Ready or not, the fall season is here, and it’s time to take a look around your home.
What have you accumulated over the summer that needs to be thrown out? What didn’t you use this year that could be donated? And what needs a good cleaning before the cold winter weather sets in?
You may not have heard about it, but “fall cleaning” is becoming a thing, much like “spring cleaning.” It’s wise to think about preparing your home for winter, but also to get extra “stuff” out of your living space while the weather is still nice.
We’re talking about it here on CV Skinlabs because we know that cleaning things out is good for your health and well-being. “Mess causes stress,” the saying goes, and it’s true-studies have shown that clutter is bad for our health, and can even encourage us to overeat!
Clutter is Distracting and Causes Stress
In a recent 2016 study, researchers looked at how clutter affected well-being, relationships, and more. They surveyed adults who had mild to severe issues with clutter, but weren’t classified as “hoarders.” They found that as clutter grows, it demands more of our attention, to the point that it becomes distracting and affects well-being. It can even affect relationships, as the “things” become more important to identity and safety.
Messy spaces, on the whole, seem to leave us feeling anxious and overwhelmed. It signals us that there is work to be done, and makes it difficult to relax. It can create feelings of guilt, draws our attention away from what we want to focus on, and can inhibit creativity and productivity.
Clutter can interfere with your ability to work, too. Take a look around your office or other work area. Do you have a lot of “stuff” there that could be cleared away? Scientists have found that when your environment is cluttered, it restricts your ability to focus and limits your brain’s ability to process information. If you’ve got a big report to do or some other important task, you’ll have more trouble resisting distractions and staying on task in a cluttered area than you would in a clean organized area.
If you’re having trouble sleeping, you may want to consider cleaning the clutter out of your bedroom. Researchers reported in 2015 that having a cluttered bedroom could affect how well you sleep, which can lead to other problems like weight gain and an increased risk of heart disease.
Lead author Pamela Thacher told U.S. News that the more clutter a person had, the more likely she was to suffer from a sleep disorder
Clutter can even affect appetite! In a 2016 study, researchers reported that participants in a chaotic kitchen consumed more cookies than did those in a clean kitchen. “The notion that places-such as cluttered offices or disorganized homes-can be modified to help us control our food intake is becoming an important solution in helping us become more slim by design,” said study author Brian Wansink.
Other studies have linked clutter with overweight and obesity, finding that people who struggle with clutter are more likely to be overweight.
How to De-Clutter Your Living and Working Spaces
It’s easy to amass clutter in our lives. We keep some things for sentimental value, others because we think maybe we’ll need to use them later, and others because we spent good money on them and we hate to throw them away.
To enjoy cleaner, healthier spaces, try the following tips:
- Realize that your brain naturally fights what it thinks of as “losses.” Even if you haven’t used an item in over a year, your brain will make you believe you should keep it. If you know that you’re not going to use it in the future, let it go. The temporary discomfort will disappear quickly.
- Conduct a review of your closet. Those things you haven’t worn in the last year should be donated. If you’re not sure, face all your hangars the same direction, then when you wear something, turn it the opposite direction. In a year, those that remain the original direction should be donated.
- Get the family involved in a de-cluttering weekend. Make each person responsible for his or her bedrooms and for an area of your shared living spaces. Get boxes out and place excess items in them to donate or throw away. Play some music and make it fun!
- Are you using it? If you’re not using it or don’t need it, get rid of it. If you’re not sure, put it in a box with the date marked on the outside, then store that box. If six months later you haven’t gotten into that box, those things can be given away.
- Go through papers at least once a week and throw away those you don’t need. Flyers, memos, printed documents, and more can pile up quickly. Keep a folder for those you need to tend to, and get rid of the rest.
- Ask yourself: Would you pay money to buy this item today? If not, think hard about whether you really want to keep it.
- Don’t forget your computers, tablets, and phones. These can accumulate clutter, too. Clean your desktop off at least once a week, and your other gadgets about once a month. Clear out photos and files that you’re not using, or move them into an online storage or memory stick.
Don’t forget: There are a lot of organizations and causes that are looking for donations. Knowing your items will go to help others can help you let go of them more easily. Here are a few:
You can find more in your local area.
How do you de-clutter your spaces?
Roster, Catherine A., et al., “The dark side of home: Assessing possession ‘clutter’ on subjective well-being,” Journal of Environmental Psychology, 2016; 46:32, http://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S0272494416300159.
Lenny R. Vartanian, et al., “Clutter, Chaos, and Overconsumption,” Environment and Behavior, February 2, 2016, http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0013916516628178.
McMains S., Kastner S., “Interactions of top-down and bottom-up mechanisms in human visual cortex,” Journal Neuroscience, January 12, 2011; 31(2):587-97, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21228167.
Lisa Esposito, “To Sleep Better, Stay Cool and Cut Clutter,” U.S. News, December 30, 2015, http://health.usnews.com/health-news/health-wellness/articles/2015-12-30/to-sleep-better-stay-cool-and-cut-clutter.