We all seem to have some clutter around the house, and some of us have a lot of it. This clutter that we have in our environments appears to be pretty innocuous on the surface. However, many of us feel overwhelmed and stressed out when we have far too much STUFF to keep track of.
Decluttering, organizing, and cleaning your home is an easy and effective strategy to improve your overall health and well-being. With the idea of pursuing a more minimalist lifestyle being a common thread throughout the FI community these days, we want to give you a few helpful methods to tame the mess(y) madness in your life.
Types of Clutter
Let’s think about the different types of clutter. Of course, the first thing we usually think of is the physical clutter that litters our space or environment. The overflowing drawer, the items falling off the shelves of closets, the chaotic fridge hiding expired (wasted) food (Learn How to Organize Your Fridge), and the piles on the floor that we need to donate or just let go of and throw away.
Our lives can be cluttered by so much more than just physical things. We also regularly amass social and psychological (mental) clutter. To reclaim all the energy this clutter steals from us, it’s important to stop and evaluate our social interactions, relationships, and obligations.
Mental clutter is the series of thoughts you have playing repeatedly in your mind that don’t serve you. These self-mantras are usually negative and keep you from feeling like or being able to address work that needs to be done or complete tasks that may be looming over you. This type of clutter can manifest as some pretty heavy feelings, like regret, guilt, shame, fear, and anxiety – so it’s important to practice mindfulness and emotional hygiene to stay balanced. Check out this great TED Talk about how and why to practice emotional hygiene below:
Social clutter is a mixed bag but generally takes the form of commitments to accomplish a lot of tasks that don’t allow for more important priorities to take place. This type of clutter can really start to pile up when you find it difficult to say “no” to various people and things in your life. If you listen to the podcast episode you’ll find below, Brad talks about learning how to say no and why:
I kind of say no to most of these things. Not because I think I’m so great or I wouldn’t like lower myself – nothing ridiculous like that. And I hope people don’t think of me like that, but I’m just saying no to be a jerk or anything I’m saying no, because I value my time so much because there are things that I genuinely want.
The True Impact of Clutter
Regardless of whether you are battling unending piles, stuffed closets, or a crazy-busy week, these types of clutter can affect your mental and physical well-being. A cluttered mind can cause you to be unable to focus or concentrate. It can lead to procrastination and can zap your energy levels. If not addressed and in more prolonged or severe cases, it can even cause you to experience anxiety, depression, and social isolation.
During the first two-part audio series, Brad and Jonathan discuss the importance of simplifying your life to reduce the amount of noise and stress that may cause mental bottlenecks. Listen to part 1 of the podcast below:
A Self-Check to Address the Mess
Identifying the areas in your life where you are experiencing clutter is the first step to addressing it. Here are some simple self-check questions you can ask yourself to note whether you are experiencing certain types of clutter and how they may affect your life.
WHO am I interacting with on a regular basis that makes me feel overwhelmed, anxious, or frustrated?
WHAT am I telling myself in my head that keeps me from being successful or getting things done?
WHEN I walk into this area or space, how does it make me feel?
WHERE in my living space or environment do I feel there is too much to deal with or not enough space to think or be productive?
WHY am I holding onto this item?
HOW many tasks have I put off doing because I wasn’t sure where to start?
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7 Simple Solutions
If you are experiencing clutter in multiple areas of your life, it can be overwhelming, and you may not be sure where to start. The good news is that even small steps or little changes can have a huge impact and lead to greater accomplishments. Here are some simple places to start:
Choose Something and Let It Go
Find an item, pile, bag, or box that has been sitting in the same spot and not touched for a while, and GET RID OF IT. Maybe it’s something that you were trying to decide whether to sell or donate, who to give it to, where to take it to get repaired, etc. If it’s been sitting there a while, then bag it, put it in your donation pile, or trash it. Then take a breath and move on. You will feel a sense of relief once it’s gone.
Related Resources: The Best Apps For Getting Rid Of Your Stuff
Have a Designated Box or Bag at the Ready
Take one of those empty delivery boxes you have lying around and put it in a room that is full of clutter. If it is in your office, it can become the “shred box” (Learn How to Organize Your Office). If it is in your bedroom, it can become a donate box. Challenge yourself each week to go through the space and see what can be added to the box, and then, when it gets full, discard it immediately.
Limit Buying in Bulk or Keeping Replaced Items
Buying a 24-pack of toilet paper is great during a pandemic; however, we tend to stock up on things that we really don’t need and just take up space. Once you have purchased that new cell phone, printer, or laptop, it is time to get rid of the old one. These days, there are plenty of places to sell or donate your old tech gadgets – so you can declutter AND make a few bucks while you’re at it. Check out a few of our favs below:
Also, just because you love that black shirt doesn’t mean you also need the blue, pink, and yellow one. These days, you can have just about anything delivered promptly, so only stock up on those items you run out of often and other necessities.
Related Resources: 9 Consignment Shops To Buy And Sell Clothes
Knock Out or Work on One Chore a Day
Cleaning out an entire closet can seem daunting and may take hours. You can break it down into smaller tasks or set a timer and only work on it a little bit at a time. Maybe today you go through your t-shirts. Tomorrow, you can check a shelf in the pantry for expired food. File papers during commercial breaks or while you watch a Netflix show. You’ll be amazed at how much you can accomplish in 10 minutes and how good you will feel at the end of the week if you check off one item daily.
We all know that creating a successful and supportive household relies heavily on teamwork. Children learn responsibility through chores and duties, but they’ll also learn that they don’t have to tackle problems on their own. You can take this opportunity to create a jobs or chores list that they can pick from to earn extra allowance AND help cross off household to-dos. Start by downloading our ChooseFI Chore Chart and Allowance printables here!
Related Resources: Chore Charts, Ages, And Pay: Teach Your Kids Responsibility
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Limit Digital Exposure
You may have already heard the warnings to limit time on social media, but all screen time can be draining, and it can be especially hard when you have back-to-back Zoom meetings or calls. Try taking breaks between tasks to move around and away from your screens. Put your phone on Do Not Disturb an hour before you plan to go to bed. If you have something in front of you that you need to get done, close or put down screens, and do not look at them again until the task is complete.
Invest in People – Not Things
One thing that gets us into trouble in the first place is thinking that surrounding ourselves with items or shopping for new things will give us a sense of accomplishment or satisfaction. However, that serotonin boost you get from a big purchase is fleeting and temporary. Focusing on how you spend your time and who you spend it with will be a much better investment in your peace of mind. Not only will you have fewer items to discard or donate in the future, but you will feel continued spikes of happiness, reliving memories of all the fun things you have done with the people in your life.
Call For Backup, or Make It a Family Affair
Yes, sometimes the clutter around us causes such strong feelings that we become paralyzed, anxious, and overwhelmed. If the state of your environment or your mind seems too overwhelming for you to tackle alone, then enlist the help of others. Whether it is having a friend or family member bring over their car for a trip to Goodwill, working with a life coach, or hiring a professional organizer to come and tackle your toughest space, enlisting the help of others will make for lighter work. And, of course, if you are feeling an impact on your mental health or more serious roadblocks, then you should seek help from a therapist or other mental health practitioner – you don’t have to clear the clutter alone.
Related Resources: How To Hire Your Children And Reap The Tax Benefits
The Bottom Line
Decluttering your home and cleaning up the mess is simply a strategy to improve your overall mental and financial health. It isn’t as complicated or hard to learn how to organize your home and your life as you might imagine – especially when you consider all the benefits you gain by cleaning out the clutter. In the end, you’ll have less to clean, less debt, less stress, and more financial freedom. The less time and money you spend on acquiring THINGS, the more you will have to dedicate to your true passions in life and get 1% better each and every day.