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Why Clearing Clutter Matters

My bedroom when I was a teenager.

We all know that when our space is organized and clean it’s easier to focus on the task at hand.

But we don’t often think about the flip side:

Clutter can drain your energy and significantly increase your sense of overwhelm.

In the last few years the ‘minimalist’ movement has hit the bookstore shelves and is all the rage in just about every blog and magazine.

The idea is that the less stuff you have the less of a burden it is to keep things clean…the less money you spend…the fewer decisions you have to make. I have several friends who have gone to a “capsule wardrobe” with only 30-40 pieces total. If you’re one of these people, more power to you (and…if that’s you, you can probably skip the rest of this post!)

Most of us, however, don’t want quite that much de-cluttering. I love the idea of only having a few things but it doesn’t really fit me or my lifestyle (at this point anyway.) I have, however, gotten rid of about half of my stuff over the last five years. It feels great. Where I used to buy things to make myself feel better, I now get rid of things. Don’t get me wrong, I still have way more things than I need. And I still sometimes buy things I don’t need, but it’s getting better. And I make more of an effort to keep things tidy.

One of the things that I help my patients and clients with is figuring out where they have control over stress in their lives and where they don’t.

Often our physical space is an area where we do have a great deal of personal control. Acting on this is empowering at the same time it is actually logistically helpful to keep ourselves on track.

Do you want to feel more settled? Less agitated? More focused? Do you want to look around and feel like your space is peaceful and sorted? De-clutter.

If the idea of organizing is daunting to you just take this one step at a time and be gentle with yourself, de-cluttering for most people is a difficult process. We get emotionally attached to our things and that’s normal. Be clear, though, about how it serves you to hold onto things vs. how it might feel once you’ve released things you no longer need. Remember that each step you take you’re choosing to make more space for how you really want to feel.

If this is something that feels like it would be helpful for you, I am going to suggest that you start with your bedroom. So many of my patients and clients report—after clearing out their bedrooms—that having a beautiful relaxing space where they sleep has literally improved their sleep quality. They also report that they wake up in a better mood when their sleeping space is spare, neat, and pleasing.

Clearing the Bedroom

  • The space you sleep in should be clean, organized, and even a little Zen.
  • You want the space to radiate rest and relaxation.
  • A peaceful space to leads to more peaceful sleep.

Everything should have its own specific place. This may take some time to get in order but trust me, you’ll be relieved and better rested in the end.

1. Start with your bedside table. Clear the top. If you have a digital clock by your bed, move it across the room or get rid of it. It’s not good to have light or an electromagnetic field close to your head. If you can’t live without a clock at your bedside, get an analog alarm. I love the daylight alarm clock that slowly increases light, like sunrise in the morning. But again, not on your bedside table if you can help it.

The only things that should be on your bedside table (other than your analog clock) are any books you are currently reading (if you are in the middle of a number of books, pick two or three as this will prevent overwhelm), reading glasses if you use them, tissues, and a bedside lamp. If you journal before bed or when you first wake up then you can also have a journal and a pen. If your bedside table has a drawer, organize the contents and take out anything that you don’t use regularly or isn’t related directly to sleep or sex—the only two things you should use your bed for, according to sleep experts.

2. Dirty clothing. If you want to keep a hamper in your room, I recommend one with a lid. If you need a catch-all for clothes you take off before you sort clean vs dirty, or for when you’re in a rush, find a corner to tuck it into. This should be emptied daily, with laundry going in your laundry basket and clothing that you are going to wear again put into your drawers or closet.

3. The bed. Try to make your bed on a daily basis. Do this every morning as soon as you wake up. Coming into your room in the evening and finding your sleeping space neat and tidy will help you stay calm and centered.

Wall mounted jewelry armoire

4. Jewelry. I played with many systems to organize my jewelry and finally ended up with a wall mounted jewelry armoire. I have a large one that also doubles as my full length mirror, but there are smaller ones, as well as many different top of dresser or drawer systems to choose from. If you can use a storage system that is behind closed doors or in a drawer this will decrease the feeling of clutter in your space. If you don’t wear it, get rid of it.

5. Closet. If you have a closet in your bedroom, even though it’s behind closed doors it should still be organized. I recently read The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up and the section on managing your clothes and closet was fabulous. I highly recommend it. What’s most important is that you must be brutal when organizing your closet. This is an area that is very daunting for many people, which is why I left it for last. If this is hard for you, find a friend who also wants to tidy up and plan two dates—one at that person’s house, and one at yours! Make sure it’s a friend who will be blunt, honest, and loving.

If you’re not shooting for a ‘capsule wardrobe’ and you have the space, I personally think it’s fine to have lots of wonderful pieces. But only if each piece meets ALL of the following parameters:
1. Fits well and suits your body/figure (if you care about how your clothes fit)
2. Is in style or of classic style (if you care about style)
3. Isn’t falling apart
4. You love it (or like it a lot if it’s a staple piece…you don’t need to love your black cami or your gym socks)
5. You actually wear it

Once your bedroom is clear of clutter, make a plan for the next space- and put this on your calendar. One space a week, or one space a month, or whatever works for your schedule. You’ll be amazed at how this decreases your feeling of overwhelm, one little step at a time.

And on that note, my last patient didn’t show up so I’m going to go clear out some things from my office closet!

Yours In Health,

 

 

PS If you feel that you have a problem with collecting things such that it impedes your life or affects the people you live with, please speak with your physician about it. Hoarding disorder is a disease that can in many cases be treated with counseling or medication. Don’t carry shame about it. Get help if you need it. xo

 

This website is for informational purposes only, and is not a substitute for individualized medical or professional advice, care, diagnosis, or treatment. Consult your personal physician regarding the applicability of any information on this site.

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