeton University found that clutter can impede the ability to concentrate on a specific task. Their research revealed that the visual cortex can become overwhelmed by unrelated objects, making it challenging to maintain focus and complete tasks efficiently.
  4. Increased Anxiety
    If we have a very cluttered home environment it can lead to a constant low-grade ‘fight or flight’ response in us. (See Dania’s article on fight or flight here). This response is our body’s natural reaction to perceived threats or stressors, preparing us to either confront the threat or flee from it. In the context of clutter, the constant visual and cognitive overload can create a sense of unease or agitation.
  5. Sleep Issues
    People who sleep in cluttered rooms are more likely to have sleep problems, including difficulty falling asleep and being disturbed during the night.

Time to Declutter

The concept of decluttering is about more than mere organisation; it’s about creating an environment conducive to mental clarity and emotional wellbeing. By freeing up physical space you are also cultivating a mindset of mindfulness and intentionality, allowing you to prioritise what truly matters and create an environment that supports your mental health.

Depending on how cluttered your space is to begin with, this may feel like a daunting task, but with practical strategies it becomes manageable. Here are some tips:

  • Start Small: Begin by tackling a manageable area, such as a single drawer or a section of your wardrobe. Celebrate each small victory, building momentum and motivation.
  • Categorise Items: Sort belongings into categories such as keep, donate, or discard. Adopt a ruthless approach – if an item no longer serves a purpose or brings joy, it’s time to bid it farewell.
  • One In, One Out Rule: Implement a guideline where for every new item brought into your space, an existing one must depart. This practice prevents clutter from accumulating over time.
  • Create Designated Spaces: Allocate specific areas for different activities or items to prevent clutter from spreading. Invest in storage solutions like bins, baskets, and shelves to maintain organisation.
  • Regular Maintenance: Schedule periodic decluttering sessions to prevent clutter building up again. Dedicate time monthly or quarterly to reassess your belongings and maintain order.

Decluttering your space is about more than aesthetics. By liberating your environment from physical clutter, you create space for mental clarity, creativity, and peace of mind. As spring beckons, seize this opportunity to declutter your space, one item at a time. Embrace the spirit of rejuvenation, and your mind will thank you for it.

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