The benefits of de-cluttering

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Decluttering has been having a bit of a ‘moment in the sun’ of late. With the hype surrounding Netflix’ divisive series ‘Tidying Up with Marie Kondo’, it seems that more and more people are turning to decluttering and tidying their homes, and indeed their lives, in an attempt to make great change. So what is all the hype about?

Well, there are actual scientific benefits to the decluttering process. In their study “Interactions of Top-Down and Bottom-Up Mechanisms in Human Visual Cortex” researchers at the Princeton University Neuroscience Institute found that a cluttered environment affects your ability to focus and process information clearly, and unlike in an uncluttered and calm environment, environmental clutter can distract you and lead to mental exhaustion and frustration.

Makes sense, right? Whilst some people work well in a space of clutter and ‘things’, many of us find this impacts quite significantly on our sensory processing, and find it difficult to concentrate and achieve our goals in such workspaces. Why, then, would having clutter in our homes and living spaces be any different? According to the aforementioned study, it’s no different at all.

Our homes are supposed to be our sanctuaries. When we have dealt with all the pressures and duties of day-to-day life, our home is the place we come to rest, relax and rejuvenate. Think about a space you find truly relaxing. Perhaps it is a secluded sandy beach where ocean water gently laps at your feet. Maybe it’s on lush green grass under a beautiful, big shady tree. Perhaps your place of bliss is a spa treatment room, with gentle, low lighting and soft music playing whilst you enjoy a massage or a facial. Maybe it is something completely different, but chances are it is a serene environment, free from excess sensory stimulation.

Now think about your home. Does it fit with your vision of a place you can truly relax? Does it contribute to your relaxation and rejuvenation? Or does it fight against the very principles it should stand for? This is where de-cluttering can come in.

Most of the clutter within our homes impacts us in a visual way. We see all that we have any time we step into a room, or open a cupboard door or drawer. The colours, the textures, the tones, the materials. Everything we see, we take in for our brain to process and try to make sense of. Reduce the amount of visual information your brain needs to process and give it a chance to focus on what you really need, or want, it to.

 Benefits of de-cluttering your living space can include;

·      Greater concentration and focus – Minimising the multitasking we ask our brains to do by reducing the ‘visual information’ it needs to process can lead to an increased ability to dedicate thought space and brain power to other more important issues or items.

·      Less stress, anxiety and exhaustion – Less things to focus on and deal with will free up time to spend elsewhere. With fewer demands on our time we are likely to feel less stressed, tired and burnt out. Having excess ‘stuff’ can also lead to feelings of overwhelm and anxiety; reduce the ‘stuff’ and reduce the risk of feeling this way.

·      An instant mood boost – less stress = lower cortisol levels (the hormone responsible for stress) and therefore an improved mood!

·      Higher levels of motivation – De-cluttering can be like doing a fantastic workout. The more often you do it, the better you become at it and the greater you feel afterwards. It’s that great feeling afterwards that can result in higher levels of motivation, not just to continue decluttering things you feel no longer serve a purpose for you, but to set and achieve goals in many areas of your life.

If you’re feeling like you can’t concentrate, you’re stressed out and can’t relax or your home fills you with a nagging sense of having to ‘get the house in order’ all the time then maybe you would benefit from de-cluttering your living space. Give it a go, what have you got to lose? Other than a whole lot of stuff you maybe don’t even need.

Jo,

Women Against Waste Ambassador