HOW DECLUTTERING CAN JUMPSTART YOUR LIFE

Taking the time to de-clutter can have a positive effect on your life - not just your home

INTRO

Today's Social Saturday guest is Kristin from the Badass Kittens Club. I met Kristin when she left a comment on one of my posts and I thought "I have to check out a blog that has such a cool name!" - and I wasn't disappointed. Kristin even has a really funky little black cat logo that makes me smile every time I see it. Today she's joining me to talk about one of my favourite topics - decluttering.

CLUTTER AND ITS AFFECT ON US

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if there was a simple way to:

• Reduce your anxiety

• Help you focus

• Increase your confidence

• Boost your productivity and creativity

• Help you sleep better at night

What if I told you that decluttering your home can do all that and more? Recent research has shown a link between decluttering and our emotional and physical well-being.

People today own more material goods than ever before. The average home size has tripled in the last 50 years and many people still rent off-site storage to hold their possessions. Twenty-five percent of people with a two-car garage don’t even have room to park their cars inside them. We have so much stuff we lose track of it and don’t even know what we have.

All of this takes a psychological and emotional toll. Consider the following:


CLUTTER IS LINKED TO ANXIETY AND DEPRESSION

Studies have shown a link between clutter and high cortisol levels for women (oddly, men don’t seem to be stressed by clutter, perhaps because women have been socialized to feel responsible for the tidiness of a home). Increased cortisol can impact your mood, lead to sleep disturbances and reduce your energy levels. Clutter acts as a visual reminder of tasks we have yet to do, as well as a constant reminder of the emotional factors associated with stored belongings. They can bring up anxiety about past relationships, failed ventures and unfulfilled dreams.

CLUTTER MAKES IT DIFFICULT TO FOCUS

Having piles of clutter in the home can be overstimulating to our senses. It’s a visual reminder of an overwhelming to-do list. It can be difficult to focus on a project when we are aware of stuff that needs to be put away. We may be looking at a pile of stuff on the table, but in order to clear it we need to make room in the closet, and in order to do that we need to sort through the boxes of belongings we brought home from work after losing our job. The task quickly feels overwhelming and our mind shuts down and our anxiety spikes.

CLUTTER IS LINKED TO WEIGHT GAIN

Research has shown that people who struggle with clutter are 77% more likely to be overweight. This may be a result of the increased cortisol levels discussed above.

CLUTTER STOPS THE ENERGY FLOW IN YOUR HOME

Energy workers and Feng shui experts believe that a healthy home is one in which the energy can flow clearly. Clutter stops the flow of energy and changes the energetic vibration within a home. When you clear your clutter, you are also confronting the emotional residue connected to your belongings, and this lightens the overall energy in your home.

MY BASEMENT

To illustrate the power of decluttering, I want to share a story. I recently cleaned out my entire basement. This was a Herculean task and one I had avoided since moving into my home fifteen years ago. When I moved in back then, I brought with me boxes from my past. I had lost both my parents, so I had a number of their belongings in addition to my own. Our family grew to include two kids and the clutter was increased by the accumulation of the myriad accouterments of child rearing — toys, clothing, cribs. This was increased again when I went through a painful divorce and ended up with a lot of my ex-husband’s unclaimed belongings.

Taking the time to de-clutter can have a positive effect on your life - not just your home

In additional to the sheer quantity of stuff, my basement was a virtual minefield of emotional baggage. Though the main levels of my home were fairly decluttered and organized, the basement remained a no-go zone. There were so many boxes, the task of going through all of it felt overwhelming. At times, I would make a dent in it, but I could never stay down there for too long. It was too painful and overwhelming.

FROM A DREAM

A few weeks ago, I had a dream about my basement in which I was fretting over the task of going through everything. My clutter angst was causing nightmares! That dream was so potent, I decided when I woke up that I needed to do something about it. I went downstairs and counted every box in my basement - there were 110.

Taking the time to de-clutter can have a positive effect on your life - not just your home

I began what would be a two-week cleaning binge. I started hauling up boxes and going through them. I made a chart in my bullet journal and each time I cleared out a box, I marked it off.

I got through 10 boxes that first day. The next day I cleared 13. I kept thinking that I would eventually feel overwhelmed and give up, as I had done in the past, but that never happened. Every single day I cleared more boxes. In two weeks, I had gone though all 110 boxes. I had either given away or thrown out two-thirds of them, and the rest were labeled and neatly stacked up in one area.


TO FRUITION

After I finished the whole project, I sat in my living room and I felt so amazingly good, so light and free. I actually felt this powerful energy radiating from me. It was a beautiful moment. Since then, I have continued to feel lighter. It’s easier for me to write now, as odd as that sounds, and to let myself relax and enjoy my downtime. I no longer feel that looming sense that I should be cleaning instead.

So why was I able now to complete a goal that had eluded me for fifteen years? Well, over the past year, I’ve been doing some fairly intense internal work. I had been processing much of the emotional pain represented by the contents of those boxes. And a few months ago, I had an energy worker do a space clearing on my home. I think that clearing up the emotional and energetic clutter in my life created the space and motivation for me to clear the physical clutter. My personal energy changed and I needed the energy in my home to match that. I wrote more on my blog about the resonance between our emotional states and our physical environments.

WHAT ABOUT YOU?

If you have clutter in your home, set aside some time to tackle it and see where it leads. If you’re overwhelmed, set a timer for 15 minutes and commit to cleaning until the timer goes off. Start small and remember that success breeds momentum. Happy clearing!

Kristin and where you can find her:


Kristin Alicia is a writer and nonprofit executive who works in the field of trauma. She blogs at Badass Kittens Club about healing and creating a soulful life. Her previous blog, Wanderlust, was voted among the top ten most Inspiring Blogs by Circle of Moms, and she was a Voice of the Year and keynote speaker at the first Aussie Blogger’s Conference in 2011 (she’s not actually Australian, but please don’t tell her that). She is an avid baker and often pretends she’s a contestant on the Great British Baking Show. She lives in the American midwest with her two kids and three cats. Her home is overrun by foster kittens.
Twitter: https://twitter.com/kitten_badass
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/bkittensclub/



Taking the time to de-clutter can have a positive effect on your life - not just your home

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43 comments

  1. Thanks for this Kristin. We moved house last year and for the 3 months before we left, we de-cluttered like demons. The idea was not to bring anything to our new life that wasn't useful, beautiful or absolutely loved. We tackled one room at a time and donated the good stuff to a local charity, binning the rest. It made it easier to keep the house "show ready" while we were selling, made it easier to pack, and when we arrived up here everything had a place and a use.

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    1. Hi Jo, how wonderful that you started off in your new home with a clean slate, so to speak. Moving provides a wonderful opportunity to declutter. I'm curious, does it feel different now that you have fewer things in your home, and only things which you really love/need? Have you been able to maintain this? My clean-up is so new I'm still getting used to living in a pared down home. Though it feels great, I'm still getting used to it. Thanks for reading!

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    2. Jo I have a theory that we all need to move house on a semi-regular basis - just for the de-cluttering alone. We've been in our place now for 9 years and I can see the cupboards filling up with things that really need to be donated - I think there'll be a purge soon to make up for staying put.

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  2. What an amazing feat! And so many side benefits associated with de-cluttering. (Looking around my own writing/craft room in embarrassment...)
    Thanks for a great post.

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    1. 110 boxes is definitely an amazing undertaking isn't it Trisha? I am in awe that she carried them around for so long, and then was finally brave enough to deal with them.

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    2. Thank you, Trisha! Interesting you mention your craft room. I tackled my craft stuff as part of my clean up. I actually ended up going through it and getting rid of a great deal of it. Interestingly enough, having fewer projects gave me the motivation to work on them again! I hadn’t done needlework and years, but now I’m finishing up a project I started a long time ago. I mentioned that in case it provides inspiration for you!

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  3. Hi, Kristin and Leanne - I read about your decluttering on the recent #MLSTL Link Up. Very motivating and inspirational. Thank you for sharing so openly with all of us.

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    1. It's interesting how clearing your physical space can impact on your mental and emotional space isn't it Donna? I think this was a real testimony to the benefits of less clutter on so many levels.

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    2. Thank you, Donna. I appreciate you stopping by to read (booth posts!).

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  4. We went through a massive "de-clutter" when we moved from Indianapolis to Beijing China. We rented the smallest storage unit we could, for things we would want if the venture overseas didn't last, but got rid of probably 90% of the house - furniture, clothes, books (sob) - leaving a small amount in storage, and a small amount with family. We had a year lease on the storage unit, and determined that we would decide on its contents by the end of the contract.

    10 months later, we returned, to clean out the storage unit. You what they say: If you haven't looked in a box for a year, you probably don't need it. (financial records excepted). That was a huge purge, and we still live a fairly simple life overseas. Once you purge one time, the next time is easier!

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    1. That is an enormous undertaking Red - I'm not sure I could purge my entire home and it's contents - I could probably get rid of 90% but I'd want to keep that small storage unit - just in case! Good on you for knowing what's important and moving forward without dragging it all behind you.

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    2. What a feat! I think one of the reasons for my accumulation was that I have lived in the same house for 16 years. At least, that’s my excuse. Re: books, I gave away probably eight boxes of books. It was so hard! But they had sat there for years without being read (or re-read in many cases - so hard to give up favorite books). I told myself that if I really missed them, I could check the book out from the library. So glad you have found happiness following your downsizing.

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  5. Excellent post! We are recently empty nest and organized, but extra stuff still needs to go! We are just starting to look for small 55+ communities in a completely different area where more of my friends live with more fun activities for us, so even more motivation to give some crap the big heave-ho! Thank you for this being so timely :)

    Lori Jo - 50 With Flair
    www.50withflair.com

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    1. I didn't know you were planning on a move Lori Jo - it sounds like a fabulous lifestyle and I can definitely see the appeal. And it's a perfect excuse to get rid of the backlog of stuff you've probably accumulated over the years. Good luck!

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    2. Lori Jo, I image living clutter free becomes much easier once the kids are gone. They don’t seem to share my zeal for donating outdated possessions! Best of luck with your upcoming move into a new community. Thanks for reading.

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  6. I know the feeling. I've lived in the same house for 20+ years and I have accumulated so much clutter. I've been going through the house de-cluttering and redecorating if needed. It feels good!

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    1. Yes, I’ve lived here for 16 years. I think moving house is sort of a built in exercise in clutter clearing. Since we haven’t done that, we probably have to take more initiative the most. Good luck!

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    2. We were the same Amy - 23 years meant a lot of stuff had found its way into the back of cupboards and it was so liberating to donate or ditch so much of it!

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    3. We were the same Amy - 23 years meant a lot of stuff had found its way into the back of cupboards and it was so liberating to donate or ditch so much of it!

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  7. Hi Kristen & Leanne, we are currently having to prepare my MILs home for sale as she is now living in aged care. I think she has kept every plastic bag, wrapping paper and all her possessions from her 92 years!!! My husband and I are minimalists but I can tell you it is so liberating decluttering and deciding whether to give items to family, those in need or just put in the bin. Her home is looking much better already!

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    1. Oh Sue, I remember going through that when my aunt died. She grew up during the depression and couldn’t stand to part with anything. I hope your MIL makes a smooth transition to her new home.

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    2. My MIL has just moved house too Sue - she downsized the house but managed to stuff it full of so much "Junk" I just cringe when I walk in. That generation seems to attach so much significance to really ugly stuff - beats me why the Depression impacted so many people who were barely children at the time - I think it's an excuse they all cling to!

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  8. Hi Kristin. I'm in the habit of cleaning out closets and cupboards at least once a year if not twice a year to donate or discard what we don't need. The word in question here is 'need' -- and since my husband and I don't always agree on that, some things I'd be happy to toss remain. But I have specific storage spots to keep down the clutter in our general living area. I do think clutter clogs the mind! Thanks for a thought-provoking post!

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    1. Hi Janet, sounds like you have a great maintenance plan in place. I plan to be diligent about what makes its way into the basement from now on! Thanks for reading.

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    2. I thought we were doing the same thing Janet, but we've been in our house for nine years and I can see stuff in the tops of wardrobes that really needs to be culled. I think it will be my January clean out project.

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  9. Hi Kristin - I read about decluttering in the recent MLSTL link up. Well done! I try to do a home scan quarterly and donate or toss what we don't need. Thanks, Leanne, for featuring Kristin. #lifethisweek

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    1. It was an interesting follow on to Kristin's post on her blog wasn't it Natalie? She certainly accomplished an amazing feat in a very short period of time once she set her mind to it.

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    2. Hi Natalie! Sounds like you have a good maintenance plan in place. I need to make sure I do the same!

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  10. I've been decluttering for a whole year and it is a never ending job. We just have too many things these days. Now I'm on a recycle and upcycle mission! #AnythingGoes

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    1. I try really hard not to buy unnecessary stuff in the first place - we have so many sales catalogues, TV ads, internet ads, ebay access etc and it becomes a challenge just not buying things - everything I don't buy I see as saving money and house space :)

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    2. Isn’t it amazing how much we accumulate? My basement clean out was the final stretch of my decluttering, but I, too, have been working on it piecemeal for a couple of years.

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  11. It's so much work!! After 9+ years in one house we moved on about one weeks notice so we had to declutter after we moved. But it's a lot nicer now!

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    1. We've been in our house for nine years Vanessa - the thought of moving in a week just freaks me right out. I've decided we need to do a "pretend move" de-clutter to downsize the amount of unnecessary stuff lying around in the backs of our cupboards.

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    2. Wow, you should win some kind of award for moving in a week. That makes me nostalgic for the (pre-kid) days when I moved often and everything I owned would fit in a small Uhaul.

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  12. Kudos to you. I cleaned out by basement two years ago due to a similar situation. I have accumulated more stuff recently and you have given me the incentive to do it again.

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    1. I'm starting to be really glad that we don't have a basement or an attic (both rare in Australia) it means I have less places to put unwanted stuff - so I'll be more likely to toss it out rather than store it.

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    2. Woo hoo! Basement clean out! It’s fun. Really, it is. 😉

      Good luck!

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  13. I really need to do some decluttering!

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    1. Me too - Kristin has inspired me to start the process before too much more time goes by.

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    2. I think it’s a common problem for most of us. 😊

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  14. Good on you Kristin, I get the clutter clean up bug each house move. We have done 3 in 4 years. However, I am a sentimental person too so keep some of my memories but nothing like I had originally. I think teachers like me are notorious for "keeping" stuff as we think "I wonder how I can use this with the kids!".

    Thank you for linking up for #lifethisweek. Next week's optional prompt is Share Your Snaps. Denyse

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    1. Yes, I think I need to move more often. I would definitely own less stuff. Thanks for reading. Your prompt for next week sounds fun.

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    2. I'm with Kristin - we all need to move more often to clear out those cupboards! I'm planning on doing a bit of a mini cull in January when I'm on holidays - Kristin has inspired me :)

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