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4 Scientific Reasons Decluttering Leads To A Better Life

4 Scientific Reasons Decluttering Leads To A Better Life

Clutter: “a large amount of things that are not arranged in a neat or orderly way; a crowded or disordered collection of things”.

I’m sure each and every one of us has a tale to tell about clutter. With the advent of mass consumerism; the amount we purchase, consume, and ultimately store (often out of sight) has increased drastically.

It seems that we have developed an obsession with material possessions or “things”, which, on the whole, don’t serve us at all. Perhaps at the time of purchase, we experienced that instant gratification. But very rarely, if at all, is that gratification sustaining.

The downside of this is that we find ourselves cluttering up our environment and our homes. Tied to this is a host of other problems. In the words of Bustle contributor, Carolyn Steber:

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“Anyone with an overflowing closet or totally stuffed basement can attest to the stress brought on by piles of junk. That’s because not only is it annoying to look at, but it can dredge up so many different emotions”

Steber goes on to say that when she looks at her messy closet she feels stressed about the lack of organization, guilty about the fact that she doesn’t wear half of what she owns, and confused as to what style she is going for.

According to Jennifer Baumgartner Psy.D., in Psychology Today, clutter can also have an immense psychological effect.

“Clutter is not only a container for our memories but can be a distractor for tackling deeper issues.”

All the junk we have is inextricably linked to other problems; it can hold us back from getting stuff done. Recognizing the fact that it’s time to declutter is easy, but actually getting it done is a whole other feat. It can be an absolute chore. What follows, however, is a host of benefits. Here are four, according to science:

Declutter for a brighter future

An item can be classified as clutter, not in terms of how it looks, but how it makes you feel. All the things we own are invariably attached to memories we have. When we look at them we often get a sense of nostalgia. Sometimes these memories are good memories, and this is okay.

But often our possessions are associated with bad memories. Holding on to such possessions only serve as a negative reminder of the past. It does not serve us at all; only holds us back from moving forward with our lives and creating a new, brighter future. Declutter to help you let go of the past. 

Declutter for lower stress and a peaceful mind

A recent study from UCLA’s Center on Everyday Lives and Families (CELF) found that clutter has a deep-seated effect on our mood and self-esteem. 

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Notably, anthropologists, social scientists, and archaeologists found “A link between high cortisol (stress hormone) levels in female homeowners and a high density of household objects.” Men didn’t seem to be bothered by this at all. Women were found to become more anxious as the dishes piled up in the sink.

The research suggests that through decluttering we can reduce stress, become less anxious, and ultimately be more at peace.

Declutter for increased productivity

Clutter has a profound impact on our brains. In a study conducted by Neuroscientists at Princeton University, researchers explain that the reasoning for this is that physical clutter in our environment competes for our attention, which negatively affects performance and induces stress. 

Through decluttering then there is less vying for our attention, our information processing is improved and we can focus better. Naturally, what follows is improved productivity.

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Declutter for improved sleep

A recent study conducted by Pamela Thacher of St. Lawrence University suggests that clutter and sleep loss are linked. More specifically, a link was found between hoarding objects and bad sleep quality. The study asked participants about their hoarding, sleeping, and clutter and rated them on a “Clutter and Hoarding Rating Scale”. Of the 198 participants,  83 who were at risk of hoarding disorder suffered from sleep latency.

Hoarding disorder is a disorder where people accumulate items, that they struggle to get rid of, which have little or no value to them. Sleep latency is the length of time it takes from lying down to sleep until sleep onset.

Pamela Thacher mentions that hoarders already have problems with decision making and cognitive control (set of cognitive processes such as reasoning, problem-solving, etc). Lack of sleep is known to compromise cognition. It then follows that any existing risk for cognitive dysfunction, depression, and stress may increase with lack of sleep.

Declutter for an improved life

There is a host of problems associated with clutter, from increased stress levels to other psychological effects. Decluttering can be a chore, particularly as we often ascribe value to things based on associated memories. However, if we declutter what follows is a host of benefits, from greater well-being, improved productivity, reduced stress, and a peaceful mind. Ultimately, we improve our lives.

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More by this author

Nick Darlington

Nick is a Multipotentialite, an entrepreneur, a blogger and a traveler.

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Last Updated on January 21, 2020

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

Creating a vision for your life might seem like a frivolous, fantastical waste of time, but it’s not: creating a compelling vision of the life you want is actually one of the most effective strategies for achieving the life of your dreams. Perhaps the best way to look at the concept of a life vision is as a compass to help guide you to take the best actions and make the right choices that help propel you toward your best life.

your vision of where or who you want to be is the greatest asset you have

    Why You Need a Vision

    Experts and life success stories support the idea that with a vision in mind, you are more likely to succeed far beyond what you could otherwise achieve without a clear vision. Think of crafting your life vision as mapping a path to your personal and professional dreams. Life satisfaction and personal happiness are within reach. The harsh reality is that if you don’t develop your own vision, you’ll allow other people and circumstances to direct the course of your life.

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    How to Create Your Life Vision

    Don’t expect a clear and well-defined vision overnight—envisioning your life and determining the course you will follow requires time, and reflection. You need to cultivate vision and perspective, and you also need to apply logic and planning for the practical application of your vision. Your best vision blossoms from your dreams, hopes, and aspirations. It will resonate with your values and ideals, and will generate energy and enthusiasm to help strengthen your commitment to explore the possibilities of your life.

    What Do You Want?

    The question sounds deceptively simple, but it’s often the most difficult to answer. Allowing yourself to explore your deepest desires can be very frightening. You may also not think you have the time to consider something as fanciful as what you want out of life, but it’s important to remind yourself that a life of fulfillment does not usually happen by chance, but by design.

    It’s helpful to ask some thought-provoking questions to help you discover the possibilities of what you want out of life. Consider every aspect of your life, personal and professional, tangible and intangible. Contemplate all the important areas, family and friends, career and success, health and quality of life, spiritual connection and personal growth, and don’t forget about fun and enjoyment.

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    Some tips to guide you:

    • Remember to ask why you want certain things
    • Think about what you want, not on what you don’t want.
    • Give yourself permission to dream.
    • Be creative. Consider ideas that you never thought possible.
    • Focus on your wishes, not what others expect of you.

    Some questions to start your exploration:

    • What really matters to you in life? Not what should matter, what does matter.
    • What would you like to have more of in your life?
    • Set aside money for a moment; what do you want in your career?
    • What are your secret passions and dreams?
    • What would bring more joy and happiness into your life?
    • What do you want your relationships to be like?
    • What qualities would you like to develop?
    • What are your values? What issues do you care about?
    • What are your talents? What’s special about you?
    • What would you most like to accomplish?
    • What would legacy would you like to leave behind?

    It may be helpful to write your thoughts down in a journal or creative vision board if you’re the creative type. Add your own questions, and ask others what they want out of life. Relax and make this exercise fun. You may want to set your answers aside for a while and come back to them later to see if any have changed or if you have anything to add.

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    What Would Your Best Life Look Like?

    Describe your ideal life in detail. Allow yourself to dream and imagine, and create a vivid picture. If you can’t visualize a picture, focus on how your best life would feel. If you find it difficult to envision your life 20 or 30 years from now, start with five years—even a few years into the future will give you a place to start. What you see may surprise you. Set aside preconceived notions. This is your chance to dream and fantasize.

    A few prompts to get you started:

    • What will you have accomplished already?
    • How will you feel about yourself?
    • What kind of people are in your life? How do you feel about them?
    • What does your ideal day look like?
    • Where are you? Where do you live? Think specifics, what city, state, or country, type of community, house or an apartment, style and atmosphere.
    • What would you be doing?
    • Are you with another person, a group of people, or are you by yourself?
    • How are you dressed?
    • What’s your state of mind? Happy or sad? Contented or frustrated?
    • What does your physical body look like? How do you feel about that?
    • Does your best life make you smile and make your heart sing? If it doesn’t, dig deeper, dream bigger.

    It’s important to focus on the result, or at least a way-point in your life. Don’t think about the process for getting there yet—that’s the next stepGive yourself permission to revisit this vision every day, even if only for a few minutes. Keep your vision alive and in the front of your mind.

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    Plan Backwards

    It may sound counter-intuitive to plan backwards rather than forwards, but when you’re planning your life from the end result, it’s often more useful to consider the last step and work your way back to the first. This is actually a valuable and practical strategy for making your vision a reality.

    • What’s the last thing that would’ve had to happen to achieve your best life?
    • What’s the most important choice you would’ve had to make?
    • What would you have needed to learn along the way?
    • What important actions would you have had to take?
    • What beliefs would you have needed to change?
    • What habits or behaviors would you have had to cultivate?
    • What type of support would you have had to enlist?
    • How long will it have taken you to realize your best life?
    • What steps or milestones would you have needed to reach along the way?

    Now it’s time to think about your first step, and the next step after that. Ponder the gap between where you are now and where you want to be in the future. It may seem impossible, but it’s quite achievable if you take it step-by-step.

    It’s important to revisit this vision from time to time. Don’t be surprised if your answers to the questions, your technicolor vision, and the resulting plans change. That can actually be a very good thing; as you change in unforeseeable ways, the best life you envision will change as well. For now, it’s important to use the process, create your vision, and take the first step towards making that vision a reality.

    Featured photo credit: Matt Noble via unsplash.com

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