Most of us have been guilty of leaving bills on the coffee table, or the ironing pile – still un-ironed – by the laundry basket. But when clutter starts to build up in your home, it can affect your mental wellbeing.
Why is clutter bad for your health?
Feeling out of control is a major trigger for stress and anxiety. Living with overwhelming clutter means you’re constantly receiving subconscious messages that things are ‘out of control’ at home. But you can declutter your life and restore calm to your surroundings.
Take our quiz, answering A, B, or C to each question, then discover your decluttering prescription below.
Q1. How cluttered is your home?
- I can’t relax if there’s a single dirty mug in the sink
- I’ve got a few hot-spots that need sorting
- I’m too embarrassed to have people over
Q2. What kind of clothes are in your wardrobe?
- Only seasonal essentials, the rest is stored away
- Some work bits, going out stuff and few special items
- A load of things I’m keeping for when I lose that half a stone
Q3. What sort of storage do you have at home?
- Everything is put away in colour-coordinated boxes
- Most things are in cupboards or under the bed
- I am planning to get some storage solutions…
Q4. Where do you put keepsakes like old letters and photos?
- I picked my favourites and put them in a beautiful album
- They’re stuffed in a box but I can look at them whenever I want
- They’re all over the place; I can’t bring myself to sort them out
Q5. How do you feel throwing out an unwanted gift?
- If it’s not useful or beautiful, it has to go
- I feel a bit bad, but I often give them to charity
- I keep everything – what if they come round and notice it’s gone?!
Well done – there’s no clutter bugs on you! Your home sounds like a well-organised haven but decluttering doesn’t mean creating a minimalist show home. Experts say if your tidying up is too restrictive, it can be too hard to maintain and clutter will creep back.
It also shows your need to control things; are any other areas of your life so chaotic that you’re cracking down on things at home? The idea is not to achieve perfection, but to create a space to focus on what you want do with your life. Does having an empty spare room mean friends can stay over, or finally give you the breathing space to take up a hobby?
Your goal shouldn’t be tidiness for its own sake. We dare you to make a mess!
You’re not exactly a hoarder, but there’s definitely room for improvement! On a day-to-day level, not being able to find things can be stressful, while clutter can also become a financial worry if you’re always late with bills because they get lost in the chaos.
Most clutter accumulates because we don’t know where to put things, but if you give them a proper home they will stay there. So all your keys go together in a bowl, or all your hats and scarves live under the stairs, for example.
Experts recommend decluttering in three-hour chunks so you don’t get overwhelmed, and begin somewhere neutral like the hallway. Start with objects like books, paperwork and DVDs before tackling sentimental stuff like old photos. Once your home feels more open and relaxed, you will too.
Walking into an untidy home raises your stress levels and keeps emotions on high alert – a lot of the objects we hang on to have emotional attachments. If those are negative emotions, then we’re constantly surrounded with a negative atmosphere.
Guilt over things going to waste often leads to clutter, especially if something was expensive such as clothes or skincare products. Keeping clothes in different sizes also feeds into a fantasy that one day you will slim down, so getting rid of them means letting go of that dream. But decluttering can be very liberating; it helps you to accept yourself as you are.
When you’re decluttering, ask yourself ‘Does this object make me happy?’ If it does, keep it. If not, throw it. Giving things to charity can also help ease some decluttering guilt.
Many people lose weight after decluttering because they’re less stressed and have more energy for exercise. And with all that extra room in your wardrobe, you could treat yourself to some new clothes…
Want more ways to beat stress? Find top tips in our dedicated stress and anxiety section.
This article has been adapted from longer features appearing in Healthy, the Holland & Barrett magazine. Advice is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please check with your GP before trying any remedies