‘Declutter & Destress’ by Dr Ash Nayate published in Great Health Guide (Oct 2016). In a world of information overload and endless busy work, effective stress management is the key to our wellbeing. We all experience stress from day to day occurrences. Unfortunately, we are heightening our stress by surrounding ourselves with clutter which is visually distracting & mentally draining. Do you live with clutter? Read Dr Nayate’s tips on how to declutter & destress to live a happier & relaxing life.
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MINDSET: Declutter & Destress
written by Dr Ash Nayate
In a world of information overload and endless busywork, effective stress management is the key to our wellbeing. Stress is linked to a variety of ailments, ranging from the physical, such as reduced immunity or increased risk of cardiovascular disease, to the psychological ailments of chronic depression and anxiety, binge-eating, substance use or compulsive behaviours such as gambling or excessive spending.
We all experience stress, from day to day occurrences and even from positive events such as moving out of home or welcoming a new baby into the family. Unfortunately, many of us are unwittingly heightening our stress, by surrounding ourselves with clutter. Clutter is visually distracting and mentally draining. Have you ever considered why hotel rooms are so peaceful and inviting? One reason is their simplicity.
Most of us have too much stuff. Clothes we no longer wear, books we no longer reference and gadgets we no longer use. A cluttered environment feels chaotic, overwhelming and even stifling. We usually don’t even realise the impact that clutter has on our stress levels – until we remove it. And the change can be profound.
Decluttering may sound tedious, but it doesn’t need to be. Even short bursts – say, 15 or 20 minutes at a time – can be incredibly effective. A 20-minute daily practice of decluttering is more than 2 hours over the course of a week.
The plethora of products and books relating to organization and storage reflects the popularity of decluttering. Most of us have a desire to live in a tidier, more organized home. However, most often, the real challenge is simply getting started. The clutter of our environment can become so overwhelming that we become mentally paralysed, unable to even take the first step towards decluttering.
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One tip from Marie Kondo, author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, is to sort items by category, rather than by location. Instead of decluttering our entire bedroom closet, she suggests dealing with one category at a time – say, our shirts or dresses.
My personal experience of decluttering started over a year ago and recently escalated into a full scale quest for minimalism. Whether you’re seeking a minimalist lifestyle or simply a tidier home, here are four tips to get you started with eliminating clutter:
1. Get rid of anything that has served its purpose. The threadbare leggings, the lonely socks, the chipped dinner plates – do we really need to hold onto them? These items aren’t likely to be used again. So unless these items have particular sentimental value, we can dispose of them.
2. Ditch the duplicates. Look through cupboards and closets – do we really need multiple black winter coats or three sets of dinnerware? Unless it’s something we use with high frequency like underwear or coffee mugs, consider donating or chucking the duplicates.
3. Clear the kitchen. Kitchen benchtops are a landing pad for any and all items. Many of us keep things on the benchtops because we don’t have enough space in the cupboards. An easy way to create more space is to get rid of anything that’s past it’s shelf life. It’s incredible how much expired food can sit in the back of our fridge or pantry. Set aside 15 minutes and a garbage bag and go through all the canned goods, packaged goods, spices, sauces and condiments. Remember to check the fruit and vegetable crisper for any produce that can be composted. Once space is cleared in the cupboards, there is more room for those items cluttering the benchtop.
4. Eliminate the clothes that don’t fit. We’ve all fallen victim to the trap of buying clothes that looked good on the store mannequin, but don’t suit us. Or, perhaps our physical appearance has changed and clothes that once fitted are now too small or too baggy. Grab a friend who will give you an honest opinion and go through your closet. Anything that doesn’t fit or doesn’t look good can go. Obviously, pregnant mums are exempted from this tip (in fact, go get a cup of tea and put your feet up). As an added bonus, this process can actually work wonders for our health, too. For example, by holding on to our ‘fat clothes’, we maintain the possibility of returning to that size.
The frenzy about decluttering isn’t just about a tidy home. Better stress management, a more peaceful environment and more space for the things that really matter to us, are just a few extra benefits of decluttering.
Author of this article:
Ash Nayate is a clinical neuropsychologist, which means that she specialises in brain function and how this impacts on our behaviour. She has almost 15 years’ experience working with children and families, supporting them to feel happier, more confident and more resilient. To contact Ash please visit her website.
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