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Here’s the thing. Clutter has a way of overwhelming even the most sane among us.
And we all know what happens when we’re overwhelmed, right? Nothing. Or rather, nothing productive.
Netflix happens, eating an entire bag of Oreos happens, watching cute dog videos on YouTube happens. But the assignment that’s bordering on overdue, not so much happening there, right?
It’s no surprise then, that decluttering can have far-reaching benefits. Particularly when you expand the concept of clutter beyond the physical (clothes, toys, books, etc.) to include things like your digital world and even your habits.
Read: Atomic Habits by James Clear
That said, it’s best to deal with the physical clutter first. Mainly because you’ll be able to actually see the results of your efforts. The psychology is sound: small wins lead to big success.
As you move through your home, decluttering mug by mug, room by room or area by area, you’ll feel motivated to keep going.
If you live alone, just dive right in. However, if you share the space with other people you need to be mindful. You can’t just toss someone else’s stuff.
That’s not nice.
A better approach is to get everyone involved in the process. The last thing you want is to find yourself responsible for decluttering their stuff while they’re in the living room watching Game of Thrones.
You’re nobody’s declutter doormat!
The (Many) Benefits of Decluttering
Okay, let’s take a look at the different ways decluttering will make you happier and more productive. I’ve come up with ten excellent examples, but if you bribed me with vegan chocolate and coffee I reckon I could come up with at least another eleventeen or so.
1. Declutter Your Wardrobe = Get Ready Super Fast
Getting rid of the clothes you no longer wear will make getting dressed a whole lot quicker and way less stressful. You might balk at the idea of donating those skinny jeans or that expensive pair of heels, but if they don’t fit or you’re not feeling them, let them go.
Don’t let the fallacy of sunk costs be the reason you hang onto something. It’s like the organsing guru Marie Kondo says, keep it if it sparks joy.
No joy, no keep. Simple.
Read: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondō
2. Declutter Your Snail Mail = No More Unpaid Bills
First, get in touch with everyone who is still sending you old school mail and ask them to stop. It’s 2019 for heaven’s sake, tell them to stop wasting paper.
Second, while you’re waiting for them to get that ball rolling, get into the habit of dealing with mail on the day it arrives. When you let it pile up you run the risk of forgetting to pay something.
Now you have to spend additional time fixing the mess. Plus, you’ll be super annoyed with yourself. Not procrastinating is the key to pretty much all of life’s problems.
Listen to me, I know whereof I speak.
3. Declutter Your Overwhelm = Focus on Projects You Love
Clutter creates overwhelm and overwhelm, as we well know, is counter-productive. Humans of any age operate best when they have a routine to follow and know what needs to be done.
It’s all about conserving your cognitive load for the stuff that matters, like creative projects or work or deciding what flavour ice-cream to get.
Being in a state of overwhelm forces you to tap heavily into your cognitive resources. When that happens you won’t get your work done and you’ll be unhappy.
That’s the opposite of win/win and we definitely don’t want that.
4. Declutter Your Habits = Organizational Badassery
Once you’ve decluttered, the next important step is to stay on top of things. Make a point of keeping your home organized. By creating new habits around the way you manage your stuff, you won’t waste time looking for things you’ve misplaced.
Imagine just grabbing your car keys and heading out in the morning, instead of spending a frantic half hour searching high and low for them.
5. Declutter Your Kids’ Habits = Awesome Kids
If you’re a parent, you’ll likely know the frustration of lost homework, school books, gym shoes, etc. More often than not, the fact that these items are missing only comes to light when you’re heading out the front door.
Teaching your kids to declutter means they won’t misplace their stuff and make it your problem. Reward them when they do a good job of decluttering, but let them deal with the consequences when they don’t. It’s the only way they’ll learn.
Read: Clutterfree with Kids by Joshua Becker
6. Declutter Your Inbox = Inbox Zero
I was researching an article on digital clutter a while ago and quizzed my friends about the number of emails in their inbox. The results were dizzying, with numbers reaching into the thousands and dating back to when the internet was first invented.
I kid you not.
There are plenty of ways to manage a busy inbox, find one that works for you and stick to it religiously. A long list of untended emails adds unnecessary weight to your mental load. Productivity and happiness cannot thrive when this happens.
7. Declutter Your Debt = Money to Travel
Decluttering is also an opportunity to assess your spending habits. Figuring out why you buy the things you buy will help you avoid the same financial pitfalls in the future.
Oftentimes, we buy stuff in an attempt to make ourselves feel happier, but it almost never works. Most of the time you just end up feeling worse when buyer’s remorse kicks in.
Ditching your old spending habits will help you feel good about yourself, which in turn will make you happier and more productive. Even better, you’ll have more money to indulge your wanderlust.
8. Declutter Your Hoarding Tendencies = A Chance to Make a Difference
Decluttering gives you the opportunity to donate unwanted items to people who really need them. We hold onto things for various reasons: we think we might need them in the future, we paid a lot of money for them, they have sentimental value, and so on.
The thing is, if you’re not using something —and haven’t for a very long time— it makes sense to pass it on to someone else. The health benefits of kindness have been scientifically proven. When you do something nice for someone else, you feel good. And when you feel good you’re automatically more productive.
Also, Thursday is International Day of Charity. What better way to celebrate than by donating a bunch of stuff to those less fortunate? Just a thought. Use it, don’t use it. It’s up to you.
No, really, use it, its a good thought.
9. Declutter Your Space = Increased Creativity
Decluttering inspires an overall sense of calm, perfect for nurturing creativity. Two very necessary ingredients for a happy and productive life. When your living space is one you look forward to returning to (as opposed to one you avoid at all costs), you’ll find your overwhelm quickly becomes a thing of the past and ideas will flow.
Read: The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron
10. Decluttering = A Happy and More Productive You
Seeing the messy state of your house reminds you that you’re not adulting very well. Being a grownup comes with perks (ice cream for breakfast, no curfew, a driver’s licence), but it also comes with responsibilities (deadlines, bills, demanding bosses).
It’s like a domino effect. Decluttering frees you up to meet your deadlines, which makes your boss happy. When your boss is happy, you get paid. When you get paid you can pay the bills and buy ice cream.
A win/win if ever, don’t you think? I do.
Read: Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin