By Dr. Donna Ferguson, Psychologist, CAMH
Fans of Marie Kondo’s hit Netflix series will be the first to tell you that tidying up sparks joy.
But did you know decluttering can also help improve your mental health?
With the arrival of Spring comes Spring Cleaning, where we take time to clean up our physical spaces. The same can extend to our physical and digital workspaces, and you’ll find that there some benefits to cleaning the clutter.
What are the benefits of decluttering?
Our environment can impact our mood. If our surroundings stress us out, we feel the impact. Reducing the clutter in our lives—be it physical, digital or otherwise—allows us to tackle stressors head-on and that benefits our mental health.
Clutter can annoy us, distract us or take away much-needed energy. Clutter can be physical (items in the junk drawer), digital (unedited photos scattered across our mobile devices), or even emotional, such as beliefs that hold us back in life and make it difficult for us to function. Clutter can also cause feelings of stress, fatigue and depression. Stress can contribute to poor sleep, poor eating habits and general poor health.
If it makes us feel bad, it’s clutter, and even though it might seem like a daunting task—it can be tackled.
How can we get started decluttering?
Start decluttering one step at a time. Set aside a few minutes each day to straighten up one place, such as a messy drawer, or removing or reducing things in our immediate environment. This way you'll feel happier and more relaxed at the end of the day, and gradually create a sense of order as you go along.
Since decluttering reduces stress, you’ll naturally enjoy better sleep. Even keeping your bedroom decluttered is, in itself, a method that can help with sleep. People who take the time to make their beds every morning experience longer, more restful sleep, especially when they use fresh, clean sheets. Decluttering one’s bedroom should also include keeping electronic devices turned off (phones or tablets) or keeping them in another room, particularly just before going to bed, so that there is time to unwind before trying to sleep.
Decluttering takes time. As a starting point, focus on removing it a bit at a time by starting with a small task and then building to bigger ones rather than trying to tackle larger tasks that can be overwhelming. Starting small can be a form of problem solving and this can help us feel less stressed and build coping skills and resilience.