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How decluttering can improve your mental health

Mirmont Treatment Center June 22, 2023 Mental Health and Wellness

If you're looking for your keys, the shirt you planned to wear or some other essential item, how long does it take you? And how many other items do you have to dig through in order to find something at home?

Should the answer to either of these questions make you pause, you might be dealing with excess clutter. Clutter — or items that are disorganized and collected in places around your house — can keep you from finding what you want in a reasonable timeframe. More than that, it can negatively impact your mental health.

"When it comes to clutter, the material accumulation of things around your bedroom, kitchen, office and other areas can lead to stress and trouble focusing. On the flip side, tidy, organized spaces can do the opposite and keep your mental state in a good place," says Dominique Butz, LPC, a behavioral health therapist at Mirmont Treatment Center.

How does clutter impact your mental state?

Mail on the kitchen counter, documents on your desk, kids' toys in just about every room — there are plenty of items that seem to pile up and create clutter.

Having an excess of items lying around might simply seem annoying or time-consuming when you have to take time to sift through unorganized piles. However, a cluttered environment makes it difficult for your brain to focus, which can lead to:

  • Irritability
  • Distractedness
  • Inability to process information
  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Sadness

Clutter can also make you less proud of your living spaces, negatively impacting your self-esteem.

What are the benefits of decluttering?

Fortunately, with some simple decluttering, you can effectively improve your mental health. Decluttering your physical space reduces the amount of time you spend searching for things and limits the amount of lost (or presumed lost) items. As a result, it can:

  • Save time
  • Reduce stress
  • Improve your energy levels
  • Free up time for activities you enjoy
  • Improve your efficiency with work or home tasks
  • Enhance your living spaces

If you have children, the benefits extend to them.

"While you might be tempted to dump out a bunch of toys in hopes your child will find something they love, this can be overwhelming. Instead, giving children fewer toys to play with can actually keep them engaged in play longer. This prolonged focus can even translate to better abilities to focus later on in life," says Ms. Butz.

How can I declutter my home?

Decluttering doesn't have to be overwhelming. If you take it step by step, you can begin to declutter the spaces in your home and improve your mental health.

Start by making the process enjoyable. Put on your favorite music, open the windows and make yourself a refreshing beverage.

Then, focus on one, manageable space, like a kitchen drawer. Organize items into three piles — donate, keep and throw away.

Try to donate items you haven't used in the last few months or year. With the items you plan to keep, find a true home for them, like a hook for your keys or a folder for your coupons. Keep in mind — something as simple as a designated mail drop zone can do the trick. Also, group like items together so you know where to search for them, such as storing all writing utensils in one place.

Next, expand this process to more drawers, desktops and rooms. You may also want to tackle other spaces in your life, like your car or your office. Over time, this approach will begin to declutter your spaces — and your mind.

Other simple ways to declutter your home include:

  • Adhering to the "something in, something out" rule — or getting rid of an item each time you buy something new.
  • Passing down items you're holding onto for someone else, such as for children. If they say they aren't interested, be prepared to donate or throw them away.
  • Trying the backward hanger trick by turning all of your hangers around at the beginning of the season, then donating everything that remains on a backward hanger and you didn't wear.
  • Scheduling decluttering time into your routine on a regular basis (even five minutes a day goes a long way).

Decluttering your way to happiness

Your home, office, car and other spaces have a significant impact on how you feel each day. If you're surrounded by clutter, your mind will feel cluttered, too. By taking small but purposeful steps to declutter the areas in your life, you can experience less stress and more happiness.

Next steps:

Make an appointment with Dominique Butz, LPC
Learn more about behavioral health care at Main Line Health
Tips for helping your children use social media mindfully

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