Imagine this: your home is sparkling clean with no clutter in sight, ready for your evening guests. You look around proud of your home, but something is not quite right. Could it be the 10 pairs of shoes, 3 coats, junk mail and broken lamp that you’ve chucked in the spare closet to clear the space? Emily Wapples of Simply Sorted is here to tell us all about why hiding our clutter is not the answer.
We all have that one area of our home where our belongings go to, never to see the light of day again. The area that amazes us with its insatiable storage capacity and which we affectionately refer to as “Narnia”, or “The Tardis”. Maybe yours is in the loft, under the bed, the spare room, or (for people who don’t live in London) in the garage. These areas are crammed full of things that we no longer use on a regular basis or, possibly, at all. But it’s fine, because at the end of the day, we can close the doors and forget about them. Except, often we don’t.
These items may be out of sight, but they’re not always out of mind. In fact, we mentally and emotionally carry this physical clutter around with us all day, fretting and stressing over how long it will take us to sort it out.
This clutter consumes important brain space and clouds our judgement. We perceive the task to be insurmountable, so we put off trying to tackle it, which encourages negative thought patterns. As a result, we are more likely to procrastinate in making changes in other areas of our lives. While we may be able to escape the physical clutter, it is more difficult to escape its psychological effects. Constantly ruminating on the situation can cause, or contribute to, poor mental health. This in turn can make us increasingly unmotivated to tackle the area and to make those life changes we so desperately crave.
So why don’t people just bite the bullet and tackle their clutter?
The most common reason I’ve heard is that they don’t have time (or at least, they think they don’t). And even if time isn’t so much of an issue, they would (understandably) rather be doing something more interesting. Some may be overwhelmed by the perceived size of the task at hand, while others may just be lacking motivation to get started.
But whatever the reason, help is at hand. You just have to ask for it.
I’ve worked with many clients to help them declutter and organise the problematic areas of their home which they can’t stop worrying about. Some have accumulated belongings over 30 years that are now tightly packed into their loft. While others have unopened boxes of things in their spare room, or under the stairs, left over from a house move.
The intention was never to leave the items in these spaces forever; they were all placed there as a temporary solution, just to keep them out of the way. But months, or years pass and the items remain boxed up (if they’re lucky) behind closed doors.
Clutter breeds clutter.
And not only do those original items stay there, additional pieces join them. Because, once we designate an area as an unofficial “dumping ground” for items we no longer need, want or use, we are more inclined to add to the clutter collection, thereby perpetuating the problem. It may take a few hours to a few days to declutter and organise the area concerned. However, once we’ve finished, clients have overwhelmingly reported that they feel an immense sense of freedom and relief.
The space it creates isn’t limited to square footage.
Clients are able to think more clearly and have the capacity to make decisions and bring about changes in other areas of their lives. They feel empowered to take action; the process often motivates them to declutter other areas of their home or to start that project they’ve been putting off for years. And although it is too simplistic to expect that the process is able to cure mental health conditions such as anxiety or depression, it may help to alleviate some of the symptoms; even if the benefits are experienced on a more long term basis.
So what can you do if you find yourself in this situation?
- Don’t try to avoid it – Accept that you need to declutter and organise these belongings to bring about positive changes in your life. Yes, the process will be physically and emotionally exhausting, but its benefits will be felt in all aspects of your life going forward.
- Learn how to recycle – Sometimes the thought of an item ending up in a landfill is the reason people avoid decluttering. To learn about recycling more difficult items, take a look at 6 Ways to Avoid Waste While Decluttering.
- Enlist help from a supportive friend or family member or, ideally, a professional organiser via the APDO website to help you tackle the area.
- Break it down into manageable tasks if you are feeling overwhelmed by the size of the project, and take it one task at a time.
- Speak to your GP if your clutter is causing you to feel anxious, depressed or stressed. You may also want to investigate other strategies for maintaining good mental health such as yoga, mindfulness, exercise and healthy eating.