When it comes to maintaining wellness, we often focus on outside resources to foster improvements. Usually this includes going to the gym, the grocery store, a massage therapist, a counselor, or utilizing an on-site wellness program at our job. But have you ever wondered what the impacts of your own living space have on your overall well-being and productivity? Don’t underestimate how much your own personal environment (that you have in fact created) roots your psyche, mental outlook and overall cognitive functioning. It’s where you wake up every day and retreat to at the end of the day; it’s where you let your guard down; it’s filled with an array elements, colors and objects that represent who you are. In other words, it’s the true representation of your state of mind.

If you are engaging in healthy activities and processes outside, but at home you are surrounded by clutter, something is not matching up. It means something at a deeper level is not at ease. Clutter sends a conflicting message to your brain and creates the burden of extra stimuli to process. That doesn’t set the stage very well for a productive and focused mindset. The saying, it starts at home couldn’t be more true.

But what is clutter exactly?

A few definitions describe it as: a collection of things lying about in an untidy mass; a confused or disordered state or collection; a lot of things in a messy state, especially things that are not useful or necessary. The sneaky thing about clutter is it actually takes many forms. Clutter can be physical, mental, emotional, digital or financial in nature. It truth, it is the physical manifestation of stuck energy and a mind that is in disarray. If you can learn to recognize it in all its forms you can begin to break the cycle and find your way back to your own power and peace of mind. 

Examples of Clutter: It’s More Than You Think

  • It’s that pile of mail accumulating on your table that you have yet to read or sort through
  • Clothes from earlier in the week that are laying everywhere but where they are supposed to be
  • Old sentimental items you’ve held onto over the years and are afraid to let go of or have actually forgotten about because they are buried amidst other belongings
  • Unpaid financial debts that you are putting off
  • Computer files and downloads that are scattered all over your desktop
  • Your inbox’s unread number that’s way out of hand
  • Even the stagnant toxic relationship that has you riddled with recurring feelings of stress, anxiety and doubt. 

All of these examples represent clutter in different forms as they are not only taking up real physical space around you but also mental space, hijacking your mind with uncomfortable feelings and distractions. Moreover, these are all “things” you have to manage, meaning you have to think about them and deal with them in some way. The more things you have to manage, the more clutter you attain. It’s a lot of extra “noise” for your brain to tune out and soon enough it manifests into feelings of anxiety, stress and overwhelming paralysis or procrastination. 

Clutter is the physical manifestation of unmade decisions fueled by procrastination. – Christina Scalise

You may think, how does it get so out of hand? The root of of clutter is that is stems from fear and uncertainty – the fear of letting go, of regretting the decision after the fact or dealing with something head on in the moment. So the common reaction is to put if off, deal with it “later.” When it doesn’t get resolved, it becomes clutter. 

How Clutter Impacts Your State Of Mind 

Disorder creates stress and cumulative stress can negatively impact your mood. Highly cluttered environments can create emotional and mental distress, mostly because you feel a loss of control over your space and that feeling ultimately trickles over to feeling a loss of control in your life as well.  You experience the cumulative hoarding of objects or holding onto things or feelings you want to “preserve,” yet simultaneously feel more anxious just by doing so until you have an overwhelming feeling of disorder hovering over you. This uncomfortable feeling significantly inhibits your ability to focus and your brain’s ability to process information. You become severely distracted and work twice as hard to divert your attention back to where you need it to be. In fact, a study from Princeton University discovered that an abundance of items around you makes it more difficult for you to focus. This continuous exhaustive energy utilized to block out extra stimuli wears you down, leaving you mentally drained and frustrated. Unaddressed clutter becomes detrimental to your self-esteem because as you feel consistently unproductive, you start to feel incompetant. This is not a good foundation for happiness, confidence or productive work. 

You Can Break The Cycle! 

The good news is you can break this self-destructive cycle once and for all. It’s time to declutter your space and life! Since clutter is multi-faceted, it’s crucial to understand why it’s there in the first place and what is keeping you from acting or deciding. According to Sofia Alvim, a professional organizer, clutter healer & coach, here are a few things you might want to ask yourself:

  • What’s working well and not working well in my life right now?
  • What is making me feel overwhelmed? Get specific.
  • How and where is clutter paralyzing me most from moving forward?
  • Where am I currently not making decisions in my life?
  • What clutter am I managing that I don’t need to be?
  • What’s the first decision/step I can make to start dealing with it?

Once you understand the answers to these questions you can then begin to make action-based decisions that can change the current state. The fundamental power here lies in the act of making decisions and finding your confidence in not only making them but also sticking by them. This means you have to decide to commit to every decision you make. Ask yourself, do I keep it? Or do I let it go? Whatever your choice is, once you commit, that’s it. You do not waver. Each decision builds upon the last and it will become a domino effect in all areas of your life. This can be applied to the area of conflicted personal relationships in your life that you are doubting holding onto or help you pinpoint the origin of certain financial stressors that have been looming over you. If you can master this process, you will not only achieve higher self-esteem, but also increased clarity and confidence. You will truly be able to set your mind free and your productivity can only skyrocket from that place. 

Tips To Organize Your Home: 

  • You can start by either going room by room or you can clear out by categories i.e. clothing, closet, kitchen pantry, desk, mail, etc. Maybe think, which room do I feel the most stressed or disgusted in and start from there. 
  • Designate spaces around your home for certain things and keep them organized and always return items to their designated space.
  • Try putting velcro on the back of remotes and controllers to easily store them in the same place every time.
  • Keep papers organized and create a paper system of retain, archive, and toss piles. You’ll be amazed at the amount of paper you’ll get rid of and how much more easily accessible important documents become, especially when you need to find them!
  • A good rule of thumb to follow is if you haven’t looked at it in 6 months (and it’s not seasonal), go ahead and either store it out of sight or get rid of it.
  • Get creative and store non-seasonal items like winter scarves or socks in handbags as  fillers to help maintain their shape when you aren’t using them. 
  • Designate an “Essentials Only” area where you leave your keys, wallet, metro card, important notes for the next day, etc. so you never have to look for them in rush again.

You will immediately feel a euphoric sense of relief and inspiration as you witness the beautiful transformation of your home into a place you love being in again, create new clean space and have a sense of accomplishment in tackling something you have put off for so long. 

You can get really creative with the process and find some fun inspiration. Put on your favorite music or new album you have been waiting for an excuse to listen to while you work. Also, you can sell the things that you don’t need and earn a bit of extra cash to go towards something you really want like a vacation, a new car, your next massage, or a dinner out with friends or partner to celebrate. And it also can be just as rewarding to donate your relinquished items to GoodWill, a local consignment shop or a charity. Every little bit counts. Poshmark and ThredUp are a couple of online selling/donating options to try, especially for clothing. Purging never felt so good!

Tips To Organize Your Digital Space:

  • Clean your inbox! If you are a digital hoarder it’s time to get to the bottom of it. Take 20 minutes every day to clean your inbox, label unwanted emails as “spam” and unsubscribe from unwanted emails
  • Get rid of unused programs on your computer that could even be years old and are taking up space. 
  • Delete files for which you have no use; remove duplicate files, or store on a separate flash drive or external hard drive. This is especially pertinent for old pictures and videos taking up loads of space.
  • Organize your remaining files more efficiently by creating folders for documents based on subject.
  • Empty your recycle bin. You would be surprised at how it can accumulate so quickly and take up several gigabytes without you realizing it. 
  • Purge your social media accounts: Do not feel guilty about cleaning your cyber space of brands or people you no longer wish to follow, friends you’ve lost touch with or photos you don’t like. It can actually be quite liberating. 
  • Digitize wherever possible. Take some time to scan important documents so that you can go as paperless as possible. Say goodbye to those ever-expanding file folders on your floor or large filing cabinets once and for all! Hello new space!

Remember, your space (both physically and mentally) matters, because you matter. This in itself is an expression of self-love because you are creating an environment that you deserve to be happy in. You may initially dread the thought of taking the time to do it, but taking a few extra minutes per day or scheduling a day or afternoon to organize ourselves physically and mentally will make up for itself in the long run when you become extra productive and feel a sense of confidence and pride. Letting go is never easy but it paves the way for new beginnings, new accomplishments and a newfound sense of inner peace. 

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