Your home is filled with ‘stuff’. Clothes, toys, paperwork and other items combine to create an environment where you find it hard to relax. Why not resolve to stop struggling with all the ‘stuff’ this year and declutter your home for a happier life?
Follow our tips to declutter in bite-size chunks and before you know it, you’ll be reaping the benefits of a clear, orderly home.
But what are the benefits of decluttering? How exactly does it make us feel happier?
Why declutter your home?
Reduce stress & anxiety
Scientists at UCLA have found a link between cluttered homes and stress. They found that “there did seem to be a link between how families, especially mothers, talk about their home spaces and their diurnal cortisol [stress hormone] levels.”
Furthermore, they found that this link between clutter and anxiety was far stronger in women. Anthropologists and psychologists have suggested that this is likely due to society’s expectation and pressure on women to ‘keep a tidy home’. At a subconscious level, women feel that we still have work to do in the home unless it is neat and tidy, otherwise we have somehow ‘failed’.
By decluttering, we can reduce stress and become healthier (and therefore happier)!
Clutter is mentally draining and confusing. When you see a pile of papers in the kitchen, it’s hard to prioritise what is important and which to deal with right away. It takes mental energy to decide, then sort them before you can even get started. Consequently, you may end up walking away and not dealing with any of them.
All this stuff is eating into your valuable time. The more things you have to tidy and move will increase the amount of time you spend cleaning. And you’re more likely to lose things like your phone and keys, making you late while you waste time searching for them.
Feel less tired and achieve more
Research by Princeton University Neuroscience Institute shows that “The more objects in the visual field, the harder the brain has to work to filter them out, causing it to tire over time and reducing its ability to function.” [Professor Sabine Kastner]. Essentially, this means that the more ‘stuff’ you have in view, the more work your brain has to do in order to process it all and the faster it tires out. So a clear and tidy desk can actually give you more energy to focus and get your work done.
As we’ve already mentioned, a decluttered home is easier to clean. Decluttering means fewer hiding places for germs and pests. Old and unwanted items, especially clothing, gather dust (and sometimes worse, such as mildew or moths). They’re also taking up valuable storage space, so why keep them?
The more things you have on the floor, the more likely you are to have an accident at home. Anyone who has ever stepped barefoot on a Lego brick, or slipped on a Matchbox car will be passionate about toy tidying!
Ten decluttering tips
1. Get everyone involved
Explain the benefits of decluttering to your housemates and family. If you have children, suggest that they sell any toys and clothes that they no longer want on Ebay or at a local car boot sale and allow them to keep the money that they make.
An impartial friend can be a great help when decluttering, since they won’t have the sentimental attachments to certain items that you do and can help in deciding what to keep, donate or throw out.
2. Rethink gifting
At Christmas and birthdays, ask friends and family to take the children out for a special meal, to the cinema, or another fun experience (climbing, chocolate making or trampolining) rather than gifting more toys. Adults might ask for a voucher for a spa treatment or items that will be used up (then recycled), such as a nice bottle of wine or a subscription for your favourite magazine.
3. Clear kitchen countertops
Place microwaves and other appliances inside a cupboard if you can. Hiding appliances gives you more worktop space to prepare food and avoids ‘visual overload’. Use boxes and baskets to group smaller items on shelves and worktops. Keep your kitchen drawers organised by using inserts.
4. Purge paperwork
Deal with paperwork as it arrives (pay bills, complete and return school trip forms immediately, take a photo of important information like a Scout camp packing list so that you can’t lose it), then shred and recycle it. Go paperless with your banking and bills as far as possible.
5. Simplify toy tidying
Allocate one box or basket for toys in the lounge. Toys can be rotated from the kids’ bedroom to this storage place, but if it starts to overflow, it’s time to donate or sell some. Use an extra large drawstring bag for small items (like Lego) for a super speedy tidy-up time.
6. Welcome home
The entrance to any home (especially a family home) is usually a dumping ground for bags, shoes, keys and coats. By adding plenty of hooks and a basket for each household member, you can keep the floor clear and the clutter contained. Add a bench with storage inside, or underneath to encourage visitors to remove their shoes.
7. A wonderful wardrobe
Some of the most successful people intentionally limit their clothing choices to not only save time in the morning, but to save their ‘decision-making’ energy for more important choices. While we’re not suggesting that you wear exactly the same clothes everyday, a capsule wardrobe (where every item works with every other one) can be invaluable. Fashionista Caroline Rector is convinced that a reduced, but carefully considered wardrobe will make you happier: “smaller closet, intentional purchases, less shopping and more joy”.
Start by clearing out any clothes that no longer fit, or that you haven’t worn in over a year. Seasonal items can be packed carefully away and stored until relevant.
If you want to take it further, set yourself a limit and whittle down your clothing and accessories to a specific number. This is a great way to focus on which items are ‘must haves’ that you wear frequently.
8. Clever crafting and tidy tools
Use a peg board in your shed, garage or craft room to keep tools tidy, yet accessible. One uber-organised grandad that we know draws around his tools so that he can easily see if any are missing or out of place.
9. Go digital
Donate or sell CD and DVD collections. Unless it is an antique or rare collector’s item, you can listen to music through Spotify or Apple Music and you’ll never be short of a film to watch on Netflix or Amazon Prime. Likewise books (unless first editions, coffee table or beautifully illustrated children’s books) can be accessed on tablets and Kindles. You can even borrow e-books from your library.
10. Declutter your desk
Clear everything (absolutely everything) from your desk and work through it, one item at a time, deciding whether to file, shred, recycle, add to your in-box or throw it away. Create piles for each category. Clean your desk. Go through the to-file pile. Can any of this be scanned or photographed and digitally filed instead of taking up valuable space in your office? Be ruthless.
Get organised. Allow yourself just a few items on your desktop. Perhaps an in-tray, a desk tidy or pencil pot and a gorgeous lamp or pretty pot plant. Everything else is kept either out of sight in drawers or is thrown away (once dealt with). Once you’ve become used to working without paper, you will be able to work anywhere, with just your laptop. This can be quite liberating!
We recommend focusing on one area at a time (perhaps start with your wardrobe?) and tackle that before moving on. This will avoid feeling overwhelmed or overloaded, plus it’s SO satisfying once you’ve completed it. If even this feels too much to do in one go, just grab a bin bag and fill it with items that you no longer want or need.
Decluttering your home can be addictive, so just start somewhere (anywhere) and you’re sure to get hooked.
Go forth and declutter. You’ll feel happier for it, we promise.
More decluttering tips
- How to conquer your crazy wardrobe clutter
- Everything you need to know about clever kitchen organisation
- How to make your home feel more spacious