Declutter your life to relieve stress

Do you live and work in a cluttered environment? When we are busy and life is stressful, staying on top of our living space and keeping things in order can be hard but science suggests that a cluttered environment is likely to make you feel more stressed whilst also reducing your capacity to perform at your best.

Consciously or unconsciously we often tie our identity to our possessions. We keep too many items and end up overwhelmed with a lot of things. We aren’t good at getting rid of belongings we no longer need and sometimes just the thought of sorting out our mess can be really stressful. However research suggests that there are some great benefits to decluttering our lives.

Following a recent move I realised how powerful clearing out my stuff was and the benefit it had on my mental wellbeing so I wanted to share this interesting research with you.

The bottom line is that mess affects our thinking and I looked at a number of research papers on this.

In one volunteers were asked to make various decisions after filling out dummy questionnaires that were either in clear or cluttered rooms:

  • When asked to donate 82% of subjects from the clean room did as opposed to only 47% of subjects from the messy room
  • When offered a choice between an apple or a sweet, the participants in the tidy room were more likely to pick the healthy option
  • Participants in the cluttered room showed greater levels of creativity when asked to come up with more inventive ideas compared to those in the clear room.

So whilst a cluttered room might make you more creative, it could also make you less responsible towards your health and other people.

A further study used MRI brain imaging to study people living and working in chaotic environments. They found that those in a visually busy environment found it more difficult to stay focused and process information.

So in light of this research I would suggest that if you are working on a cognitively tough project or you are facing a stressful situation which is difficult to resolve, that a chaotic untidy environment might not be the best environment for you.

So is it time to declutter your life?

Here are some tips.

How many clothes do you have that you hope to fit into one day? How does having these clothes around make you feel? To me they were reminders of the past and I’m looking at the present and the future. Letting go of these clothes helped me also to let go of the dissatisfaction that was attached to not fitting into them. So I would suggest that you too get rid of these items.

Do one small area at a time – a cupboard, your wardrobe, and don’t stop until you’ve gone through everything. Bag things for charity and recycling. Don’t move onto the next place until you’ve done everything here. Break it down into manageable chunks.

Don’t hold onto things ‘just in case’ you need them. In my life, this was a lot of stuff that I had been carrying from property to property without using. We’ll be able to cope without them so get rid of them!

Don’t feel bad about giving up an item associated with a special person. Often we keep gifts from other people even though they are no use to us. You really don’t need to keep every gift you are given. Give it to someone who will enjoy and use it and remember it’s your relationship with the person that counts and not treasuring their gift that you’re not that interested in.

Don’t expect a perfect house! We will never get it looking like a magazine shoot so holding yourself to this expectation is even more stressful. Just get your surroundings reasonably tidy and know where the important stuff is.

If there are things that you really don’t know whether or not to get rid of, create a box for these items. At the end of the month or another chosen time period, if you haven’t thought about these items or used them, then consider getting rid of them.

Clear your environment and declutter your life so you can sharpen and calm your mind.

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