“When home feels out of control, no matter what the reason, unsettledness and anxiety can seep in, and then the chaos becomes internal as well as external.”
When we are under stress, clutter can amplify our stress response. When there is disorder and chaos around us our amygdala goes into high gear and we typically feel more anxious. When we are more anxious, we may have difficulty sleeping, become easily over stimulated, and feel more overwhelmed by stress in our lives. This is particularly challenging currently as we have been living through a pandemic and most of us have been in a chronic state of stress. And with stay at home orders, we are spending more time in our homes than ever and thus we can’t escape the clutter.
Often times, our internal state is expressed in our external surroundings. The more stressed we feel, the harder it may be to maintain order in our homes. Unfortunately this is a self-sustaining cycle and the more anxious and chaotic we feel, the more clutter we see in our lives. Research shows that clutter impacts your brain, your body, and your overall health and wellbeing.
If you are wondering how clutter affects you, pause for a minute and reflect on how you feel when you walk into a room with a lot of clutter. Tune into how your body feels, what thoughts come to mind, and notice your emotions. There is so much wisdom within us if we only listen.
So how can we declutter our lives?
In a time when so much feels out of our control, decluttering may be the wisest self-nurturing strategy that the whole family can participate in. There are many organizing experts to inspire us to declutter and one show I have enjoyed watching recently is the Home Edit on Netflix.
Most experts remind us to start small and focus on one area at a time. You may begin by decluttering around your door and notice the difference you feel. Creating more ease and order when you come in and out of your home can be liberating and encourage you to do more decluttering. I recently placed a table with two drawers near my door to hold our masks, sunglasses, flashlights, mail, etc so they do not clutter the top of the table and it feels much more peaceful now to enter my home.
You can then move to the kitchen or bathroom and address a drawer, cabinet, and/or counter to feel a sense of accomplishment. Again each time you declutter check in with yourself and notice the difference it makes. If you feel more calm and centered with less clutter around you, your motivation will be fed and more decluttering will be possible.
What I think is fabulous about decluttering is that you can feel success and competence right away and more order creates more trust and a feeling of safety. In a time when so much is uncertain, cultivating more confidence, trust, and safety is profoundly nurturing. And my experience is that you can feel your anxiety lower as you declutter and experience more clarity as you create calm in your surroundings.
You can think of decluttering as a way to highlight what is important to you as you let go of those items that are not being used or as Marie Kondo, the organizing guru says, sparks joy. When you create orderliness and spaciousness, there is more room for calm and joy.
“A simplified life means that what has to get done will get done. And when we pare down life to its simplest, most beautifully basic parts, we’re left with room to enjoy each other, to rest, and to truly savor life with all our hearts, minds, and spirits.” ~Emily Ley
Decluttering our lives can include our homes, our schedules, our email inboxes, our responsibilities, our negative thoughts, the beliefs that no longer serve us or anything that is not supporting us.
The practice of intentionally letting go of things that are not supporting us is empowering and provides us an opportunity to calm our nervous systems and make space for what we value – all deeply self-nurturing!
What will you declutter to bring more peace and calm into your life?
Joshua Becker’s wise words encourage me to continue decluttering, “The first step in crafting the life you want is to get rid of everything you don’t.”
May you be inspired to declutter your life as an act of self-nurturing as you nurture peace in the world from the inside out!
Sending you so much peace, love and gratitude,
Kelley Grimes, M.S.W.
Counselor, Author & Speaker