Can Decluttering Your Space Really Improve Your Mental Health?

By Katie McCann

February 1, 2021

I don’t know about you, but I’ve recently rediscovered how much stuff I have.

Working from home, staying socially distanced, and at times fully quarantined provided a lot of time to sit back and take stock of my possessions. It gave my parents time to sort through bins of sentimental items from when I was young. My friends who are parents have had lots of time to comb through outgrown clothes and toys.

Often we don’t know how much we have… until it becomes an obstacle… until it becomes clutter.

Not only does it become a physical obstacle, but it also has a negative effect on your mental health.

The Not-Great Feelings of Clutter

The word clutter has a negative connotation. Images that arise with the word clutter are those of confusion, things not being arranged, neat, or orderly. It reduces how effective people can function in their surroundings.

This is not good for our emotional health.

Clutter is associated with negative, overwhelming, non-productive emotions. Psychologist Sherrie Bourg Carter explains, “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.”

Unfortunately, clutter is a huge source of our daily tension.

Clutter begins in a few different ways. One cause is sentimental items we choose to hold on to. These items carry with them the memory and emotion. This intensifies with the loss of someone dear to us. Another reason clutter appears is because of lack of effort – either not putting things away, or not looking for something (but just buying another one). These things compound in our lives until it affects our day-to-day activities.

Mental Health Benefits of Decluttering

Decluttering things in your life can have a positive impact and can help improve your mental health in so many ways.

Picture this – you’re finally getting home from a long day at work. As soon as you take off your jacket and put down your keys and phone, you make a beeline to your bedroom so you can change into your favorite hoodie and leggings.

Your stomach reminds you that you’re starving so you start to think about what you have in the fridge for dinner. Remembering the colorful red, orange, and yellow bell peppers, carrots, grape tomatoes, radishes, and baby carrots you bought at the grocery store makes you happy. Not only can you make a fabulous salad tonight, you get inspired to keep dicing and use some of the diced veggies for a homemade pizza tomorrow.

Win-Win! Being productive is an incredible feeling!

This also puts you in a good mood because you have that coffee and brainstorming meeting the following morning. All of these veggies will be fuel for your brain and will greatly improve your creativity. You’re going to own that meeting!

So you bound down the hall into your kitchen, opting for some fun music instead of the news. You turn into the kitchen and see…

Scenario 1

  • Dishes piled in the sink from the last two nights that you didn’t get to.

  • You can’t put them into the dishwasher because you never turned it on and it’s full of dirty dishes.

  • The top of the stove has two pots and a baking stone on it.

  • To top that off, your table has those same three piles of mail and papers you’ve been meaning to get to, although they aren’t as neat as they once were.

Ugh!

You abandon all previous healthy and responsible plans while you plop down on the couch. You turn on the news and scroll through Door Dash to see what you can have delivered. All the while hoping the veggies don’t spoil in the fridge before you get a chance to prep and eat them. Your happiness just exited stage left.

Scenario 2

The pots and baking stone are in the drying rack waiting to be put away. You’re thankful you emptied the dishwasher last night because the cutting board, knife, and glass bowls are waiting for you to take them to the table and use them. Your sink is empty, so it’s very easy to wash the cutting board when you’re done and set it to dry. This puts you in such a good mood because this salad looks delicious! This inspires you to make a smaller version for lunch tomorrow.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been in both of these situations.

I learned the hard way that having my kitchen ready to be used puts me in a much better head-space!

Physical Areas to Declutter

There are some common and fairly easy areas you can start decluttering today. You will be left with an incredible sense of accomplishment that will leave you feeling like you can tackle the bigger projects.

  • Kitchen counters – put things away in the correct place, wipe down the countertop

  • Kitchen table – arrange things that often stay on the table, wipe down the tabletop

  • Bathroom counters – put things back in the drawer or rearrange them on the counter, wipe it down

  • Tops of dressers – random sock, bracelet, or shirt? Put it in the correct drawer so the top is free of anything that doesn’t belong

  • End tables/nightstands – put the remotes where they belong, organize the lotion, clock, and picture, clear off or throw away anything that shouldn’t be there

It doesn’t take much time each day to do a little bit at a time. You may not feel like it, but in the end, you will be happy you did.

Mental Areas to Declutter

Mental health is a struggle for so many. There are a few areas that will have a positive impact on daily life.

Declutter daily schedules and commitments.

This may cause some anxiety because we can’t get out of some obligations. However, arranging a carpool will alleviate some time and stress. Small things can make a big impact.

Declutter your email inbox.

You know the daily emails you get because you wanted the discount code for that one purchase? Well, it’s ok to unsubscribe. How much time have you wasted deleting the emails for months or even years? Junk mail in your inbox? Move it to junk and unsubscribe. The things that you automatically delete are not serving you. Time to delete and move on.

Declutter your social media.

Empower yourself by muting, unfollowing, blocking, unfriending, un-everything-ing those which don’t bring you peace. You deserve to smile, lol, be inspired, and find happiness, so stick with those images when you decide to scroll. If it doesn’t bring you happiness, it’s time to let it go.

Declutter Your Life – Your Mental Health Will Thank You

If you didn’t know before, now you know the many health benefits of decluttering. It can improve your creativity, increase your productivity, improve your mood, and it is inspiring and empowering.

One thing my family does is to set a timer for 10-15 minutes. Or we crank up our playlist and organize for the length of 3-4 songs.

This is manageable! Dare I say even a bit of fun with our favorite songs helping us out.

Put on that favorite hoodie and leggings, crank up the speaker, and dance with that wet/dry mop while you make those floors sparkle. Don’t forget to put your shoes, mail, and baking stone in its place.

Do you have a quick clean and declutter routine? Do you have a favorite song or playlist you’ve created for inspiration when it comes to decluttering your space and cleaning? Drop it in the comments below and help inspire someone else!

If you are feeling overwhelmed and concerned about your clutter, please reach out to Katie. She would love to help you create your Haven.

Michelle Toll is an educated copywriter who writes for numerous professional organizers. She is honored to continue serving others after nearly 20 years of teaching first grade. Michelle is a momma to a teen, tween, and a few furballs. She enjoys walking, reading, and spending time with family and friends. If you’re an organizer who’d rather spend time with clients, visit her website and let her do the rest www.michelletollcopywriter.com.

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