Stuff, Be Gone! The Surprising Psychological Benefits of Decluttering

If… your kitchen counters are covered with appliances, your refrigerator is an easel for your kids’ school pictures and art projects, your dining room table is buried underneath stacks of unread magazines and mail and your bedroom closet is stuffed to overflowing with clothes and shoes that are so out of style, they’re back in style, then… you’re a victim of owning TMS—Too Much Stuff.

Having too much stuff is not only frustrating, it can make it difficult to get things done; in fact, studies have shown that clutter can even contribute to poor mental health. The time to take back your space is now, and we’ve curated some sage advice for steps you can take to control that clutter.

Professional organizers like Hilda Rodgers, who are called to help sort out cluttered homes and offices, say their clients use the same words over and over to describe their reaction to the mess: their energy is drained, they can’t find things, and it’s beginning to interfere with crucial parts of life, like getting to work on time or even getting out of bed.

“People become nonfunctional and nonproductive,” explains Rodgers, “because they feel like they’re suffocating. It’s hard to focus with all that distracting stuff surrounding you.”

Stressed, people can become short-tempered, exasperated with others and too exhausted to create and maintain a functional household.

After eight years running her Mississauga-based company, From Overwhelmed to Organized, Rodgers says the problem with being unorganized stems mainly from having too much clutter.

“You have to get rid of the excess stuff you don’t need before you can do something logical with the stuff you do need,” she explains.

That’s where Marie Kondo comes in.

People all over the world are drawn to Kondo’s philosophy, detailed in her renowned book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up”, not only due to its effectiveness, but also because it focuses on being mindful, introspective and forward-looking.

Most tidying methods advocate a room-by-room or little-by-little approach, which doom you to pick away at your piles of stuff forever.

Kondo’s KonMari Method™ encourages tidying by category, instead of by location, beginning with clothes, then moving on to books, papers, komono (miscellaneous items), and, finally, sentimental items. Keep only those things that speak to the heart, and discard items that no longer spark joy. Thank them for their service—then let them go.

Here are some tips and tricks as you begin to declutter and wrest back your space:

  • Ask yourself: “What’s my vision for the life I want?” That becomes the criteria for what you decide to keep. Instead of asking, “What do I need for the house?” ask “What do I want from this space?” You’ll soon figure out what’s clutter and what’s not.
  • Don’t put off making decisions or refuse to make them. Decide right then what you’re going to keep and what you’re going to toss—and then move on.
  • Make a pact with yourself. When something comes in, something must go out. If you buy new clothes, part with some old ones.
  • Create a ‘pocket of order’. The key is to start small. Tackle one room or even one bookshelf at a time.
  • Deciding what makes the cut can be tough; making a list of parameters helps. For instance, when cleaning closets, decide to throw out anything stained or torn, to donate clothing you haven’t worn for six months, and to organize the rest.
  • Once you’re rid of the clutter, shift to maintenance mode, organizers advise. Make an appointment with yourself for clutter maintenance. Literally write it on your calendar.

The change, you’ll find, is instant and dramatic, Rodgers says.

“When my clients start to control their clutter, they begin to take better care of themselves in every aspect of their lives,” Rodgers says. “Their mood improves—maybe because they’re not rushing around so much looking for car keys buried in rubble or bills that are misplaced!”



From Overwhelmed to Organized

Simply Home Downsizing

Marie Kondo

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