If you have a difficult time summoning that Marie Kondō-esque motivation to clean your space, you’re not alone. As a survey found, 4 out of 5 Americans have at least one area of their homes that’s always a mess or full of unused items. But nearly 35 percent are too overwhelmed to tackle these so-called “cleaning black holes.”
This checks out: When chaos accumulates, it can feel stressful (or just about impossible) to manage all the clutter and restore an organized environment. But the fact is, you’ll breathe so much easier once you do. The final outcome might even “spark joy,” to extend the Marie Kondō reference. That’s right—there are actual wellness benefits to decluttering!
Benefits of Decluttering Your Home
Do you ever notice a clear shift in mood when you leave a cluttered room and walk into a tidier one? All of a sudden, you’re calmer and less frazzled, right? It’s not your imagination—the brain is wired to crave a sense of order, explains Libby Sander, assistant professor of organizational behavior at Australia’s Bond University. In fact, those who work in clean, organized spaces are often more able to concentrate, process information, and sustain high performance levels than many of their messier counterparts.
That’s because the “visual distraction of clutter increases cognitive overload,” continues Sander, which can drain energy, impair focus, elevate stress or anxiety, and cause procrastination. It’s only logical—a clear mind requires a clear environment. Here are a few specific ways that decluttering will enhance your mental health and cognitive function, so you can proceed to crush it, both at home and out in the world:
Decluttering Improves the Ability to Make Decisions.
When you pare down the volume of shirts in your closet, the number of books on your nightstand, or the stacks of mail on your counter, you’ll be less overwhelmed by the amount of choices in your environment. A minimalist approach to living can reduce the effects of decision fatigue and create more room in your brain for larger decisions that actually matter. So ask yourself, “Do I need this item?” then release it when the answer is, “No.” This builds decision making muscles and curbs the amount of choices you’re faced with overall.
Decluttering Helps Create Boundaries for Your Space.
The sheer act of removing clutter or mess from your home communicates, both to yourself and others who enter the space, which kind of energy can take root here. Are you creating an inner sanctuary for self-care, positive connection, and peace of mind to thrive? Or are you allowing chaos to have a full run of the place? When you set aside time to intentionally curate the atmosphere you want to live in, it helps you establish boundaries for what can or cannot exist within those four walls. This skill is equally beneficial outside the home too.
Decluttering Can Alleviate Mood Disorder Symptoms.
According to Brenna Renn, PhD., clinical psychologist and assistant professor of behavioral science at University of Washington, an orderly space can help to relieve chronic stress or anxiety. While decluttering is not a cure for these conditions, it’s an effective outlet to manage symptoms and brighten your mood. Since anxiety causes a hyper vigilant stress response, “clutter or anything disruptive in your environment could be one more [stressor] that tips the scales,” Renn points out—whereas organization makes it easier to relax.
Decluttering Boosts Motivation and Goal Orientation.
Don’t you just feel a surge of accomplishment when you finish a decluttering project, whether it’s sorting out a pile of clothes to donate or moving tax documents from your desk to the filing cabinet? It’s a boost of confidence to see a task through to completion, and it fuels you with the motivation to pursue other goals on your list as well. Remember that time you wanted to learn the ukulele, but several years later, all it does is gather dust in the corner? Decluttering will inspire you to either re-commit to this goal or find that ukulele a new home.
4 Tips to Help You Declutter Your Home
Alright, so now you know the benefits of decluttering. But that doesn’t change how hard it can be to roll up your sleeves and start the process. Fear not—this isn’t about maintaining a spotless home with no item out of place. The whole point is to create an environment where you can function with both comfort and efficiency. Here’s how to make decluttering your home seem less daunting.
1. Focus on One Small Area at a Time.
If you think about everything in your home that needs the decluttering treatment, it’s only natural to feel overwhelmed. But if you segment the project into a series of micro tasks, it suddenly becomes more manageable. So identify one small area to declutter at a time—this might be your bedroom, kitchen table, hallway closet, junk drawer, or anything else that could use a clean sweep. But choose an area that’s not too large to help ease yourself in.
2. Do Not Move on Until It’s Finished.
Once you determine which area to concentrate on first, make this your sole focus for as long as necessary. That means eliminating distractions from your purview until the task is complete. You know the temptation—starting to clear out the bathroom cabinets, then checking your phone for notifications and falling into a social media “scroll hole” for 30 minutes. The less time you allow for these distractions, the quicker you’ll finish. Then, you can whip out Instagram.
3. Be Realistic About Your Next Goal.
Once you’re done with the first decluttering project, it’s time to set your sights on what comes next—but don’t be too ambitious with task number two. You might need a break for a few hours or even days before resuming “operation declutter,” and that’s perfectly acceptable. The goal is to build on the momentum from your initial taste of decluttering success, not weigh yourself down with unreasonable expectations. Each step forward counts as a win.
4. Get Started Today! Download our Decluttering Checklist.
Even if the idea of a deep clean hasn’t been on your radar until literally right now, there’s no time like the present to declutter your home, improve your mental health, and create extra room in your life. The wellness benefits of decluttering speak for themselves, and who knows? This could be just the fresh start you need to embrace a new season of less chaos and more possibilities. We even created a super simple checklist to get you started. There’s no telling what sparks of joy can emerge when all that clutter is gone!