We all know the idea- a clean house allows you to do other things. But a cluttered house does more than keep you busy cleaning- it actually affects your state of mind.
Researchers have found that when your environment is too cluttered, your ability to focus and process information is considerably decreased. The constant distraction of clutter sitting on the table, or staring at you from the corner, vies for your attention, and causes you to be unable to focus on your goals of the day, or in life. Just looking at the mess made many moms in one study exhibit elevated levels of diurnal cortisol in their saliva, a sign that their stress level was increasing. Other researchers have shown that a chaotic environment can contribute to behavioral issues in children, which include attention problems and hyperactivity.
So what’s the solution, when it seems that you have absolutely no time to get to that pile of clutter that keeps taunting you?
The fact is that decluttering your house doesn’t have to be a battle. For me, cleaning up a clutter bomb makes me feel exhilarated. I feel lighter since I’ve sorted and gotten rid of things I don’t need. I feel safer now that I’ve made a healthy difference in getting rid of a source of dust, dirt and possible bacteria for my family. And I feel better every time I look at that area again, smiling in the fact that I can see the tabletop or floor. Using a few simple methods on every clutter bomb I encounter makes the job much easier and a lot less stressful, and allows me to get back to the activities that I’d rather be doing, now with some peace of mind.
What to Declutter
- Identify clutter spots – Take twenty minutes to an hour to leisurely walk your house and identify all the clutter bombs you’ve got. Make a list of each pile and space you want to declutter.
- Rate your list – Sit down in the place you normally relax. This is usually the living room, but for some, it can be the kitchen, bedroom, or even the bathroom. (especially when a relaxing bath is a de-stressing routine.) Identify your worst clutter areas, which usually means the ones you see the most. Rate these areas on your list from most important to fix to least, putting the worst first. This ordered list will be your guide on which area to tackle first. Then second, and so on, until you’ve reached your goal and have an uncluttered house, and mind. You can also rate your list by rooms, such as tackling the living room first, then the kitchen, and so on, following the same principle of what you see or encounter the most being rated at the top. For time considerations, break up the areas within each room too.
When to Declutter
Now that you’ve created your clutter eradication plan, it’s time to fit it into your busy schedule.
- Seasonal Decluttering – Many people like to declutter after the New Year, or during seasonal changes. Using spring and fall can be helpful, as you are already likely doing some cleaning and organizing of seasonal clothes. However, it may not be plausible to do it all at once or wait until that time of year.
- Declutter in your schedule – Carve out very small chunks of time, like an hour in the evening when the kids have gone to bed, or twenty minutes while dinner is in the oven. Use these small chunks of time and go down your list in order. Don’t feel overwhelmed. The reason for the list is not just to help identify those trouble areas, but also to help you focus, and to create a strategic plan you CAN follow. Know your limitations, whether they be time or physical. Check off the areas on the list in your own time, enlisting help from your family. If it takes you a few days, great! If it takes you a few months, great too! You don’t have a time limit, and can set your pace according to your own schedule.
How to Declutter
When attacking a cluttered area, the goal is to find everything a home when it is not in use. The only things left in those areas are aesthetic or used often, such as a bowl of fruit, tv remotes, a mail caddy, or a vase. You want to see your tabletop, floor and corners of the room.
- Sort the items in the clutter pile – This is best done by arranging sorting boxes near you, making sure to label them:
- Relocate – These are for things you are keeping, but that need to live somewhere else.
- Recycle – This is for anything that cannot be donated, but can be reused, or put into your recycling bins.
- Donate – This is for any items that can be donated to friends, relatives, thrift stores, or organizations.
- Trash – This is for broken, old, and worn items. Along with things that cannot be recycled, reused, or donated.
- Use a sorting rule – As you are sorting, if you can’t decide whether you should keep an item, use this rule. If you haven’t used it in a year, or have no emotional attachment to it, Let It Go! Remember that many things can be donated, so don’t feel like you are throwing it away. If one year seems too short, make it a two year rule, but keep to it!
- Take care of your boxes – Make a pile somewhere out of the way for your donation items. Throw out the trash, and sort your recyclables into your recycling bins. Last, is your Relocate box. Decide where those items should be. Where does it makes sense to find them when you need them, put them there.
Voila! You’ve just made a dent! Now, create your new clean space how you want it to look, keeping that place organized from the start.
Once the clutter is gone, you may likely begin to feel like you need more organization. Closets and drawers seem messy, especially after you’ve probably relocated things into them.
After your main list for your declutter plan is complete, start a new list for things like drawers and closets, or other storage spaces when you are ready. As before, rate this list from most important to least, putting the most frequented areas at the top.
- Rate importance – For each space, decide what should go in there, which things are most important or used, and how you would like to find them from now on.
- Sort items – Items that are most often used should go in front, in the middle, or within view. Other items get sorted as you want to find them later, such as in a labeled box in the basement, or in the back of the closet. Be sure to label any storage containers to make it easy to identify later, and so others in your household can also find them.
- Organize – There are many types of containers, caddies and organizing drawers you can purchase to help, as well as boxes and containers you may already have that can be reused for this purpose.
Getting rid of the clutter bombs in your life can help you to achieve a less stressful mind. It can also help you to create strategies to keep organized.