For most of us, our external environment is a reflection of our internal selves. This goes both ways, too — being in a chaotic, cluttered environment can contribute to stress.
Researchers at Princeton found that working or living in a cluttered space makes it harder to process information and focus. Having a lot of objects in your visual field — the definition of clutter — distracts you as they all compete for your attention. Unsurprisingly, this leads to feeling overwhelmed and anxious. You can experience greater calm by decluttering and de-stressing your home with these tips:
Set up baskets, boxes, or bins to organize the mess.
The first step to getting rid of clutter is to set up an organization system. You can use bins, bags, or any other containers for this, as long as they’re large enough. Designate one for items you want to keep, one for those that are still usable and should be donated, one for items that need to be repaired, one for items that should be recycled, and one for trash. This will make the rest of the process much easier.
Pick a room to start. Go cabinet by cabinet and drawer by drawer and remove every item. Sort each of them into their respective containers from the first tip. Any that are put into the “keep” container can go back into their homes. When you are done with one room, choose your next target.
Get rid of anything you’re not keeping.
Once you know what you’re keeping and what you’re planning on repairing, ditch everything else as soon as possible. Give away the items in the “donate” container, recycle the recyclables, and toss the trash. Now you have a more-or-less clean slate for creating a calmer, more peaceful atmosphere in your space.
Bring in the light.
Natural light is a big contributor to our mental well-being, so open your blinds and curtains and let the sun in. If your home doesn’t naturally get a lot of light during the day, you should consider hanging mirrors to take advantage of the bit of light you do get. Mirrors reflect light and make rooms appear bigger, brighter, and airier.
Work in color.
Some colors have a calming effect on us psychologically, like blues and greens. If you can’t paint right now, don’t worry — you can still bring in color with artwork, decor, and even live or artificial plants.
Examine your soundscape.
Close your eyes for a minute and listen to your home. What sounds do you hear? Traffic outside? A blaring television or radio? Consider how each of these sounds contributes to or detracts from the ambiance. Next, consider how you can change these sounds to create the atmosphere you want. Make a playlist of relaxing or uplifting songs and use it as your home’s background music. (Songs without lyrics are especially helpful here.)
Clear the air.
Have you ever smelled a distinctive scent that seems to transport you back to a specific place and time? Our sense of smell has a powerful impact on our moods and memories. You can use this to your advantage by getting rid of smells that you don’t want and bringing in those you do. Invest in an air filter or window exhaust fans to pull out smells like smoke, pet, or cooking odors. Purchase some high-quality incense or essential oils to use around you home. (Be careful — many essential oils are unsafe around pets and children.) Avoid artificial fragrances, as they are usually intended to cover up odors and can be too harsh here. Sensitive to scents? Invest in plain beeswax candles — they have a very subtle, natural honey smell, and are said to generate negative ions that help clean the air.
Decluttering can seem intimidating, but it becomes a lot easier when you have a system down. By setting up containers to organize as you go, working systematically room-by-room, and immediately getting rid of things you don’t want to keep, you can make it much easier to work on creating a calming, relaxing atmosphere for your home.