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Nowadays, we tend to get a tremendous kick out of buying stuff. After a long week at work, we might indulge in a trip to the local shopping centre for some retail therapy. Or we might buy a few books, games or oil paintings via our online retailer of choice. Retailers, of course, are happy for this behaviour to continue – and they’ve devoted unprecedented resources to encouraging it. Think of all the targeted ads cluttering up your Facebook feed!

There’s only one possible outcome, here: a house that’s full of stuff! And of this stuff, there’ll be a portion that you aren’t using – and that’s clutter. Clutter isn’t a new phenomenon, but it’s one that’s increasingly tied with our mental and financial well-being.

In this article, we’ll take a look at clutter, and see how getting rid of it can improve your life.

How Decluttering Reduces Stress

cluttered table

In some cases, hoarding is an obvious mental health problem. We might think of a relative whose attic is filled with old pieces of furniture and back issues of the Spectator. But sometimes this behaviour is more subtle. A shelf that’s crammed with ornaments can look noisy and overwhelming. If you’re looking at it every day, then you might begin to feel a little perturbed, even if you can’t quite pinpoint why. If there are several dozen such shelves in your home, then the cumulative effect can be considerable. A messy house can cause stress.

So what does clutter do to your mind? In a word, it distracts. If you’re sitting at a desk, trying to get some work done, then a messy environment can make it more difficult. Empty mugs, piles of documents, and other miscellanea will all provide a distraction. When your attention is getting pulled in multiple directions, you’ll find it more difficult to get into the so-called ‘zone’. You’ll be unproductive and, in all probability, stressed.

Clutter can also make it more difficult to clean the house. Dusting an empty surface can take seconds. Dusting a surface that’s laden with figurines, candle-holders and miniature clocks can take an age. When something is more difficult, we’re more likely to avoid doing it, and as such clutter tends to go hand-in-hand with dirtiness – which in turn leads to stress.

How Decluttering Saves Money

It’s worth also thinking about how you can save money by decluttering. The stuff we buy has an obvious monetary value. And thus, getting rid of it might generate a profit. If you have a stack of vinyl you’re not listening to, then it’s probably worth jamming them all into a cardboard box and taking them down to your local car-boot-sale. The same applies to books you’ve no intention of ever reading again or hi-fi systems that you’ve replaced. Someone out there is probably going to find a use for them – and sites like Gumtree and Ebay will help you to track them down.

One notorious source of clutter are toys for children. For many of us, the first Christmas with a child in the house is probably going to be one where you’re bombarded with half a dozen toys, most of which will be abandoned within moments. Research indicates that toddlers spend longer playing when they’ve got a handful of toys to play with rather than a roomful – so it’s probably better to select a few worthy candidates and dispense with the rest.

Sometimes, decluttering helps you to uncover money you already have in the form of loose change. The more nooks and crannies there are around your home, the better able it’ll be to swallow cash. And when you declutter, this cash has a habit of turning up.

For the most part, we’re talking about a few coins here and there. Keep a dedicated coin jar and throw your findings in, then keep it around for those moments when you have spare change handy. Many supermarkets offer coin machines that’ll let you turn your money into notes.

In some cases, you might find larger amounts hiding in long-lost wallets and payslips. While rare, this sort of thing does happen; if you’re sorting through an attic, you might even find treasure left by the home’s previous owners.

How to Start Decluttering

cluttered room

We’ve established why decluttering is a worthwhile thing to do. But how do you go about decluttering when you don’t know where to start? For the most part, we want to be preventative in our approach. There’s no point in going on a tidying rampage if you’re going to be back in the same position in a couple of weeks.

As such, we should look to develop some good habits. Firstly, we should identify the cause of the clutter. For many of us, it’s excess paper. Work documents, bank statements, rough drafts of that novel you’ve been working on, it should all be neatly organised at a given location. An ‘in’ tray works wonders, here – it’ll allow you to stick everything in a given location and then worry about organising it later. No clutter, no mess.

Let’s think about making decisions when decluttering. Ideally, we want every surface in the home to be free of clutter. Just a few functional items will do. Toasters and microwaves qualify; the rest should be kept elsewhere. We’ll need to go through one surface at a time. So start with the biggest culprit – the dumping ground, at which all of your junk tends to arrive. For many of us, it’s a kitchen or living-room table. Clear it up, and try to keep it clear for a week. Over time, you can add additional zones to your list of tidied places.

In Conclusion

Provided you start slowly and look to form a long-term habit toward tidiness, decluttering isn’t so difficult. If you come across stuff that you think you might want to keep hold of, then put it aside in a special ‘maybe’ pile. Every week, you can select a few items from the pile and get rid of them. In time, your entire home will be clutter-free. Keep things steady, and don’t be disheartened by setbacks!

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