Have you ever heard the saying, “Clean space, clear mind?” According to neuroscientists at Princeton—it’s more than just a saying. When these scientists observed participants’ task performances in an organized versus disorganized environment, they found that clutter not only decreased performance, it increased stress. Also out of Princeton, a study from the Journal of Neuroscience demonstrated that the more clutter people saw, the more distracted they became.
We Have WAY Too Much Stuff
There are 300,000 items in the average American home, and while our homes have tripled in size over the past 50 years, one in 10 Americans still have to rent a storage unit. We are basically drowning in our own stuff. The reasons behind why Americans (and humans in general) overconsume are plenty—today, let’s talk about why it’s hard to get rid of the items overtaking our space and essentially, our minds.
Why it’s Such a Struggle to Let Our Stuff Go
We feel things about our stuff—emotional and sentimental ties, guilt over money spent and hope that we’ll use something in the future. However, a 2012 study has revealed there’s even more to it than that. Researchers at Yale found that when people let go of their belongings, the same parts of the brain associated with minor pain (a papercut or a sip of too-hot coffee) light up. It literally hurts your brain to ditch your stuff.
In order to start fresh with a clear mind, it’s time to create a clean space. But how can you make it less painful and easier to let go so that clutter isn’t getting in your way?
Go by category. Instead of moving from room to room, try focusing on one type of item at a time. Do all of your clothing at once or your junk drawers or your dishware. This will allow you to see the whole picture without getting overwhelmed and it makes it easier to cross things off the list. Plus, it encourages you to really focus when you’re deliberating on what to keep or toss.
Slow and steady. Remember, there’s absolutely no reason to rush. Decluttering is about you and your needs. Don’t rush from one task to the next without looking at why you’re doing it and what you hope to accomplish. It’s OK if your process takes longer than expected.
Keep it organized. Sometimes it’s got to look worse before it gets better, and while that’s true, you don’t have to completely destroy your house to get the ball rolling. Get some large tubs and label them: Keep, Storage and Toss. There are going to be plenty of displaced items floating around while you work, and that can get frustrating or, sometimes, even dangerous.
Keep vs. toss. So… you’re working through some belongings, and you realize you have a lot of stuff. Like, a lot. It’s happens; these things accumulate. When trying to figure out what to throw out or toss out, ask yourself “Does this item make me feel something?” If it doesn’t, it’s time to add it to the donation bin or trash can. Don’t hold onto things that “may be useful one day” or things you’d feel guilty pitching.
Avoid storage. The point of decluttering your home, is… well, decluttering. That means you’re going to have to get rid of all unnecessary items. Some choices to keep or toss may be pretty difficult, however, it’s important to note that this is all part of the process—learning how to let go of the things you no longer need. Be very, very cautious with what you choose to put in “storage.” A new storage container to house the things you should be tossing is not decluttering.