Declutter Your Life, Declutter Your Mind
Your mind is as influenced by your environment as your body. When you live in a disordered space, it triggers stress, anxiety and procrastination. Here’s how decluttering can improve your mental health.
On the surface, clutter can be defined as an untidy or disorganised state. If you have a designated clothes chair, if your fridge is a graveyard of expired products if you dread opening closet doors because of the pile behind them waiting to crash land on you?like many of us you might find it harder to let go of some items. However, contemporary research suggests that how we live can be a deep-rooted reflection of how we feel. A disordered environment, therefore, is likely to cause or be caused by underlying tension.
Exactly why we hold on to some objects is unknown, from movie tickets to hand-me-downs, many seemingly insignificant objects hold a lot of sentimental value. Though not true for most cases, cluttering can also be found among people with a hoarding disorder (HD). Causing intense distress and fear at the thought of parting with one’s belongings, HD was recognised as a valid mental disorder in the 5th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and is often associated with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), depression and obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD), as revealed by a 2016 study published in the British Medical Journal. Apart from that, a hectic schedule, impulsive shopping etc are also contributing factors in cluttering.
“Tidying is the act of confronting yourself”, says organising consultant Marie Kondo in her book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Thus, by bringing in a positive change in your surroundings, you are also being more economical, resourceful, organised and able to put aside more time for self-care.
Five Ways In Which Decluttering Boosts Your Mental Health
It makes you productive: A 2011 study published in the Journal of Neuroscience revealed that “the capacity of the visual system to process information about multiple objects at any given moment in time is limited.” Therefore, when there are too many objects in our view, it’s more difficult for our brains to focus on one. This may lead to procrastination, confusion and reduced work capacity.
A cleaner, more organised workspace will save you the time you spend looking for things everyday. Besides, doing small and actionable chores like washing the dishes or taking out the trash can give you a sense of accomplishment, thus increasing your productivity. Not only does decluttering provide us with a sense of calm and cleanliness, it is also a light form of exercise that releases endorphins, aka the “happy hormone”.
It helps us connect with our homes: No matter where we live, our residence doesn’t feel like a home until we feel secure and relaxed in it. Our homes are almost a representation of ourselves. In a 2016 study in Elsevier, clutter was found to be “an antagonist to the normally positive benefits and consequences of home for subjective well-being”. Our sense of security and comfort in our personal space is disrupted by such a disordered state.
While our possession clutter can negatively impact our mental well-being, decluttering and customising your home according to your personality can therefore improve how you feel about yourself, boost your confidence and create a parity between the home you have and the one you want.
It promotes self-improvement: Recently, videos of home organisation, minimal decor, restocking pantries etc are all the rage all over social media. We, as human beings, are generally drawn to things that are aesthetic. So, having a clean and orderly environment uplifts our mood.
According to a Cornell University study from 2016, clutter leads to increased levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. This can lead to stress-eating, oversleeping and other unhealthy coping mechanisms.
Hence, decluttering not only helps impact our physical health through a better diet and sleep, it also purges extra baggage and gives us the scope and motivation for self-care and nurture our interests.
It builds healthier relationships: How many times have you argued with a loved one over doing a chore or making a mess? An unhealthy living environment impacts not just you but anyone you might share it with.
Darby Saxbe, in her 2009 study published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, analysed 60 dual-income spouses while they gave self-guided home tours. Through the words they used to describe their homes, it was revealed that “women with higher stressful home scores had increased depressed mood over the course of the day, whereas women with higher restorative home scores had decreased depressed mood over the day.”
A decluttered home clears the path for easier, pleasant communication as you’re able to bond with your near and dear ones more, as opposed to having constant arguments. Sharing chores and decorating your place together not only solidifies mutual respect and thoughtfulness, it also helps you understand the likes and dislikes of another person better.
It gives you more control: “When home feels out of control, no matter what the reason, unsettledness and anxiety can seep in, and then the chaos becomes internal as well as external”, says Myquillyn Smith, author of Cozy Minimalist Home: More Style, Less Stuff. When you’re living in a space where you don’t know where anything is or don’t know how to start maintaining it, it can be a source of anxiety.
As you grow and evolve, so must the place you live in. For instance, a 2021 study at the University of Texas concludes that, “The goal for many older adults is to grow older in their own homes, but as they encounter functional limitations, such as not being able to walk or climb stairs, their homes become out-of-date, uncomfortable, dim and cluttered”.
By choosing what to keep, what to dispose of and what to rearrange, we are able to regain authority over what to do with our time and space. There is also an added sense of purpose and self-worth in being able to maintain a systemised regimen for yourself.
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