In my pre-baby days, I was a clutterbug. I thrived in organized chaos and felt totally content to have everything piled everywhere around me.
When I found out I was pregnant, I figured I would not have time to deal with clutter and cooking and cleaning and taking care of a newborn – unless I could find more hours in the day.
So I purged and organized. By the time my daughter came along, everything had a place and the entire apartment could be cleaned up in a snap.
Since then, I have become a bit obsessive over keeping my home clean. When things are out of place, or piled up, I can feel my heart tighten with anxiety.
That’s just me and probably not anywhere near normal. However, when clutter does get out of control, it can have detrimental effects on your mental health.
If you find that your home exists in a constant state of chaos and you’ve lost control over your dwelling, you can easily find yourself experiencing stress and anxiety.
But cleaning up is not impossible. Apart from explaining how anxiety negatively affects you, I’ve included some tips on how to declutter and get your house in order:
The Negative Effects of Clutter On Your Entire Being
If your home is in a perpetual state of clutter and disorganizing, you may become desensitized to the mess.
However, despite whatever level of comfort you think you have with the state of your home, all that stuff is having a negative effect on your entire being.
Clutter can trigger anxiety, drain your brain, create overwhelm and take away from the precious time and energy you could be spending with your children and family.
Clutter Is a Trigger For Stress and Anxiety
When you are constantly confronted with clutter, your brain has a harder time decreasing the amount of cortisol it produces during the day. Cortisol is a hormone that responds to stress.
Moderate levels of cortisol throughout the day are healthy but your brain and body need to unwind as the day comes to an end. Being bombarded by clutter at home makes it difficult for your cortisol levels to taper off.
Having consistently high levels of cortisol can lead to fatigue, irritability and stress which can contribute to anxiety and depression.
Clutter is Mentally Draining
Everything you see in your home is demanding your energy and attention. The more clutter you are surrounded by, the more the mess overloads your visual cortex.
Your brain can only do much at once and clutter takes up unnecessary space in the brain.
Because of this, you lose your ability to focus and process information.
Clutter is Overwhelming
When you lose the ability to focus, suddenly doing anything about the clutter seems like an impossibly monumental task.
I’ve known many people who live in clutter and I just couldn’t understand why it was so hard to get started on cleaning it up. Now I understand that clutter is overwhelming on all levels: physically, mentally and spiritually.
When avoiding clutter and dealing with it, most individuals are likely experiencing:
- A complete lack of motivation to clean up: “Why bother? It’ll get messy again.”
- Confusion on how to complete the task: “Where do I even start?”
- A reluctance to let go of things: “Everything here has meaning to me.”
When you are a mother and have so many responsibilities to worry about, tackling clutter can be a challenging task.
Clutter Distracts You From What is Important
Clutter prevents us from seeing what really matters in life. When we are constantly weighed down by the stuff around us, we tend to not have time for ourselves or our children.
Even if you’re not directly dealing with the clutter, you are constantly distracted by it. Your mind is focused on the mess, and what you should do about it, instead of the life that is happening around you.
Plus, when you’re constantly working around clutter to cook and care for your family, you aren’t left with a whole lot of time.
Life Saving Decluttering Tips for Busy Moms
Accept the Pain of Decluttering
Getting rid of stuff hurts. You may find yourself feeling guilty when you consider letting any of your possessions go.
The important thing to know about your things is that: They are just things.
If you are having a really hard time getting rid of things because of sentimental value, remember that you don’t have to get rid of it all at once.
Take your time and allow yourself to experience the memories attached to the item. Ask yourself exactly why you have invested so much emotion into a thing.
Honestly, if it’s something totally precious and has a place in your home, it’s not clutter.
For everything else, it’s probably time to let it go.
Take Baby Steps
If you’re drowning in clutter, you’re not going to clean it up all in one day. Your best bet is to start small.
Pick one disorganized area of your home and tackle it. This could be your bedroom closet or kitchen pantry.
You’ll be amazed how motivated you feel to continue once you see how beautiful and organized such a small area of your home is.
To keep the ball rolling, choose one area of your home every week. Use your time during the week to focus on that area until it is complete.
If you try to tackle the whole house at once, you’ll likely throw in the towel in frustration and give up. Start small and let the momentum guide you through the rest of your home.
Get the Whole Family on Board
Decluttering is going to be a struggle if you’re the only one doing all of the leg work.
Your kiddos can help out by choosing 2-3 items to give away. I do this at Christmastime, explaining to my daughter that if we get rid of toys she doesn’t play with, she’ll have room for new toys.
In that context, she is more than happy to turf the stuff she doesn’t use or play with.
You can also get your family on board by setting a common goal. Perhaps you can sell items and save the money toward a family trip.
Or perhaps you can teach your children how their old toys can help bring joy to other children who don’t have as much.
Anytime I set a toy aside to giveaway, my daughter says: “Oh! That’s going to go to another little girl!”
Otherwise, you can do what my mother did and get rid of toys while your children are at school. Then your little ones will get to experience the thrill of confusion when they come home and their Fisher Price adjustable roller skates are missing.
Keep, Sell, Giveaway, Toss
When it comes to purging unwanted or unneeded items try the Keep, Sell, Giveaway and Toss method.
This means taking all of your stuff and dividing into those four categories. Sell anything that still has some value, give away items that a bit worn but still good and throw anything that is beyond repair.
Just don’t let anything you plan on selling or donating sit around and collect dust. Use Facebook marketplace or Kijiji to quickly post your items – then find a corner you can tuck them neatly away in until they are sold.
If you’re like me, you’ll cram the stuff you want to donate into the back of your car and forget about it for months. Alternatively, there may be a charity in your area willing to come to your house to pick up unwanted items.
One Thing In, One Thing Out
Living a clutter-free life doesn’t mean never buying new items. Just instill this one rule on your household: as one new item comes in, one old item has to go out.
For example, if you decide you want to buy a new shirt, choose a shirt in your closet to give away.
This rule will ensure that all of that clutter you worked so hard to get rid of will not accumulate in your home again.
Invest in Some Organizational Gear
Sometimes splurging on some new shelving or functional and decorative baskets is motivation enough to keep your home tidy and clutter free.
Plus, many organizational systems are designed to make storing your items quick and easy. The quicker and easier it is to put stuff away, the less likely it will end up gathering around your house.
For instance, a closet system that features shelves and rods may make laundry day a breeze compared to folding and stuffing shirts and pants into a dresser.
Create a Housework Routine
Once your home is decluttered, you want to make sure you keep it that way.
Oftentimes, clutter is not useless junk laying around in piles. Sometimes it is the items we use that never seem to make it back to where they belong.
Start a chore schedule. You can even get your kids involved with chores and implement chore charts.
What steps do you take to avoid clutter in your home? I’d love to hear some of your tips in the comments below!