Decluttering promotes relaxation!

How does clutter happen? 

You collect things for a number of reasons–maybe you think you’ll need to use it later, it has sentimental value, or you spent good money on it so you feel you need to keep the item, even if you haven’t touched or used it in weeks, months, or years.

You might be holding on to that book you bought a year ago that you swear you’ll read or those killer pair of shoes that you paid a fortune for and that really hurt your feet. But the reality is, you probably made a mistake in buying those things and it literally hurts your brain to come to terms with that fact.

Researchers at Yale recently identified that two areas in your brain associated with pain, the anterior cingulate cortex and insula, light up in response to letting go of items you own and feel a connection towards:  This is the same area of the brain that lights up when you feel physical pain from a paper cut or drinking coffee that’s too hot. Your brain views the loss of one of your valued possessions as the same as something that causes you physical pain. And the more you’ve committed emotionally or financially to an item, the more you want to keep it around. This knowledge about the brain may make it easier for you to part with some items.

The other way clutter happens is to use something and leave it where you used it.

Clutter’s impact on your brain:

Neuroscientists at Princeton University found that excess things in your surroundings can have a negative impact on your ability to focus and process information, resulting in decreased performance and increased stress.

A team of UCLA researchers recently observed 32 Los Angeles families and found that all of the mothers’ stress hormones spiked during the time they spent dealing with their belongings.

Similar to what multitasking does to your brain, physical clutter overloads your senses, making you feel stressed, and impairs your ability to think creatively.

Clutter isn’t just physical

Files on your computer, notifications from your Twitter and Facebook accounts, and anything that goes “ping” in the night creates a digital form of clutter.

When you have to-do items constantly floating around in your head or you hear a ping or vibrate every few minutes from your phone, your brain doesn’t get a chance to fully enter creative flow or process experiences. When your brain has too much on its plate, it splits its power up. The result? You become awful at:

  • filtering information
  • switching quickly between tasks
  • keeping a strong working memory

The too much digital stuff has the same effect on your brain as physical clutter.

Everyone’s tolerance for clutter is different.While clutter has been shown to negatively affect your performance, it is your perception of clutter that matters, not someone else’s.You should seek to create spaces that allow you to feel at ease.

Suggestions for Eliminating Clutter:

Simplify. Look at an item. Is it useful or beautiful? Does it fit? Do you love it? If the answer is no, don’t buy it. Once a month pick a room and go through everything in it. If you answer no to any of the above questions, find the item a new home. Sometimes it is helpful to have an impartial assistant help you go through the rooms. (Note: This person would not be your daughter who keeps emptying the Goodwill box as you fill it.)

Follow these simple maxims:  If you take it out, put it back. If you open it, close it. If you throw it down, pick it up. If you take it off, hang it up.

I have a friend who printed these words on index cards and placed a card in every room of her house to remind her family members that they contribute to clutter and can contribute to a more peaceful, relaxing environment (and a happier, easier to live with mother/wife).

Clear your work space at the end of each day. This includes the cluttered desktop on your computer. If you don’t have an immediate place to move the file, create one folder on your desktop and drop the stray files in there. Your brain will appreciate the spaciousness in the morning and you’ll actually have room to work.

Set limits.How many people will I follow on Twitter? How many apps. will I have? How much time will I devote to Facebook? Turn off notifications and check these places periodically.

Now relax and enjoy your decluttered space!