Do you find yourself holding onto an abundance of items that you haven’t
used for years because you just “might need it later?”
If this sounds familiar, then you may have a clutter problem. “Clutter
is what happens when you collect items that you don’t need and no
longer use,” says
Christopher Celio, MD, a board-certified family medicine physician at
St. Jude Medical Center. “These items become so abundant that they intrude on your physical
space. People often associate clutter with disorganization, but this isn’t
necessarily true. Unused items stacked or stowed neatly away in storage
areas can also be considered clutter. They can be anything from clothing
and toys to obsolete pieces of paper.”
“Our physical and mental well-being are heavily influenced by our
environments,” says Dr. Celio. When our environments are messy,
our physical and mental health can suffer as a result. If we live in a
cluttered, disorganized space, letting go of the stresses of everyday
life is made more difficult. And a workplace piled high with paper can
be a formidable obstacle to completing tasks well and on time.
“Being surrounded by clutter not only makes you feel mentally and
physically exhausted, but also causes increased stress and impairs your
ability to think clearly,” says Dr. Celio. “And we know that
long-term stress is a key contributor to many chronic illnesses such as
heart disease, digestive problems, sleep disturbances, obesity and even
“There is a common misconception that clutter and hoarding are the
same,” Dr. Celio continues, “but they are not. Clutter bugs
can be persuaded to let things go, whereas hoarders form deeper emotional
attachments and find it painful to get rid of unwanted items.” People
collect things because they become attached to items that have sentimental
value. They hold onto unwanted gifts from friends through guilt, or they
refuse to throw away items they paid for in fear of being wasteful.
Regardless of the reason, clutter can be more than just a bad collection
habit. It can signal a behavioral problem that can negatively impact our
health. “Excessive clutter and disorganization can also be the warning
signs of greater health problems such as attention deficit disorder, depression
or hoarding,” he/she advises. “So, if you think you might
be suffering from any of these conditions, you should contact your doctor.”
Addressing clutter can seem an overwhelming task, but here are some tips
to help you get started:
- Break your cluttered spaces into smaller sections and work through them
one section at a time.
- Cut down on your storage space to limit your consumption. Reducing your
storage spaces will quickly help you identify what you really need.
- Every few months, review your closet looking for items you haven’t
worn or used. Give away any items you don’t use or sell them online.
- If you’re struggling to emotionally detach yourself, try getting
rid of one item a week until you’ve cut down to the things you actually use.
- If you work on a computer, at the end of each day try to remove every file
from your desktop. If you don’t have an ideal place to put it, create
one folder on your desktop and drag those items into there.
- When you go shopping, try to limit the number of stores you go into, and
if you absolutely must go inside limit the amount of things that you touch.
Studies have shown that merely touching an item can cause you to become
more emotionally attached to it.
Taking small steps each day to clean and organize is great for mind and
body – it can free up space for stress-relieving activities such
as yoga or meditation, reduce the risk of injury from tripping, eliminate
germs, and bring about a sense of satisfaction. A simpler, better-organized
life allows you to realize what is truly important to you, and by cutting
out the physical and mental clutter around you, you are able to focus
better and accomplish more.
Have you got any nifty de-cluttering tips and tricks? Share them below.