Declutter Your Life is a month-long initiative to help you manage stress and boost your health by learning the principles of banishing clutter and restoring a sense of order to your world.
Bills and junk mail are piling up on your kitchen counter, dirty clothes are spilling out of the hamper onto your bedroom floor, and let’s not even talk about the state of your spare room right now. At some point or another, this has likely been your home. (If not, kudos.) And even if you don’t realize it, the disarray can mess with your mental health.
“If our home, car, and office space feel hunky and disorganized, we tend to feel overwhelmed as if we don’t even know where to start,” says Sherry Benton, PhD, a psychologist who serves as founder and chief science officer of TAO Connect. “Every task, from eating breakfast to driving to work can feel complicated by the mess we are contending with.” The opposite is true, too: “When our space feels put together and tranquil, we feel more tranquil,” she says.
Research backs this up. A 2009 study in The Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin found that women who described their homes as cluttered and stressful were more depressed than those who described them as restorative spaces. This isn’t surprising, considering plenty of studies have linked a tidier home to healthier habits—like exercising and making smart snack choices—which can really pay off for your overall health and outlook.
The problem, Benton points out, is that the relationship between your mind and your living space is often circular. “When someone is anxious, depressed, or has some sort of ADD, it can be difficult to focus on organizing one’s space.” In fact, hoarding is often a symptom of mental illness, such as depression or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. (Are you depressed or just bummed out? Take this quiz to find out.)
10 silent signals you’re way too stressed out:
But for the average person, how much mess is mood-wrecking? That all depends on your personal comfort level. “Many people have areas they really want to have organized and other areas where this is less of a concern,” says Benton. “For example, I really like having my spice rack in alphabetical order, which drove my husband nuts for years. I rarely even think about organization (or lack thereof) in the garage, but he’s very particular about it.”
Take note of the clutter zones that heighten your stress or hinder your daily routine, brush up on these five no-fail decluttering strategies from a professional organizer, and schedule some time to start tidying. We know the task seems daunting, so we found inspiring transformations of six spots throughout the house that will show you exactly what to do.