We live in a culture that glorifies material gain. We want newer cars, bigger houses and more stuff to fill those houses with. It doesn’t seem to matter how big our homes are – we keep filling them up with stuff. It’s considered perfectly normal to have an entire room in our home rendered virtually unusable by the amount of junk piled up in it.
This may be impractical, but is it really a problem? I’m going to argue that the answer is yes, but maybe not for the reasons you expect.
Clutter and mental health
I believe very strongly that being surrounded by stuff is bad for our mental health. It’s like an unconscious weight on our shoulders that we’re not aware of till it’s gone. We know on a subconscious level that at some point we’ll probably have to deal with all this stuff, and that drags us down.
Having stuff everywhere can make life more difficult and stressful. We keep finding that things we need to get to are obstructed by other things, so we have the hassle of moving things around. And then they are inevitably in the way of something else!
Clutter also makes cleaning a nightmare. And when we can’t get to things, they gather dust and even mould. Living in dusty, mouldy environments is bad for our health, and generally makes life unpleasant.
I believe that the most pleasant rooms are clear, clean and open. If asked, almost everyone would agree that this is preferable to a dusty and cluttered space! And yet many of us still live in the latter. This has got to be detrimental to our happiness.
When we declutter our homes, we create some breathing space. It becomes easier to fill our space with love, joy and creativity.
Many of us have hobbies which we would like to have more space for. We may wish for an art studio, a music room or a workshop. The ironic thing is that we often have a space which we could use for this purpose if it wasn’t full of stuff.
We may justify clinging onto things we don’t use by saying “I might use it one day” or “I’d better keep it just in case”. But consider this – is it better to have a room full of things we may never use, or a functional space we can enjoy every day? I know which one I’d rather have.
Space and community
Having more space – clean space that we are proud of – allows us to open our homes to others more readily. There’s space to set more places at the table, and the sofas aren’t piled up with junk. We can create a sense of community, and make lots of happy memories.
Keeping your home clear and open is about turning it into your sanctuary, an oasis of tranquillity in this crazy world we live in. And that, to me, is really important.
I have a post which takes a look at the many ways having too much stuff can cause stress – check it out.
Want to declutter but not sure where to start? Here are some tips.
- Some items are sentimental but take up lots of space. Consider taking a photo of these items and then letting go of them. Or you can scan them, in the case of letters, cards, certificates and so on.
- Only keep things which either are useful or bring you joy.
- Organised clutter is still clutter! And it quickly becomes disorganised again. You have to actually get rid of stuff to reap the benefits. As a wise person once said, “If you have to buy stuff to store your stuff, you probably have too much stuff.”
- If you have kids, don’t keep everything they outgrow with the hope that they’ll pass it on to their own kids someday. Do you really want that stuff cluttering up your space for two or three decades in preparation for your hypothetical grandchildren?
- For ‘just in case’ items, consider whether you could get a cheap secondhand replacement in the unlikely event that you do need one in the future. This is preferable to holding onto everything you might possibly use one day.
- As a general rule, if you wouldn’t buy it now then it should go.
- Stay focused on your end goal – think about what you’re going to use all this newfound space for.
- Make it fun! Put on some music and maybe get a friend or family member to help.
For the planet’s sake, only put things in the bin if there’s no other option. Donate, sell or recycle things if possible. And remember, once you’ve decluttered, be very careful about what you allow into your home. You don’t want to find yourself back where you started. Good luck!