Imagine this: you come home after having a hard day at work and the first thing you notice when you walk through the door is that the whole place looks like a bomb went off.
Your kids have made piles of clothes, books, and toys in their room, the kitchen sink has being cramped with dirty dishes, the coffee table has been covered with empty and half-filled cups, and let’s not forget your dog, which has knocked over a couple of flowerpots.
Well, if you’re like me, you’d start to have a panic attack and go nuts immediately. But don’t worry. You’re not crazy and there’s nothing wrong with you. In fact, psychologists say that cluttered space is a trigger of stress and anxiety.
Psychologist Sherrie Bourg Carter says: “Clutter can play a significant role in how we feel about our homes, our workplaces, and ourselves. Messy homes and workspaces leave us feeling anxious, helpless, and overwhelmed. Yet, rarely is clutter recognized as a significant source of stress in our lives.”
So, the question is: Why is mess stressful and anxiety-inducing?
According to Carter, there are 8 main reasons for this:
– Clutter makes us feel overwhelmed since it exposes us to a lot of unimportant stimuli, thereby causing our senses to work overtime.
– It takes our attention away from things we should focus on.
– It makes it more difficult for us to relax mentally and physically.
– It signals to our brains that our work is never finished.
– It makes us think about how we’re going to tidy up all the mess.
– It makes us feel guilty for not being more organized and embarrassed, especially when someone pays us an unexpected visit.
– It hinders our productivity and creativity.
– It frustrates us by making it more difficult for us to find what we need.
Luckily, unlike other life stressors, such as our relationships or jobs, clutter can be easily fixed.
Here’s how you can effectively do that, according to Carter:
1. If your house is full of stacks of clutter, don’t clean out things by yourself. Instead, get the whole family involved in decluttering.
You can do this by making each person responsible for one room. And if you are on your own, start by cleaning up the clutter in one room at a time and finish tidying up that area before you move on to the next one.
2. You can prevent clutter from invading your place by creating specific places for the items that you often use. In this way, you’ll be able to find what you are looking for faster and more easily.
Yet, avoid storing items on open shelves because you’ll still be able to see the clutter that triggers stress. Instead of this, store items in “closed” spaces, such as cabinets and drawers.
3. Get rid of things you don’t use, need, or want. Whether you’ll recycle it, donate it, or just toss it out, it doesn’t matter – just make sure it no longer occupies a place in your home.
As for the items you rarely use, you can keep them in boxes (e.g. in the garage) so that you make more space for the things you use more commonly.
4. After you’ve finished using something, put it back to its designated place right away. In this way, you’ll prevent clutter from piling up all over the house.
5. Make a pending folder. This will benefit you in two ways. First, it’ll help you clear off your workspace. Secondly, it’ll make it easier for you to find pending projects.
6. Make sure you don’t let papers turn into piles. Go through all your newspapers, magazines, menus, flyers, and mail and get rid of those you don’t need.
7. Tidy up your workspace after you’ve finished working. In this way, you’ll feel more satisfied because you’ll know you’ve finished with your work, and I believe you’ll agree with me that it feels really good when you return to a clean space.
8. Last but not least, don’t forget to make it fun. As you’re decluttering your home, put on your favorite songs. This way, not only will you enjoy the music, but the time will pass more quickly and you’ll more likely work faster.