Have you ever had a long, stressful day at work, only to be reminded when arriving home that you left your house in complete disarray? Dishes in the sink, dishwasher needing to be emptied, trash that needs to be taken out, mountains of laundry to do, dinner to make…Doesn’t it all feel utterly overwhelming?
That’s because mess literally equals stress. Well, at least according to psychology experts, that is.
“Clutter can play a significant role in how we feel about our homes, our workplaces, and ourselves. Messy homes and work spaces leave us feeling anxious, helpless, and overwhelmed.”
That’s because physical clutter can cause mental clutter – our minds recognize the mess and signals our brain that the work is never done.
And if you thought that just ignoring the clutter would solve this issue, think again; mess can even affect you while you’re sleeping.
“People who sleep in cluttered rooms are more likely to have sleep problems, including difficulty falling asleep and being disturbed during the night. Multiple studies have found a link between clutter and poor eating choices. Disorganized and messy environments led participants in one study to eat more snacks, eating twice as many cookies than participants in an organized kitchen environment.“
There are myriad manners in which our lives become too cluttered, and clearing that mess can do wonders for your mental health. Check out these tips for easy ways to declutter your life:
1. Clean out your email inbox.
Are you one of those people who have 3,587 unread emails? Spend a small amount of time each day (we’re talking 10-15 minutes) opening those emails, categorizing them if need be, and hitting the “unsubscribe” button for all those pesky marketing offers you never use.
2. Whittle down your social media “friends” and “follows.”
How many Facebook “friends” are you actually friends with in real life? And how many of them are just barely acquaintances that you’d never actually contact outside of Facebook? Cut them loose.
No, you don’t need to stay “friends” with Hilary, that girl you graduated high school with in 2005 but haven’t talked to since. And you definitely don’t need to hang on to Josh, that guy you met one time at a work conference in Dallas but then you changed careers and never needed to follow up with him.
The same sort of concept goes for Instagram too, but in a different way. Instagram is a place where we tend to follow people we’ve never met; it’s a place to consume content, and lots of it. But be careful how much content you’re consuming, and how that content makes you feel.
For instance, do you really need to follow six different news pages? Nah, definitely not. One, if that, should suffice.
Say “goodbye” to toxic pages that promote diet/weight loss. You don’t need to be reading that kind of shit daily.
Delete pages that foster arguments in the comments. They’re just looking for clicks and they don’t care how those arguments affect your overall wellbeing. Trust me…you do not need to argue with people on the Internet. Just don’t do it. It is soul sucking and relentless.
3. Evaluate your subscriptions.
When is the last time you used Audible?
Do you really need a monthly delivery of socks and ties?
When is the last time you watched something on Hulu or HBO Max?
If you aren’t actively using a subscription, even if it’s only $5.99 a month, cut it out.
You’ll be amazed at how much you’re actually spending in this area once you do an audit. And if you’re not using it, it’s just clutter.
4. Get rid of dead plants.
Seems obvious, but it’s amazing how many of us kill a houseplant and just leave it there.
Dead plants bring negative energy into your space, and you definitely don’t need that. Put it in the trash, and try again (or just accept that you’re not a good plant parent, because, #nojudgement).
5. Clean out your kitchen cabinets
Kitchens are notorious for hidden clutter. Somehow we think, “well if it’s hidden in this cabinet, then it’s not really clutter.” Nerp. Not true.
A great place to start is your cookware. How many pots and pans do you actively use? What about baking tins? If you make cupcakes once a year, but you have two cupcake tins, you can probably just do without. Just because you have the space for them, doesn’t mean you need them.
Another cabinet where clutter typically accumulates is glassware. Do you really need 12 stemless wine glasses? Unless you regularly throw dinner parties, my guess is a hard no. Coffee mugs are also an unexpected source of clutter. Most likely, you only need 3-4 coffee mugs. Ditch the others.
And it’s also probably a good idea to take a look at your spices and baking supplies. Check out the expiration dates and toss anything you rarely use.
6. Clean off your bathroom vanity
Bathroom vanities are one place that seems to always accumulate clutter. From toothbrushes and toothpaste, to your seven-step skincare routine, there’s always something out on the counter.
Commit to finding a home for everything you need in drawers, cabinets or under the sink. Keeping everything out of sight will help put your mind at ease.
7. Clean out your bathroom cabinets
Do you really need that half-empty package of DayQuil that expired in 2019?
How about those vitamins you swore you’d start taking but never actually committed to?
Old antibiotics you never finished? Six different styles of Band-Aid? That wart remover you used once?
8. Downsize your wardrobe
In our household, we do this several times a year. We call it “The Annual Purge.”
Take a look at all the clothes in your closet and dresser. Ask yourself, and answer seriously, “have I worn this in the past six months?”
If the answer is “no,” you have to donate it.
The only acceptation I would make is if you were pregnant, or postpartum. This obviously changes your wardrobe significantly, and you may not have worn most of your clothes.
But anything that doesn’t fit, is torn/stained, out of style, uncomfortable, missing buttons, or you simply just don’t have a place to wear it to…let it go.
9. Match up your socks
When is the last time you went through your sock drawer and eliminated everything that was excessively worn, torn, missing a mate, uncomfortable or just unnecessary? I’m willing to bet it’s been a while.
10. Say “goodbye” to old underwear
Similar to number 9, just probably in a different drawer.
11. Declutter your nightstand
What do you even have in those drawers? Old receipts? Coins? A wallet you haven’t used since 2017?
Take inventory of everything and decide if it’s truly necessary.
12. Start a piggybank
Once you’ve tackled the coins in your nightstand, find them a new home. And while you’re at it, go through your junk drawer, your car, the bottom of your purse…put all those coins in one singular place, like a piggybank. Going forward, commit to keeping coins in that place, no matter how tempting it may be to just dump them on the dresser every day.
13. Eliminate old phone numbers
Is it just me or do we tend to collect WAY too many phone numbers over the years?
Most people roll over their contacts from one phone to the next, so it’s actually pretty easy to end up with hundreds of phone numbers you hardly use.
If you don’t need the number for work, and you don’t regularly talk to the person, hit “delete.”
14. Sort through your paper mail
Are you one of those people who open their mail and then just leave behind a pile of envelopes and letters on the counter? Do you have piles of bills, notices and flyers just laying around?
Sign up for electronic billing. Then actually open those emails and flag them so they are attended to on time.
Sort through the flyers and notices, determine what’s actually important, and tack it up on the fridge. If it’s not important enough to look at every time you open the fridge, it’s probably not that important. Get rid of it. And stop keeping the opened envelopes!
15. Clean out your entertainment center or TV console
If you have one of these, it’s probably filled with old CDs, old DVDs, three different remotes that you don’t actually know what they go to, and approximately 10-15 random electrical cords to unknown electronics.
What’s in there that you really need? Probably not much.
If you can eliminate the piece of furniture altogether and just put your TV on the wall, even better.