Decluttering. Ask Google and you’ll find blogs, courses, and business opportunities focused on clutter. I’ve imagined writing my own blog – Clutter: Enemy of Your Soul or Clutter Bugs Unite! I found the perfect meme of a tired-looking woman, head in her hands, lamenting, “I want to get rid of this clutter but my storage units are both full.” Professional organizers have earned a living off clutter for years. Storage companies help shuffle it from your home to theirs.
Want to turn clutter into cash? Sell it on Craigslist. A growing lifestyle trend called “minimalism” encourages getting rid of excess, which in my house is clutter. The Minimalists, Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, say “Minimalism is a tool to rid yourself of life’s excess in favor of focusing on what’s important – so you can find happiness, fulfillment, and freedom.” While I’m not promoting any one lifestyle, minimalists may be on to something.
It turns out clutter isn’t healthy. It raises the level of cortisol – the stress hormone. When cortisol levels get out of whack, watch out! Cortisol is an alarm system for the body. It regulates blood pressure, increases blood sugar, and controls your sleep/wake cycle. Too much cortisol keeps the alarm sounding, which can result in serious health problems like rapid weight gain and diabetes.
I’ve fought the battle with clutter most of my life. I feel sorry for my tidy, ultra-organized sister who was forced to bunk with me. Our ideas about organization were vastly different. My method of cleaning was shoving clutter in the closet or under the bed, while my sister’s motto was “a place for everything and everything in its place.” I struggle to find a place for anything. Books. Coffee mugs. Unfinished sewing projects. When I moved, I donated bags of partially completed cross stitch projects. It hurt, but who was I kidding – I hadn’t threaded a needle since the late 1990s.
The battle is real! The effects on your health are real, too. Have you watched Hoarders? If you’re curious about the relationship between clutter and poor health, watch just one episode. The show focuses on the physical and emotional effects of living in cluttered homes often infested with insects and rodents. Most of us don’t live with clutter to that extreme, but our junk piles may still affect our health. Clutter naturally attracts dust which attracts dust mites, triggering respiratory problems like asthma and allergies.
It’s bad enough clutter irritates our lungs, but it also ruins our diet. Living in a cluttered environment makes people feel lazy and complacent. I can relate. I lived in a tiny apartment for several years. My kitchen was short on counter and cabinet space. Being a collector of gadgets and cookbooks, my counters were cluttered with small appliances. I used one counter as a bookshelf. Clutter didn’t inspire healthy cooking, and making meals became a chore. Because clutter also leads to depression, clutter bugs often seek comfort from food. I don’t know about you, but I don’t soothe my soul with salads.
My new home came with a roomy kitchen, which helped me exchange kitchen clutter for food prep space! Decluttering inspires healthier eating, and it can also lift your spirits.
Cluttered homes are depressing places as it’s hard to relax surrounded by junk, and it creates a gnawing level of stress. Getting clutter under control means you can live in a restful, restorative environment. Decluttering is about removing unnecessary items from your life which interfere with physical and emotional health. So, remove clutter for good and get your life back!
Elizabeth “Amy” Ramirez is a freelance writer and writing coach