Finding Clarity: Simplifying and Decluttering your Life

Finding Clarity: Simplifying and Decluttering your Life

“Our life is frittered away by detail…simplify, simplify” -Henry David Thoreau

Becoming Minimalist has some interesting links to articles about living with simplicity and getting rid of the clutter.
The statistics about clutter are mind boggling.

  • An estimate of one year of our lives is spent looking for lost items.
  • Getting rid of clutter in the home would eliminate an average of 40% of the housework in a typical home.

Do you feel like your life is a whirlwind? So busy that you can’t keep up with where you put things? Are you always that person that is five minutes late and largely because you can’t find your keys to get out the door?

In today’s world, we all have many things on our plate. It can be difficult to keep up with everything: family commitments, jobs, building careers, friends, volunteer opportunities, and more.

Add clutter to the picture and life can easily feel chaotic and disorganized on a daily basis.

Clutter: Why it Causes Anxiety and Stress

Dictionary.com defines clutter as “a disorderly heap or assemblage, litter” as well as “a state or condition of confusion.”

Scary Mommy is one of my favorite bloggers.  I find her to be informative, down to earth, and hilarious.  She recently posted an article about the relationship between clutter and anxiety.  Click here to read the post.  In summary, she states that the amount of anxiety she feels from a cluttered room at the end of the day is real, and occasionally extreme.  She may feel doom or depression, and feel as if she just wants to scream or cry. She may even have an anxiety attack from the mess. The writer also went on to share that many readers responded with similar feelings of panic and angst in a messy and cluttered home.  This, of course, made her feel better about her “issue” realizing that she wasn’t the only one with these urging feelings to purge clutter and clean, particularly in times of stress. After some research, she found that there is truth to the production of anxiety from a cluttered environment, and indeed it isn’t just a “neat freak” habit.

Psychologist Sherrie Bourg Carter explains in Psychology Today, “Messy homes and work spaces leave us feeling anxious, helpless, and overwhelmed. Yet, rarely is clutter recognized as a significant source of stress in our lives.”

 

Declutter

Carter also states that clutter and additional stimuli can cause the brain to have difficulty managing its sensory input.  Clutter can stimulate several of the brain’s senses all at once, simply making it a great challenge for that person to think clearly and identify priorities, tasks, and important thoughts.

Lastly, Carter mentions that clutter can send the message to the brain that feels that work is never done, causing a sense of unrest.

Sounds awful. And makes sense, right?

*Now anxiety and depression are the real deal, and if it seems that they are impeding with your way of life, even if due to clutter, talk your primary care doctor about a therapist that may be able to help you.*

The good news is, there are easy ways to simplify and declutter your life. There are many things you can do starting today to help you get a jumpstart on becoming tidy and living in a state of simplicity.  I’ve listed some tips and tricks below, as well as some helpful links.

If you feel you’re too busy, work a 9-5 job, have kids at home, etc.- don’t stop reading here. A step by step process to decluttering over time can help you manage the mess, while not taking over an entire weekend.

What next? Simplify.

Merriam-Webster defines simplify as “to make more intelligible”- synonym: to clarify.

Simplicity.

One word that will help you on a day to day basis to feel calm, collected, and confident that you can complete tasks and still know where your keys are the next morning.

Simplicity.

One word that will help you destress, lessen anxiety, and gain control over more of your life.

Simplicity.

One word that will give your brain a chance to focus on your passions, your ideas, and your relationships.

As mentioned above, simplifying your life can lead to clarity throughout, resulting in less stress and a clearer picture of your priorities from day to day.

“Simplicity is not the absence of clutter, that’s a consequence of simplicity.  Simplicity is somehow essentially describing the purpose and place of an object and product.  The absence of clutter is just a clutter-free product. That’s not simple.” -Jonathan Ive

“The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.” – Hans Hoffman 

Be Realistic

If you have friends telling you that you belong on the show “Hoarders” it is probably not a realistic expectation to declutter your home in one weekend. Some people prefer to knock it all out at once, going from closet to closet and drawer to drawer with a trash bag over a day or two. Other’s prefer to tackle a bit each day, or every other day, as to not take up so much time during the week.  Either way works! Whatever is best with your schedule, and will help you stay motivated. Every summer, I make a list of all of the rooms in our home. From there, I make a checklist for each room with all of the drawers, nooks, and crannies that clutter may have gathered over the school year. Then I aim to complete one room every two or three days, completing the decluttering task by the end of the summer.  This is a way for me to still enjoy my life, while also fulfilling the task of starting the year off with less clutter.

To Toss or Not to Toss, That is the Question

When attacking the clutter, it can be difficult to distinguish whether or not you should toss or keep an item. Various writers, organizers, and professionals have different advice about this.

If you’re having difficulty determining what to do with an item, try this (it may sound a bit cheesy, but it works).

  • Hold the item in your hands, or have it close by and visible.
  • Ask yourself about your use for the item.

 

*These are a few of the sayings that have stuck with me over time:

  1. Does it give me joy? Marie Kondo’s book Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing
  2. Is this something I have used or worn in the past year?
  3. Use it, love it, or get rid of it! Virtuesforlife.com discusses not only decluttering but also keeping it that way.

Keeping Up with Simplicity

These are some of my favorite tips to keeping up with the simplicity and not reverting to old habits:

  1. Out with the old, in with the new…or really in with the new, out with the old. For every new item that comes into your home, toss an old item.
  2. Only one junk drawer allowed.
  3. No stacks- not even neat ones
  4. Clean off kitchen counters and bathroom counters prior to going to bed- start fresh in the morning
  5. Do one load of laundry a day
  6. Clean out the refrigerator each time you grocery shop
  7. Take 5-10 minutes before you go to bed to pick up and put away junk and clutter in each room

“In the scope of a happy life, a messy desk, or an overstuffed coat closet is a trivial thing, yet I find- and I hear from other people that they agree- that getting rid of clutter gives a disproportionate boost to happiness.” Gretchen Rubin

Go now, and make your plan to become less stressed and simplified! It doesn’t have to be January 1st to start off fresh. Make your goal to be clutter free and organized. It will be worth it!

**Disclaimer- The author of this post is in no way affiliated with the websites, blogs, articles and people mentioned.

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