When they rolled in the heavy equipment and finally broke ground, everybody in town was excited. The vacant lot right on the main drag in town was finally going to be something. We all envisioned a cool new restaurant or cafe. A unique grocery store like Trader Joe’s maybe. Or maybe a fun indoor playspace for the kids. When the signs went up…we were all disappointed. Another self-storage place?! We already have them all over town! Our houses and our lives are cluttered with all kinds of stuff that we don’t need. And research on the subject is starting to show that it’s a lot worse for you than you might think…
You don’t have to be a diagnosed hoarder to have a lot of stuff. In America, there are more storage facilities than there are McDonald’s and there are, unfortunately, a lot of McDonald’s. About 65% of Americans who rent storage units also have a garage. Let’s face it, Amerian’s just have a lot of stuff… period.
Do you ever look around your home and ask yourself, “where did I get all this stuff?” Or you might say something like, “ This clutter is starting to swallow me up.” If taking a look around your home, in your garage, attic or closets makes you anxious, it may be that your clutter is impacting your mental and well as physical health.
How your clutter can make you sad and sick
While you may think that all of your stuff can make you happy, the truth is, too much stuff seems to detract from happiness when it closes in on you. Here are a few ways too much stuff can make you sick:
A cluttered house is a breeding ground for dangerous bacteria
When you’re home is overloaded with stuff it is a monumental chore to keep clean. If dusting requires that you deal with piles of clutter, you probably won’t move the stuff, and you probably won’t dust either. Remember, just because you can’t see the dirt through the clutter, doesn’t mean that it is not there!
Allergies, asthma, and other respiratory conditions are worse if your home is dirty. If you can’t vacuum rugs or sweep your floor, the dirt tracked in from walking or pets builds up and so does the bacteria.
Clutter increases can cause anxiety and worse
Clutter can increase the release of the stress hormone cortisol which elevates tension, anxiety and promotes unhealthy habits. When we live in a constant state of clutter, it becomes chronic, and we start to live in a dangerous flight or fight fashion daily. Chronic clutter elicits the same response in the body as being chased by a bear. This fight or flight response is useful at times, but we suffer when we stay in it for prolonged periods.
Cortisol levels are naturally higher in the morning and taper off throughout the day. When they remain elevated, it taxes the entire body causing depression anxiety, inability to focus and make decisions. Eventually, there can be permanent and lasting changes in brain function.
In order to provide enough energy to deal with heightened levels of stress, bodily changes occur including:
- Elevated blood pressure
- Diverted blood flow to muscles and other parts of the body
- Increased heart rate
- Increased blood sugar
- Increased fats in the blood
A study out of Cornell University found that stress triggered by clutter also causes a domino effect including eating junk food, oversleeping or binge-watching television.
Other consequences of too much stuff
- Overeating: One study found that people with a cluttered kitchen are more likely to overeat. This is thought to be because too much clutter is often a symptom that things are out of control and that a person has a difficult time with moderation.
- Fire hazard: Having too much stuff can create a fire hazard. Old magazines, books, boxes, and other stuff can easily go up in flames.
- Tension caused by lost things: When you have too much clutter it is inevitable that you will lose something and this creates additional tension.
- Strained relationships: If you are a collector and you live with other people this can create a lot of tension and strain on relationships.
- Decreased productivity: Clutter can cause you to become distracted and unfocused, reducing your productivity.
“Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” – William Morris
If you make the quote above foundational in your life, you will begin to purge in a way that will be helpful and healthy. Here are some more tips for managing the clutter in your life.
- Believe that you can live a clutter-free life – The very first step is to believe that you can do it. Believe that you can live a clutter-free life in a clutter-free home. Believing will inspire you to get doing.
- Start small – Tackle small things first like junk drawers, closets and cupboards before moving on to bigger projects like a garage or attic.
- Think of others – When you think of others that are in need, it becomes easy to fill a box up with clothes, kitchen items and household things that you are not using.
- Does it bring you joy? – Each time you come across something, and you wonder if you should keep it, ask yourself the most important question – does this bring me joy? It might have brought you joy at one time in your life, and you can celebrate that. However, if you don’t still feel the joy, it is time to pass it on.
- Is it useful? – Perhaps it does not give you joy but is it useful? If something does not bring you joy and is not useful, it is time for it to go.
- Develop healthy shopping habits – Develop healthy shopping habits around the joy and use principles. This will keep you from over purchasing and collecting.
Keep in mind that developing a minimalist mindset and lifestyle does not happen overnight. Especially when you have been a collector for a long time. Solicit the help of your family and loved ones to regain control of your life and help you to stay focused and on track with your commitment to decluttering.
You will be amazed at how great you feel as you start to clear out the clutter in your life. It will be like a breath of fresh air on a spring day that makes you feel healthy and energized!
-The UpWellness Team