Written by: Cally Worden
Watching ‘Secret Hoarder’ programmes on TV always makes me feel a little better about the general state of my house. It’s a bit messy, and not always as clean as it could be … but it’s not that bad. In fact, it’s probably completely normal if the homes of my parents-with-young-children friends are anything to go by. So I feel okay. But at a fundamental level I know that we have too much stuff we don’t need, and that it clutters my world and my mind in subtle ways. I know a decluttering exercise would help. Here’s why:
Chaos Breeds Chaos
I’m quite an organised person. No, really, I am. My office at home is my sanctuary and the heart of the smooth running of our lives. In busy periods when the paperwork builds up I start to feel edgy and agitated. It creeps up on me like a spiteful little imp, taunting me. I shift papers from one pile to another. It doesn’t work. And if I don’t have a good old sort out I can find myself feeling inexplicably overwhelmed – not just by paperwork, but also by life. I become less efficient in everything I do. And all because of the clutter on my desk. When I clear it, I instantly feel more calm.
And that’s the thing about clutter. It builds up slowly, so you don’t really notice it until it’s too late. And in allowing it to do so, you invite its chaos into all areas of your life. Keeping a lid on the clutter will help you to feel more in control of your life at a general level.
Space is in the Mind
The physical presence of clutter in your life is obvious. Desks overflowing with paper, wardrobes stuffed full with clothes, toy cupboards bursting at the seams … all very in your face. Yet one of the most damaging effects of clutter is the impact it has on your mind. When your physical world is full of stuff, your brain is constantly processing visual images of it. It’s everywhere you look, and whether you like it or not your brain is having to work hard to tune it out.
Decluttering is a fantastic way of creating space in your mind as well as in your immediate physical environment. Clutter can create stress simply because it’s a mess, but also because it provides constant reminders of things you’ve lost, tasks you’ve yet to complete, or memories associated with each and every item on view. This can sap your energy. Having a clear out helps you to create space in your mind too.
‘I’m just a messy person’ is often the everso-slightly-embarrassed refrain from those whose homes are clutter magnets. This may in part be true, but serious cluttering may also result from underlying emotional issues. Keeping stuff around you is a bit like ‘holding on’ to something, a reaction often seen in people who have experienced grief and loss. Surrounding yourself with stuff can also be a subconscious way of shielding yourself from the world, or from emotions that you find difficult to acknowledge. For other people, the hoarding of material possessions can be a way of seeking happiness that may be missing from their lives.
Trying to identify the reasons behind your own clutter is not easy. You may never really understand what drives you to stockpile stuff. What’s important is that you manage it, and don’t let it manage you. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and if you try a mass clearout you may feel overwhelmed and simply give up. Start with small projects – the cupboard under the stairs, one of the kids’ bedrooms, the bookshelf – and chip away at your clutter one space at a time. You will be amazed how liberated the process makes you feel.