I don’t know about you, but when there is clutter in my life, I have a really hard time focusing on my work. It feels like stagnant energy, and even if I can’t physically see the clutter, just knowing it’s there is enough to drive me crazy.
I took my first 30 day declutter challenge a couple months ago and felt amazing after the fact. Plus, getting rid of things you don’t need makes your life a lot more easier. Even organizing things that were once chaotic is enough to set ones mind at ease.
I was curious as to how decluttering makes us feel better. How getting rid of things actually boosts mental health. This is especially true for items that we carry a lot of emotional attachment to, like childhood items and other “things.” And it could be just that – the emotion. Maybe by purging these items we also purge the burden of emotions and feelings attached to those items.
Now, I’m not saying that having emotional connections to items is a bad thing. It’s just that when we carry things throughout our life and let them build up, we start to feel it in our bodies – almost like a weight on our shoulders. At least, that’s how I felt after I got rid of a good portion of my “stuff.” I felt like a weight was lifted off my shoulders, and that I just wanted to keep getting rid of more things.
It’s funny, really, how we become so attached to items like clothing and other material objects. Perhaps it is just a result of being brought up in the Western world where we’re fed the idea that we need things and objects to feel fulfilled.
So with that, let’s look into how decluttering actually helps boost mental health.
How Decluttering Boosts Mental Health
Feeling a sense of fulfillment and clarity after decluttering isn’t just a coincidence. In fact, plenty of research out there suggests that clutter has a real impact on mood.
One study published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin determined that clutter sometimes translates to a homeowner feeling more depressed (especially if visitors make a comment about how messy it is) (1). Other studies have found that because clutter creates the effect of increased stimuli in ones environment, it makes it harder to focus on the task at hand (2).
A University of California study found that the levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) were higher in mothers who lived in homes they described as “cluttered” or full of “unfinished projects” (3). Living with stress as a result of clutter can lead to poor sleep, poor eating habits and can poor health overall.
30 Day Declutter Challenge
Use the following tips below to help you tackle the clutter. Start the 30 day declutter challenge at the beginning of the month so that it’s easier to track!
1. Empty out One Junk Drawer
You probably have a couple junk drawers, so start with just one. Junk drawers are sometimes littered with actual garbage (which can be thrown out), or little things that need to be organized (like elastic bands). If you haven’t used it in three months and it’s not something you see yourself using in the near future (do you really need those marbles?) – get rid of it.
2. Clean out Your Clothes Closet
Cleaning out your clothes can be a major task, so make sure you set some time aside for this one. Many of us hold our clothing near and dear, so it can be difficult to finally let go. The way I clean out my closet is by taking everything out, and trying it on and looking in the mirror. If it doesn’t fit, it’s going to the thrift store. If I am not immediately blown away and love it, I bring it to the thrift store. If you need to think twice, it’s not meant for your closet.
3. Clean out the TV Stand
TV stands can carry all sorts of useless things like old cables or stacks of DVDs. If the DVDs or VHS tapes aren’t your favorite, then ditch them. Besides, we can just about find anything online nowadays, so you really don’t need those DVDs. Instead, donate to your local thrift store.
4. Purge Bathroom Cabinets
Bathroom cabinets can get very messy. They’re likely full of hair and old product that you thought you were going to use, but didn’t. Throw out any half-full bottles of stuff you definitely aren’t going to use anymore, and any empty toothpaste tubes or old mouthwash. The stuff you’ll find that you don’t need will be pretty shocking.
5. Clean out the Fridge
Remove all items that are expired, or that you know you will not use. Take out the pieces of the fridge that are cleanable and hand wash. Add in a package of baking soda to keep the fridge smelling fresh!
6. Sort Through Your Mail
Flyers and newspapers can stack up quickly. Unless you have an indoor fireplace where you can use these items as kindling, throw them n the recycling. If you have a stack of more important mail items like bills, file them or pay them right away. Many companies now offer electronic billing, which is better for the planet, and also helps de-clutter your home.
7. Clean out Your Car
Empty out anything in your car you don’t need like empty bottles, receipts, and other garbage. Shake out the floor matts, and then take a vacuum to the interior. You can also clean the windows using vinegar, water and a rag (works better than conventional window cleaners).
8. Clean out Your Wallet
Wallets can get clogged with old receipts and business cards. It’s also one of the easiest things to clean, so doing it won’t take much time. If you don’t save receipts for your business, throw them away. If you do save them, file them in a safe area with the rest of your business expenses.
9. Remove Old Apps You Don’t Use
Removing old apps from your phone will not only make it look better, but it’ll make more space on your phone for things you actually want, like photos and videos. Remove any app you haven’t used in the last month. You can always re-download it in the future if you really miss it (which I assure you, you won’t).
10. Purge Makeup Drawer
We often get in the habit of keeping old makeup we don’t really use anymore. Whether that’s mascara, eye shadow, lipstick, or the like, getting rid of it will not only make you feel good, but it’ll ensure you don’t get any eye infections or blemishes. Old makeup is the perfect breeding ground for bacteria, and if not used within the time frame suggested, it may end up giving you worse looking skin and infected eyes.
11. Go Through Old Shoes
Some of us have extensive shoe collections. Going through your shoes and donating what you haven’t worn in the last year is a great idea to start new. If you are short on space, put shoes that are out of season into storage somewhere else in your home. Take them out when you need them.
12. Clean out the Freezer
Similar to the fridge, remove all items that are expired or you know you will not use. There is likely another world of year-old items at the very bottom or back of the freezer that you didn’t even know existed. Throw these items out.
13. Organize Cleaning Supplies
If your cleaning supplies are loaded with toxic chemicals, take the chance now and replace them. Switching to non-toxic cleaning products will mean you’re dodging fragrance that contains hormone-disrupting phthalates, as well as other nasty chemicals that irritate the respiratory tract and increase your risk of cancer.
14. Purge Kitchen Cabinets
Look for any items that you don’t use or have room for. If you have old cookbooks you no longer use, consider donating them. If you have more plates and cups than you know what to do with, keep your favorites and donate the rest.
15. Clean out Your Medicine Cabinet
Medicine cabinets can become major hubs of old or expired medication. Check the expiry dates of whatever is in your medicine cabinet, and if they’re expired, throw them out. Consider replacing them with natural supplements like tea tree oil in place of polysporin and turmeric pills in place of ibuprofen. Check out my medicine cabinet swap suggestions here.
16. Organize Linen Closet
Donate any linens that you no longer use that are still in good condition. For those items that have holes or stains, turn them into rags or throw them out.
17. Clean and Organize Garage
The garage can easily become cluttered. Collect anything you no longer use and consider donating it. If you have a bunch of stuff everywhere, get together some large plastic tubs and label according to what the stuff inside them is for. This will avoid different things from being strewn about and will ensure you know where things are when you need them.
18. Clear off Kitchen Counters
Kitchen counters can become a breeding ground for clutter. Whether that’s dirty dishes, paperwork, or miscellaneous items, it’s time to clear it out. Set aside a chunk of time and find a place for where everything is supposed to go, or throw it out if you no longer need it. Gather up all the old dishes and do them!
19. Empty and Organize Junk Drawer
See number 1. It is very likely you have more than one junk drawer, so now’s the chance to do the next one!
20. Organize Socks and Underwear
The sock and underwear drawer are notorious for becoming disorganized. If you have any socks or underwear with holes in them (to the point where you can’t wear them anymore), throw them out. Organize the drawer with socks on one side, and underwear on the other. If you have any mis-matched pairs of socks, try to match them up with other lonesome pairs. I’m not one for caring much about color-coordinated socks, but if you are, then you can decide what you want to do with them.
21. Purge Kitchen Drawers
Similar to cabinets, set aside a day to go through the kitchen drawers. This means cleaning out and organizing tupperware, utensils, and other items like dishcloths and hand towels. Get rid of anything you don’t use, and consider donating it or throwing it away if broken or over-used.
22. Clean out Kitchen Pantry
The pantry is a place that can become easily cluttered with expired food items. Get rid of anything expired, as well as anything you know you will not use. Don’t forget to go through your spices, too! Most spices lose their flavor after a year or so, so if you’ve had some lingering around for a couple years, consider ditching them and buying new ones. Place any soon-to-be-expired food items towards the front of the cupboard so you’ll use them first.
23. Organize Computer Documents and Files
Organizing computer documents and files is also necessary for this 30 day declutter challenge. A cluttered desktop personally makes me feel a little crazy (after all, I work on the computer). Make folders to organize your files more neatly, and invest in an external hard-drive to put large files onto like photos and videos. It’s also wise to make an entire backup of your computer on this external hard-drive in case anything happens to your computer.
24. Organize Magazines and Books
Time to let go of your magazine hoarding and get rid of anything you’ve read at least once, or editions that are largely outdated. If you want to keep a specific page in a magazine, cut it out and sort it into a filing system. Recycle or donate old books that you don’t read anymore, and sort the rest in logical order.
25. Organize and Clean Office Desk
Start by organizing your pens and pencils (you don’t need 100 pens, just one or two that work), and file away any needed paperwork. Anything else that you for sure don’t need, shred. Organize your smaller office supplies in a way that makes sense to you.
26. Clean Entertainment Area
The entertainment area doesn’t just include the TV stand. It includes any other modes of entertainment like boardgames, computer games, mobile devices and more. If you have any boardgames you don’t particularly love, consider donating them. If you have any electronics you haven’t used in awhile, consider selling them on Ebay or another local selling service.
27. Clean out Purse and/or Backpack
Our purses and/or backpacks can become major hubs for all the things we don’t need. Empty out all garbage and items you do not use regularly. Organize everything else into the pouches that the purse and/or backpack provide. If there isn’t enough room, use a small pouch to hold and organize loose items.
28. Organize Your Living Room
Go through all the clutter in your living room and decide whether you want to keep it in the living room, or if it belongs elsewhere. If you really don’t need it (be honest with yourself), donate it. Anything that is unusable or broken needs to go. Clear out underneath the sofa cushions, and organize/donate old magazines and newspapers.
29. Donate Unused Clothes and Toys
Nearing the end of the challenge, make a big pile of everything you’re wanting to donate and bring it to a woman’s shelter, thrift store or other donation center. Just make sure it doesn’t sit somewhere else in your house to collect dust. Just get up and donate it!
30. Deep Clean
Last but not least, once you’ve organized and purged every area of your house, it’s time for a deep clean. Consider using all-natural cleaners like vinegar and water, and essential oils. Vacuum, dust and clean with a vinegar water dilution. I guarantee you’ll feel amazing afterward.