Why decluttering your home unleashes joy
Updated: Feb 12
When the mood takes you, what is your approach to decluttering your home?
We were chatting in the office recently about this topic, and Jan shared a childhood memory of her mother’s radical approach to tackling it.
Whenever she reached breaking point with the kids’ messy bedrooms, her solution was to sweep in and clear absolutely everything from every surface and cupboard into a big pile on the floor.
She then gave orders that nobody was to do anything else until the piles were sorted through and everything put back in its proper place.
‘I actually quite liked it’ said Jan. ‘I enjoyed methodically putting everything back neatly into its correct cupboard or drawer. And when I was done it was like I had a brand-new bedroom!’
If only we all had a powerful force like that to force us to tackle the mess in our homes!
Good for the soul
Decluttering your home is a powerful act. Good for our physical and mental well-being.
It is also a trendy topic. We are fascinated by it. The popularity of shows on Netflix like ‘Tidying Up’ with Marie Kondo and ‘Get Organized with The Home edit’ show that we instinctively crave that Zen-like feeling when everything in our homes has a purpose and a place.
Decluttering can quite literally change your life.
Here are some of the ways it can bring joy:
1. Decrease your stress levels
The New York Times cites a 2010 study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology which found that clutter leads to an increase in the stress hormone cortisol. When women viewed the work needed to be done in their homes as a problem, they began and ended their day with raised stress levels.
The stress affected the men too, when they engaged in the chores, but overall, it was the women who were taking ownership of the tasks, therefore staying stressed the most!
But it is how we perceive our clutter that matters. If it doesn’t bother us then the stress response won’t appear.
Dr. Saxbe, an assistant psychology professor at University of Southern California and the study’s lead author said “Clutter is in the eye of the beholder. The people who talked about it were the ones who had the cortisol response.”
So, be easy on yourself, don't judge your cluttered space with a negative eye. But set aside time to tackle the problem and you will find your mind start to clear.
2. Increase your concentration
When we are surrounded by piles of unorganised stuff, we often have to physically interrupt a task we are engaged in in order to complete it. Then as we rummage around trying to find that document or other item we need, more often that not we get distracted by what we encounter on the way to finding it, and then our productivity abandons us.
'Oh here's an interesting leaflet, I'll just flick through...' or 'I haven't heard this CD in years, let me put it on. But wait, where is the CD player...?'
Also if you are one of those who does get annoyed by your clutter, your concentration can also be affected simply by the mental impact of knowing that it's there,
Then of course, it’s a vicious cycle…
As we get stressed, we can’t concentrate, and then we can’t achieve anything, and then we are feeling bad about ourselves… ‘Why can’t I get anything done?’, ‘why is everything taking so long?’ (Is there a tearing your hair out emoji?)
Consider this poor man who lost his job…
Why did the man get fired from the orange juice factory?
Lack of concentration
(Sorry, I got distracted)
Once you have found a dedicated space for all your belongings, and removed the things you no longer need, you will be able to focus more, and save a lot of time!
3. Beat the dreaded procrastination!
Lack of concentration leads to the one we all love to beat ourselves up about…procrastination.
You know you have a job to do, but you need to go through a whole bunch of papers before you can even being to think about starting the job.
If you have to move things around in order to accomplish anything, you are adding on piles of unpleasantness.
Of course, you will put it off. And maybe not even start at all.
Give yourself a head start with a clear working space and home. When your world is organized you have no more excuses not to start those important jobs.
4. Make fun time more fun
What do you like to do in your down time that's fun?
What do you need to do those activities? A ticket for the event? Hats and scarves for walking in cold weather? Cycling gear? Swimming gear?
When you don't organize your things, it can definitely take the shine off an enjoyable activity when you can't find what you need.
You forget where you put that thing, but you're sure you gave it to your mum last week, and…..ahhh!!!
Pack your fun time with as much joy as possible by eliminating all those stressful moments of searching for lost items.
A common one in my house is buying tickets for an event, months in advance, filing the tickets in a 'safe spot', then the day of the event having to tear apart every book, file, pile of old Christmas cards in the house until the tickets are found.
We have never had to miss out on an event yet, but it has come perilously close on many occasions! Then there are the ensuing arguments.
Which leads on nicely to the next point...
5. Improve your relationships
Writing in the Metro, Ellen Scott leads with the powerful headline 'Why clutter has the power to break up your relationship'
But of course it can cast shadows over any relationship. Family, kids, friends.
We all have that friend who stresses us out because they are so organised that we feel inadequate!
Clashes arise when we have different ideas as to what is considered clutter and what is not.
'Some people, however, will find large amounts of miscellaneous stuff oppressive and overwhelming, while others will find having lots of things a source of comfort and safety. That’s primarily down to how we view the emotional meaning of our things.'
Conversations about decluttering your home are essential...where to start, what to get rid of, etc. and everyone needs to be completely invested in how to solve the issues for any impact to truly last long term.
It's a lifestyle change
Clutter has the power to really hold us back in so many areas of our life. So what can we do?
If you are serious about confronting the issues of clutter in your house, and having your efforts last longer than a weekend, Marie Kondo recommends setting aside a few days or weeks and tackling your whole house in one go.
You can find a summary of her beautifully named 'Konmari method' here.
The key is to give everything a place, and to involve everyone you live with in the discussions. But most of all you need to have the focus and motivation to make dramatic changes in your life.
Visualize your home without the clutter first. When you imagine with strength and passion how different your life could be, and how beautiful your home could look, you will find the enthusiasm to face up to the sometimes painful process!
Look after yourself first
But...you may come across a lot of resistance from your household members and they may not want to make any changes at all. If they are the type to not be bothered by mess and clutter then the struggle can cause you to give up.
Alternatively, decluttering your home could start with your own small sanctuary and expanding from there.
If you work from home, or if you just have lots of important documents and files that you want to keep tidy and safe from the rest of the house, a NEXT DESK is the ideal piece of home office furniture that allows you to feel calm and happy that at least one area of your life is in order.