How to Declutter Your Home to Calm Your Mind
Last updated: April 2021
With a home full of clutter and mess we have no where to relax and de-stress from the chaos of today. Use these tips to help you stay sane even when the world around you isn’t by decluttering your home.
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Clutter is Overwhelming
Ever feel overwhelmed or have difficulty focusing in your own home? Yeah, I’ve been there too.
In this crazy world we live in, it’s easy to get overstimulated by all of the moving parts. Our jobs are complicated. Our families are complicated. Our homes are complicated.
Not to mention all of the technological input we subject ourselves to on a daily basis (i.e. news, social media, communications).
To prevent burnout, engage in some self-care, and simply take a break, we need to be able to unplug from our complicated lives. But if our homes are cluttered the only time we might be able to unplug is on a vacation. And that’s not enough.
When our homes are cluttered, they become an extension of this outside complication. Clutter in our homes makes everything more difficult.
Choosing what food to eat, which clothes to wear, and what entertainment to use can be quite the challenge when there are simply TOO MANY options.
One of the hardest decisions for my family is what to eat for dinner. Ever had this experience? You’re looking in the fridge for food, but have leftovers that are hard to recognize, bottles and jars you can’t fully see, and items that your sure went bad a week ago. Instead of pulling out tonight’s meal, you stare at the fridge wondering what you’re going to eat.
Or, even better, have you ever looked into your closet believing that you have nothing to wear today, yet it’s FULL?
Each of these examples are good indicators that you’re making things more difficult on yourself. When I get to this point, I realize it’s time for me to start decluttering again.
Your Home is an Extension of Yourself
When I notice that my daily decisions are becoming more difficult due to the state of my home, I know it’s time for an overhaul.
So often, I notice that when things in my life are getting more hectic, my home environment gets a little more hectic too. Maybe the dishes pile up a little longer than they should have. Or sometimes clothes get tossed onto the floor instead of the laundry basket where they should be. These signals, and many others let me know that I need to do something ASAP before I get into a funk.
A really cool concept from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is the Cognitive Triad. Basically, what it promotes is the idea that our thoughts, behaviors, and emotions are interconnected. When my thinking is positive, my behaviors and emotions will follow. And vice versa for the other two as well.
So I know that when I start changing my behavioral patterns (i.e. not putting the dishes immediately into the dishwasher, or putting my dirty clothes where they go), that how I’m feeling and thinking will also begin to deteriorate.
How my home looks – how I’ve chosen to maintain it – is a direct indicator of my mental health. It’s a reflection of my thought patterns. If my home is messy, chances are my mind is messy too.
BUT thankfully, the cognitive triad works in BOTH directions. I can change my behaviors to change my mood and my thoughts. In other words, by proactively cleaning out your home, you can symbolically and literally clean out your mind.
Focus on the Things you CAN Control
I might not be able to control what goes on outside of my home. There are some very real stressors in today’s world that can certainly knock people off their game: sickness, job loss, relationship changes, etc.
However, I can control my own body, my own thoughts, and my own actions. So part of what helps make me feel better when I’m overwhelmed or keeps me focused on meeting my short and long term goals is the state of my home. I actively declutter my home on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis to promote my own positive mental health.
When my kitchen is clean and I don’t have items on the counter, it’s so much easier to put my dish from tonight’s meal in the dishwasher without feeling overwhelmed. When my fridge and pantry are organized and optimized, I know exactly where to look to find my meal for tonight, a snack, and can estimate how much food we have remaining for the week. When my closet is organized and all of my clothes are put back where they belong, I can quickly and easily find an outfit in the morning without making myself late for work.
The processes of decluttering and maintaining a clutter-free home can contribute to your mental health by prioritizing the things that work well for you and getting rid of the things that don’t. You can streamline your mental health by pairing down on the things you have.
Tips to Get Started
When I first started decluttering my home, it was quite a daunting task. Almost everywhere I looked I felt overwhelmed because there was simply too. much. stuff.
While it certainly can be a long process depending on where you are starting and your final expectations, decluttering is necessary if you want to clean out your home and your mind.
These decluttering tips help me decide where to start and how to give myself grace in the process.
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Cleaning and Decluttering are Different
This is key, guys.
If you attempt to clean and declutter your house at the same time, this alone will make you overwhelmed. No doubt.
When you decide to declutter, only touch the clutter. Do not attempt to wipe, scrub, or wash anything. That can be done on a different day.
Starting your decluttering journey is hard enough. Don’t bring cleaning into this too.
Once you declutter certain areas, they will become easier to clean. Keep this in mind to help you get through the difficult task.
For example, instead of having our DVD’s on a bookshelf as we did previously, after decluttering the ones that we do and don’t use, I purchased square baskets to store them in on my shelves. Now, when I go to dust my book shelves, instead of removing tens of DVDs at once, I lift one small basket and I’m done.
Dusting and DVD decluttering didn’t happen on the same day, but decluttering my DVD’s helped improve my visual stimulation (one simple box instead of many multicolored small items) and made my cleaning process easier (lifting one box versus many small items).
Things You can Declutter First to Make the Most Difference
So, where do you start? You might be asking.
I like to start my decluttering journeys in the areas that provide the most bang for my buck: the places I see the most.
Visually, when clutter starts piling up, I can feel my anxiety rising. There is no place to calm down and be still.
When I start decluttering, I often start in the kitchen, living room, or master bedroom for these reasons. My husband and I spend the most time in these three rooms, so if there is clutter present, it’s going to affect my mental health the most in these areas.
Basically, don’t start in that scary closet tucked away in your spare bedroom. For one, your not going to reap as many immediate benefits from decluttering it, but for two, it’s probably going to be quite a daunting task.
It’s a decluttering snowball, if you will.
Some specific places I like to start that are common in many homes might be your shoes, plastic food containers, or shower products.
Throw away what’s unusable. Donate what you don’t need. Keep only what serves you the best.
Establish Your “One Good Thing”
At this point you might be ready to declutter and ready to reap the benefits of a streamlined and calmer household. Maybe you even got started on a room or an area, but you’ve found that the task is a little more daunting than you first thought.
That’s okay. It always gets worse before its gets better. That’s with literally anything. Cooking, learning a new skill, pregnancy. To get to it, you’ve got to get through it.
Something that helps me “pace myself” while I’m decluttering and helps me to remember my go-to mantra “progress not perfection” is the idea of making a goal to complete ONE good thing for the day.
If you’re decluttering to create a sense of peace in your home, rank the order of areas to declutter by the amount of impact they will have. Choose one VERY small item to declutter, get to the decluttering, then reassess how you’re feeling.
For example, I might choose to declutter one kitchen cabinet, then only the condiments in my fridge, then tackle my sweatshirt collection. After finishing my kitchen cabinet, I can cross it off my list for today, and consider if I’m feeling up to adding another decluttering item.
You can tackle the decluttering one bite at a time and it’s much less daunting that eating it all in one sitting.
Decluttering is Good for Mental Health
Whatever you plan to start with, at some point, just decide to get started. Often this is the biggest hurdle to change.
And, although decluttering is good change because of the mental health benefits, it’s still a change nonetheless, and can require hard work and determination.
Rarely do we get things in life without either of these traits.
In summary, decluttering helps me to feel more in-control of my surroundings, less distracted, and produces a sense of peace. While it can be a large undertaking, when you declutter a little bit at a time and choose areas strategically, decluttering can be a great cleansing process for your home and your mind.
Let me know your favorite place in your home, now that you’ve decluttered, or the first area you want to tackle today.
Disclaimer: Although I am a mental health professional, I am not YOUR mental health professional. The information provided on this website is for educational and informational purposes only and using this website does not establish a counselor-client relationship, or constitute provision of mental health services. I am not responsible for any damages resulting from your use of the content on this site, as the information provided does not substitute for collaboration with a health professional. Please consult with your health professional before making changes to your health regimen.