If your overstuffed closet, packed garage, littered desk or messy basement brings on feelings of stress – even suffocation – don’t worry, you’re not alone. Clutter, to varying degrees, brings distress to many of us. For some, clutter can feel “crushing,” almost to the point of no return, like it has taken over our lives. Even if our clutter is stacked up in neat piles, when it’s all over our homes and our lives it can be damaging to our physical and mental health.
Physical effects of clutter.
Concerning our physical health, clutter by itself has an overwhelming presence, enough to cause unwanted and unneeded stress. But clutter also creates a haven for germs, giving them a home to live, breathe, and grow. For those who suffer from allergies, clutter can aggravate allergens by causing a buildup of mold, dust mites, cockroaches, dander, and at times, pesticides and toxic chemicals and fragrances. Clutter adds to the stress of not being able to find things when you need them. It also increases the risk of trip-and-fall injury and can cause fire hazards.
Psychological effects of clutter.
Clutter affects our mental health by increasing our stress and anxiety levels. It can put added pressure on us and make us feel overwhelmed, and sometimes even depressed. Mentally, clutter can weaken our decision-making skills, while strengthening our procrastination. Clutter can teach us to avoid large tasks instead of organizing and tackling them. This avoidance can prevent us from living now and moving forward with positive energy and a positive outlook. Sadly, clutter can make mental issues worse. Sometimes feeling so mentally cluttered can hold you back from doing the things in life you want to do.
Controlling clutter can have a positive effect on our lives. The more we can control clutter, the better we are able to take care of ourselves mentally and physically.
How do we gain control over clutter? By fixing the core of the problem first, which usually starts with our behavior.
Why do we clutter? Is it due to lack of time or lack of organizational skills? Do we suffer from an underlying health issue, or what doctor’s call chronic disorganization? Does the disorganization of clutter stem from chronic pain, depression, grief, or ADHD? We can better understand what’s causing us to clutter if we look at the nature of our clutter – is it things we won’t need long term, or things we might need long term? Examining this will help determine the best course to fix the problem.
Maybe our clutter is more than just a pile of stuff, but serves as a security blanket, filling multiple needs. After all, clutter can falsely be viewed as providing a sense of security, an indication of self-worth, comfort, a path to the past, a feeling of being loved, or a variety of items we promised to do, but never got around to.
No matter why we do it, we can stop it, and move towards enhancing our physical health, mental well-being and overall quality of life. Reducing the accumulation of clutter is a two-part process, beginning with elimination of clutter, and continuing with an ongoing, life-altering organizational system that halts clutter before it builds up.
Here are five quick cleaning tips to keep your clutter-free life intact:
Think “bite size”. Organizing clutter can get a tad overwhelming so plan to organize only fifteen minutes a day. It’s too easy to procrastinate when the other choice is a full day of organizing! To make it productive, make a plan. Designate a day for each room or each task (file papers on Mondays, for example) and have sorting baskets or boxes close at hand. You can sort items by level or room to which they be returned, by trash/recycle/give-away, or any other categories that work for you. When the fifteen minutes is up, return the contents of each basket to its proper spot in your house.
Use available tools. If your clutter seems to be taking over your work space, you may not be as productive as you would like. Keep your main work area functional. It’s easy to find affordable, functional desk and drawer organizers or dividers online and in stores to help control clutter. Figure out a storage system that works for the kinds of things you need to store in your work space – think through your needs. Make a plan – have a set time that you block off a few times a week to re-boot your work area. When you find a plan that works, you’ll stick with it. (Check out Organizing U’s blog on drawer organizers here.)
Limit daily distractions. Artificial interruptions derail us from following through with putting things away when we’re through using them to control clutter. Like email. Instead of checking email throughout the day, dedicate time twice a day for it. In truth, the times we HAVE to be glued to our email Inboxes are fewer than we perceive. But when you are checking emails, follow through here too. Respond to emails right after reading them so you won’t have to worry about it later.
Touch it once. Avoid stacking (and re-stacking) papers at home or at work. File them away in the proper areas as soon as they are completed. As old-fashioned as it sounds, In/Out boxes keep pending documents tidy yet close at hand.
Purge often. Throw our expired foods, medications, vitamins, etc. Go through junk mail, tidy up counter tops, empty trash bins, etc. Organize and tidy for a few minutes each day. Every square foot of clutter eliminated is an improvement in your mental and physical well-being. With minimal effort daily, you can thoroughly organize every square foot of your home about once a quarter. Control clutter and keep life simple and stress-free!
To read more on clutter control and home organizing, check out these blogs: