Is Decluttering the Secret to Less Stress and Better Mental Health?

A cluttered home has become one of the staples of motherhood.

It’s quite difficult to keep up with the messes that come along with raising young children.  And living among all that clutter can contribute to rising stress levels among mothers.  Decluttering might just be the secret to better mental health and less everyday stress.  But it’s not an easy step to take.

Rebecca Brown from Rough Draft shares some tips and information about decluttering both our minds and our homes for less stress and better mental health.
Is Decluttering the Secret to Less Stress and Better Mental Health?
*This is a guest post and all opinions are those of the author. This post may also contain affiliate and/or paid links. Rest assured that I only work with companies and individuals that I trust. While some of those companies and individuals may work in the medical field, this post is not intended to be a substitution for medical advice. Always speak to your doctor if you have concerns about your mental or physical health.

Clutter is generally defined as “a lot of objects in a state of being untidy.” People often think of clutter as a result of not having enough storage space, or enough time to keep things organized and tidy, but the reasons are much deeper, and lie in our mindsets, and in our culture.

A UCLA research of the middle-class American families and their homes proved that we’re a clutter culture indeed, obsessed with possessions. We stock up on things to reward ourselves and decrease the stress of our everyday lives but often end up even more stressed, as a direct result of the clutter we have in our homes. 

This is especially true for women, who feel responsible for the tidiness of their homes – the very same research found a link in the way mothers talk about the clutter in their homes and their diurnal cortisol levels.

So having clutter in our lives, no matter what form it takes, is stressful. Moreover, clutter makes us feel anxious and chaotic, and it often makes us avoid our homes, just so that we don’t need to deal with it.

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Types of Clutter

To help you understand it better, and recognize what things in your household can really be considered clutter, let’s see how the Spruce distinguishes the most common types of clutter:

  • Sentimental clutter. We all keep memorabilia of our past and the people we love. If it’s standing in the way of our everyday tasks, memorabilia becomes clutter. Giving up on those items can be hard, and may feel like a betrayal.
  • Clutter without storage space. Purposeful things that are not trash, but still haven’t been properly stored, since our storage space is cluttered.
  • Trash clutter. Things that lie around your house masked as clutter, that you could easily throw away. Remember that pair of shoes that you’ve been planning to have repaired, for like six months? That’s simply trash.
  • Aspirational clutter. Items proving aspirations we have or had. That favorite pair of jeans you wore when you had 30 pounds less, and that is only filling up space in your closet? Is that a guitar full of dust that you’ve been keeping in your living room since your teenage days when you’ve wanted to become a rock star?
  • Abundance clutter. Things you’ve been stocking up because you know you’re going to use them one day. It’s never a good idea when it comes to food or clothing.
  • Bargain clutter. You might think it’s a good idea to make a good bargain, so you buy things you don’t actually like or use.
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Declutter Your Mind

One of the best and most accurate definitions of clutter is “delayed decisions.”

We can’t seem to be at peace with the idea that we’ll probably never play the guitar or go skiing again, so we leave it for the “just in case” scenario. We have several baby blankets in the garage to remind us of our kids’ childhood, as we can’t seem to decide which one to keep.  Our cluttered homes and our cluttered minds are deeply connected, enticing stress from our unaccomplished businesses.

To begin decluttering your mind, you can begin with the following:
  • Determine what your most important life goals are and define actions to achieve them. Make time for those actions.
  • Keep a journal to organize your thoughts better.
  • Spend more time in nature as it can be beneficial for your mental wellbeing, and help you distinguish your life’s priorities. Hiking is particularly helpful when trying to connect to and contemplate the essentials of life.
  • Limit media consumption. This is the only way to get rid of all the media related clutter in your mind, and the stress and anxiety it causes.
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Declutter Your Space

“If you don’t love it, lose it. If you don’t use it, lose it” a simple motto by Margareta Magnusson, the author of  “The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning” can be a good one to start with when decluttering your space.

Even though the idea of what happens with your things after you die, may seem a bit too challenging, the Swedish practice of döstädning is pretty much enlightening even for those of us who would rather skip this conversation.

Simply by thinking how the item that remains behind us would affect our close ones, can make a difference in how we value the things we cling on to, and whether we should choose to keep it.

If you are unhappy in your home because of the mess you live in, or you can’t find things that you need to function because of it, choose a rainy day when you don’t feel like doing anything else and start.

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A couple of additional tips to get you going:
  • Begin with small steps. Focus on one area of the room or one drawer.
  • Throw away or donate things that you don’t need or use.
  • Don’t move to another item until you’ve made a decision about the one in your hand.
  • If there is an item that holds a sentimental value, that it’s hard to throw away –take a photo of it.
  • Never buy a thing that doesn’t serve a purpose or just because it’s a good bargain.
  • Don’t stock up on food and clothes. Many things can change until you decide to use them.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for the help of your friends or other family members.

While there is a clutter around, you can hardly feel relaxed – you’ll feel as if you have a constant reminder of tasks ahead of you that you’ll most likely never finish. By decluttering your mind and your space, your days will be less stressful and you’ll be happier too.


Author Bio: I’m Rebecca, a translator and avid traveler, a book worm and horror flick enthusiast. My job has given me the amazing opportunity to travel to dozens of countries around the world, and writing on Rough Draft gives me a chance to try to showcase some of them.

Author: Vanessa Rapisarda

Vanessa is a married, mother of three gorgeous kids. As a postpartum depression survivor, she writes about maternal mental health and wellness. She believes that speaking up about postpartum depression is one of the strongest things a mother can do to help raise awareness and end the stigma of mental illness.