07 Dec 22

Feeling stressed? Then it’s time to declutter your space

Louise Westaway | Health & Wellbeing

The physical hazards related to clutter are well documented. It can lead to health hazards around the home, such as tripping hazards, increased dust as it’s harder to clean a messy overcrowded space, mould and mildew and even a higher likelihood of pests such as mice and insects.

But did you know research has shown that a cluttered home has mental health impacts as well as the well-known safety impacts?

How does clutter affect our mental health?

When we live (or work) in a cluttered environment it leads to increased stress and feelings of overwhelm, which is shown in studies by the increase in our cortisol levels throughout the day.

Why does mess lead to stress?

1. Clutter creates too much stimulus for our brains and makes it harder to focus by distracting us. This makes it harder to relax or get things done.
2. Clutter can make us feel guilty or embarrassed – Feelings of “I should be more tidy / more organised” or “What will others think of me because of my mess”.
3. Clutter causes frustration as it makes it harder to find things quickly and easier to lose things!
4. A messy space signals to our brains that our work is never done, while at the same time reducing our productivity. A clean uncluttered space helps us think clearly and creatively.
5. People who live with a cluttered kitchen are more likely to make unhealthy food choices – it’s much easier to prepare a healthy meal when you can find what you need, have space to move and your fridge and pantry are organised.

So now we know what clutter does to our mental and physical health, what can we do about it?

Simple tips to help declutter your space

To create a calm mind, a safe environment and reduce stress, here are some tips on how to declutter your space.
1. If you can, find someone to help you sort through your possessions. Research shows it’s harder to get rid of something once we’re literally holding it.
2. Do one area at a time. This will give a sense of achievement as you’ll see the difference faster and ensure you don’t feel overwhelmed by the task.
3. Set a designated space to store things you use often – it is recommended that this space be ‘closed’ such as a drawer or cupboard. Storing things on open shelving or on top of benches etc. doesn’t reduce the visual clutter.
4. Choose a space in which to sort possessions. Create a Keep pile, Recycle pile, Donate pile and Bin pile. Don’t have a Maybe pile! Use boxes for all but the Keep pile, (which you are going to put away in its designated space) so items you place in there will be out of sight and you’ll be less likely to reconsider your decision.

Deciding what to keep & what to get rid of

The basic rule of decluttering is, if you don’t use it, need it or love it, get rid of it!
If you’re undecided, ask yourself, if I saw this in a shop today, would I buy it? If yes, then keep it.

Safety comes first!

Please put your safety first and get someone to help with the things that aren’t safe for you to do alone, such as climbing ladders or lifting heavy boxes.

Keep only your favourite items
If you don’t love it, or it doesn’t make you happy, let it go.
Keep only useful items
If you don’t use it, it’s broken or a duplicate, you don’t need it.
Let go of unwanted gifts
Remember it’s just the object you don’t want to keep, not the person. It’s okay to separate the two.
One in, one out rule
If you buy a replacement, get rid of the original. There’s a reason you
wanted a new one.
Declutter regularly
It’s easier to declutter smaller spaces regularly than to try to tackle everything at once. Set aside a declutter day once a month to make it manageable.