You are probably familiar with certain pop culture figures who insist that we would all be better off if we spent some time determining whether the objects in our homes bring us joy. If the answer is no for any given object, these folks suggest, we should let that object go. By doing so, we can live more simply—and, in theory, more happily.
Decluttering Is Good for Mental Health
While this idea has gotten a fair amount of pushback—booklovers, for example, balked at the idea that maybe we should limit ourselves to only 30 books at a time (it was a misunderstanding)—the fact is that decluttering actually does have benefits for our mental health.
Let’s take a look at how less clutter can lead to a clearer, healthier mind.
Knowing Where Things Are Reduces Stress
It has happened to all of us. We’re running just a little late, and we’re rushing out the door. Suddenly we realize that we don’t have our car keys (or our phone or wallet or, heck, our shoes). The frantic searching begins.
There are two ways this could go, right? If your home is reasonably orderly, odds are you will find what you are looking for quickly. If, however, your space is disorganized and filled with random items, the search becomes more difficult—and more stressful.
You’ll find what you are looking for eventually (probably), but now you have set a tone of anxiety and stress that you are carrying out the door with you just as surely as you are carrying out your keys. Those feelings can be hard to shake and can color your whole day.
The Power Can be in the Process
Do you ever find yourself so overwhelmed by your to-do list that you can’t even seem to get started on anything? It is a very frustrating feeling. You know you have a laundry list of projects to undertake, but the sheer length of the list somehow stops you from diving in.
In a case like that, sometimes what you really need is an easy win. Rather than staring at your list or your screens, what if you stood up and straightened up a bit? We’re not talking about a full overhaul of your home or office. Instead, we’re talking about gathering up the junk mail and recycling it or finding a folder for all the loose paper related to your current project or even just hanging up the jacket you threw over a chair when you came into the room.
These small acts of decluttering serve as a reminder that you can, in fact, move forward—systematically and one step at a time. Maybe you can tackle that to-do list after all.
Boost Your Mood—And Your Self-Esteem
Being surrounded by clutter can lead to ongoing sensory overload, which in turn can impact your overall mood. It can also reduce your self-esteem as you chide yourself for being unable to keep up with the mess. The UCLA Center on the Everyday Lives of Families studied 32 families in California and found a link between high levels of clutter and negative moods and self-esteem.
Admittedly, 32 families is a fairly small sample, but our guess is that if you really think about how you feel when you are confronted by clutter in your home, office, or other environment, your personal experience will line up with the findings of the study.
The Trade Can Be Well Worth It
Sometimes decluttering is just a process of straightening things up. But other times, it may involve a fair amount of getting rid of stuff by throwing it away, donating it, hosting a yard sale, or offering items for sale online. Making decisions about our things—even things that we clearly no longer need (or never needed in the first place)—can be surprisingly difficult.
It might be helpful, then, to shift your thinking so that you focus on what you are gaining rather than on what you are losing. Maybe you are gaining back some space. Maybe you’re making a little bit of money. Maybe you are gaining the good feelings that come with making donations that can help others. And maybe you are getting a much needed boost to your overall mental health.
We often cling to what we have because we are afraid losing it will make us sad. But a mental refocusing reminds us that the decluttering process is not about losing something. It’s about gaining something extremely important.
Big or Small—Any Decluttering Project Can Provide Benefits
We want to be clear: You don’t have to start a systematic purge of all of your possessions to get the mental health benefits of decluttering. Just straightening up the bedside table, for example, is a great place to start (after all, a decluttered sleeping environment can help you get the rest you need). Any reduction in chaos is likely to provide an increase in clarity.
Of course, decluttering is not a cure-all. But it can be an important and ongoing part of your efforts to support your all-important mental health.
Peak View Behavioral Health Can Help Support Your Mental Health
Mental health is absolutely foundational to overall quality of life. That is why it is so important to get the help you need if you are struggling with a mental health disorder like depression, anxiety, or a trauma-based condition. And if you are a person in recovery for a substance use disorder, good mental health is also a cornerstone of your recovery.
At Peak View Behavioral Health, we offer compassionate, evidence-based therapy to support your mental health. We also offer detox and rehab services for those struggling with a substance use disorder—and treatment includes a focus on any co-occurring mental health disorders.