All too often, our environment reflects the busyness associated with everyday obligations. Whether you live alone or have an active family, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by various responsibilities and either cram stuff away into crowded closets or navigate around piles you hope to clear away eventually. However, if you’re trying to cope with stress more healthfully, decluttering might be the solution.
Our Attachment to “Stuff”
There’s a nugget of truth to what comedian George Carlin said: “That’s all your house is: a place to keep your stuff. If you didn’t have so much stuff, you wouldn’t need a house. You could just walk around all the time.”
In actuality, we develop strong emotional attachments to our material belongings. Scientific American notes that “these objects are utterly reliable, always present and under our control. We can count on them.” It cites numerous researchers who point to various reasons why we like our “stuff” including, but not limited to:
- An insecure attachment style, which usually starts in childhood
- Filling a need for human connection, especially if our favorite humans aren’t available
- Serving as a “psychological salve,” whether for comfort or self-esteem
- A concept known as “contagion:” where we consider our belongings as extensions of ourselves
- The possibility of obsession or obsessive compulsive disorder
Becoming Minimalist has some additional theories:
- We think a lot of stuff will make us happy.
- We’re more prone to believe advertisements than we care to admit.
- There might be a need to impress other people, especially if we’re jealous of what they have compared to us.
Now, at first glance, all of this rationale might seem a bit negative. After all, some research indicates that a little clutter prompts more creativity—although other studies state just the opposite! So instead of thinking of clearing out stuff as a hard rule, use the points above to take a closer look at your relationship with what you own and why.
Make Life Less Complicated With Decluttering
There are some tangible benefits to decluttering your stuff. For example, WebMD indicates that decluttering:
- Improves self-esteem, because you feel more in control of your life.
- Enhances focus, as stacks of stuff aren’t creating multiple distractions.
- Enables a healthier lifestyle, since cooking in an orderly kitchen is more productive and sleeping in a clean bedroom is more restful.
- Allows you to make decisions easier, as a clutter-free space reduces the number of decisions you need to make daily, leading to a sense of mental calm and decreased decision fatigue, as you can easily locate and access what you need.
- Builds better relationships, because your living environment isn’t a point of contention with people you share the space with and is also more inviting for guests.
- Reduces the tendency to procrastinate, as you choose to take care of something in the present and then be done with it.
For a person in recovery, decluttering can help to reduce the chaos of past habits and establish a new perspective on managing life with healthier motivation. You’re able to reduce boredom through tidying and create a more positive space, too.
Tips to Help You Declutter
If you’re not ready to tackle Marie Kondo’s approach or The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning just yet, don’t worry. Small but consistent steps make all the difference. Good Housekeeping offers a few suggestions:
- Start with storage spaces. That junk drawer? A spare bedroom closet? A workshop area of the garage? You can totally go through these on a weekend afternoon and clear away all non-essential stuff—with the promise not to refill those areas!
- Remove large, unnecessary items. Perhaps you inherited some furniture from your Aunt Edna. Or maybe there’s a shed filled with bits and bobs you mean to use but still haven’t after all this time. Let it all go. First, ask family and friends what they might want, then donate the rest or hold a yard sale.
- Find better solutions. Digitizing old photos, scanning business receipts, keeping an online folder of your favorite recipes—there are many modern applications that help eliminate clutter.
- Do one room at a time. Do dozens of mismatched plastic container lids tumble out of your kitchen cabinets? Are your bedroom closet and dresser overflowing with clothes you don’t wear/won’t wear? Is there an excess of toys in the kids’ playroom? Dedicate some time to one particular space and get rid of what you no longer really need.
- Buy less. This is when examining your relationship with material goods has real value. What is truly meaningful for you and why? Not only will this help make life less complicated by decluttering, but also encourage more saving for greater priorities.
There are other aspects of decluttering that may take a little more time. For example, if you have family heirlooms or other sentimental pieces, it’s best to take a more thoughtful approach to what you’ll really enjoy now or who else might benefit from these items. Or if you’re a collector of something particular, talk with a professional about ways to showcase your best selections without clutter—perhaps even packing most of the collection away but rotating your favorites in an evolving display every few weeks.
Willingway: Helping You Live Well
Although abstaining from substances is a primary aspect of relapse prevention, so is learning how to embrace mental and emotional wellness in all aspects of your life. As one of the premier addiction rehabilitation facilities in Georgia, Willingway has extensive resources to help you regain quality health.