Why getting a handle on your clutter can help your stress, anxiety and overall mood
If you’ve read the other parts of this blog, hopefully you’ve done the mental work to physically be ready to tackle your stuff. Let's get into some practical things you can do to address this issue.
1. Incorporate the OHIO method. This is the “Only Handle It Once” method. We’ve all done it and it is not helping. Yo
u know how it goes. The mail comes in and you put in on the kitchen island, resolving to get it it later. Your kids come home, take off their coats and hang it over the chair, grab an individual snack, leaving the container it came from on the island. Your spouse comes home with the Amazon package, opens it up and leaves the box and the accompanying plastic and receipts on the kitchen island. End result, clutter and frustration. While every once in a while, this may be inevitable if you’re running around, creating this routine leads to overwhelm and frustration. By getting into the habit of handling it as soon as it gets into your hands, from start to finish, you reduce clutter and resentment. P.S. this should become part of a daily routine that becomes incorporated into your life. If you want to learn more about habits, check out the FLY lady system.
2. Walk through your house as if you’re
a realtor. If you’ve ever decided to sell your house, you contact a realtor who will go through your house and identify areas to declutter or fix. We all know what needs to be done, but we rarely execute because time is not a factor. If you imagine that you have to sell your house in 90 days, you get on it. Or how about, when you’re about to have a gathering. There is nothing like the pressure of having people over that all of a sudden makes you decide to clear off the dining room table. The difference here is that you’re not really moving or having a party, so you don’t have the added stress of yelling at everyone that your house is a mess.
3. Toss 27 things. There is an ancient proverb that says “If you want to change your life, move 27 things in your home.” It is believed that moving 27 things in your home will activate the Chi or life force energy in your space
. Why 27 things? Because 27 is related to the number 9 which is a powerful number in Feng Shui. It represents transformation and completion. No matter how slight the shift, you are disrupting the current energy in your home. If you are tired, it may mean that your stuff is stale and tiring you out. By clearing out your space, you allow yourself to see your space in new ways. And if you see your space in new ways, who knows what else you could see differently? Whether it means getting rid of old magazines, mismatched socks or throwing out dead plants, find 27 things to get rid of and notice the change in your energy.
4. Tackle things 5 minutes at a time. I am a big proponent of doing things in small increments. Do not let time be a deterrent in getting started. One of these days, you will have accomplished your task. You don’t want to overwhelm yourself and you don’t want to burnout yourself or get discouraged. Spend 5 minutes going through and putting things in a basket. Give yourself 5 minutes to put it away, throw it out or put it in a box/bag to be donated. Then when 5 minutes are up, put the basket aside, take out the garbage, put the donation pile in your car and go about your day.
5. Do not multitask! Study after study has shown the ineffectiveness of multi-tasking however, from an anxiety perspective, getting a handle on this is crucial if you want to get your anxiety under control. Multi-tasking is different from batching. Watching your favorite show while folding laundry counts batching as you are associating a pleasurable activity with a monotonous activity. I’m talking about the paying your bills, while folding laundry and listening to a continuing education video while you get dinner ready. You are overloading your senses and not allowing yourself to absorb any activity with any real structure. And when you have to keep replaying the podcast, you burn dinner and you added an extra zero to that cable bill, you understand why multitasking is no good. Take the time to fully be present with the things you are clearing so that they are done intentionally, with purpose and with your goal in mind.
6. If you’re having a hard time deciding what to do with something, try this exercise. Put the object in question in front of you on a table while you’re sitting facing it. Close your eyes and take 10 deep breaths. Keeping your eyes closed, slowly reach for the object and put it in your lap. Consider what shows up for you physically and emotionally as you hold on to that object. Now slowly bring that object closer to your heart. What sensations are coming up. Discomfort, sadness, anger, a smile? Recognize that this object that is in your home, regardless of how it came to you is making you feel. If you’re feeling and negative response to this object, it’s probably a safe bet that this is not something that you want to continue to keep in your home. Consider parting with it if it elicits negative emotions. If the object elicits a sense of joy and happiness, keep it and find a place for it where you can see it often. Give yourself a limit to 3 of these objects every time you sit down to this exercise, otherwise you will become overwhelmed (i.e. clothes, Knick knacks, books, etc.). You can also try this with family members where they hand you objects while you have your eyes closed (no peeking to see what it is) and you allow yourself to feel the sensation of the object to decide whether or not you should keep it.
7. Consider the cost of keeping these things that cause you anxiety. That object may have cost you a pretty penny, but ultimately think about the stress and anxiety and fussing that goes into keeping this object, hoping that one day you will use it. The reminders that you spent money stares you in the face every time you look at it. The extra time you have spend cleaning it or around it, steals your time from spending time with your loved ones. The feeling of anger that you haven’t gotten around to doing the hobby makes you irritable in the present moment and keeps you from seeing the beautiful things that you do have. Your mental health is priceless and you cannot ever convince yourself that this object is worth holding onto. Factor the money cost vs. the stress cost and let it go. Allow someone else to enjoy this gift that you are giving away.
Clutter doesn’t have to steal you of a life you actually want. Focus on the life you want and build around it. Your future self will thank you for it.
My name is Eddie and I am a mindfulness-based therapist in Bordentown, NJ who specializes in trauma, anxiety and Mom stress. I provide online counseling throughout the state of NJ and specifically in Mercer and Burlington County, NJ (Bordentown, Chesterfield, Robbinsville, Hamilton and Princeton). Find me on Instagram, Facebook and YouTube.