I am sure you are familiar with the concept of decluttering. America seems pretty taken with the concept right now and there’s a reason Marie Kondo’s book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, was among the top selling books of 2017. This book focuses on the importance of things “sparking joy” in your space and if they don’t - get rid of it! So why do people love to load up carfuls of their possessions and head to Goodwill?
Humans are biologically bad at multitasking. Although I like to think I’m great at writing an article, talking on the phone and doing laundry all at the same time, I know this is inefficient. Our society wants us to be good at multi tasking so we can produce more, make more money and be more “productive” members of society. In reality it slows us down. Research backs me up here.
Biologically we are designed to focus on one thing at a time and it is proven we complete tasks quicker when handled one by one. Having clutter causes lots of visual stimuli that our brains have to process, overwhelming us. It causes mental clutter as we have to process and categorize all the things in our environment. This sucks our energy and brain power. It makes sense that the less stuff and more organized an environment is, the calmer our brains feel when we are in that space.
For me I cannot stay at people’s houses that are cluttered and disorganized because it makes it harder for me to relax. My husband makes fun of me that I say I need space, light and air (more or less like a plant.. ). I would pick a minimal clean-lined hotel room over a bed and breakfast filled with antiques and collectables for example. Here are three tips to help you keep your space and head more clear.
1) More experiences, Less things.
Spending time and money on experiences is becoming more popular these days and with apps like Groupon it is easy to find new things to do all the time. Choosing experiences over buying things is a great way to reduce clutter in your home. If I am bored instead of going to Target I will try to think of something to do instead like take my dogs to the park, go to the library, try out a new restaurant or cafe, etc.
2) Cleaning as catharsis.
Cleaning is a great outlet for negative emotions and excess anxious energy. Give someone who is angry or worried about something a sink full of dishes and I guarantee they will feel more calm afterwards. Why? Organizing and cleaning gives us a sense of control and order which significantly helps to calm our minds. Plus the added benefit of feeling productive after cleaning something is a great boost (I try to tell my husband this but it hasn’t worked yet..).
3) Too many choices leads to stress.
My brother can never make a decision about what he wants for dinner. He tells my sister-in-law he has “decision fatigue” and literally cannot have any input in what they choose to eat that night. I of course laugh at my brother, like a good sister does, however decision fatigue is a real thing. When we have to think so much in our busy life it is nice to not have to think as much at home. When we have too many things in our space it overwhelms us. If I have 4 white shirts, but really only wear my one favorite, I will never wear the other 3. Everyday I will have to sort through them all before finding my favorite which takes time and energy. Two different kinds of blenders? I am sure you only use one of them. Having less stuff helps streamline our decisions and gets rid of the excess that we likely never use. Get rid of your 3 white shirts, they are taking up your physical and mental space!
Lindsey Huttner, LCSW is an anxiety specialist with over ten years of experience. She is the owner of a therapy practice in Forest Hills, NY helping adults gain control over their lives. She is a certified provider in couples therapy and trauma therapy. Connect with her at www.lindseyhuttner.com