When Less is More

I spent the last couple of weekends cleaning out my kids’ rooms. If you have children, you probably know what I’m talking about. After weeks of telling them to tidy up their rooms and to put things away, I finally gave in and decided to give them a hand. Which means I’m doing the cleaning out and tell them where to put the stuff that they are allowed to keep. I do this every few months and it surprises me every time how much accumulates. Not just toys that they simply outgrow or have been broken more or less voluntarily. But “stuff” that ends up in cupboards, on shelves, on the floor. Especially my daughter, she holds on to everything, every scrap of paper she exchanges with her friends, every lolly box, every piece of glittery thread.

Dressing room

So I spent half a day in each room, cleaning out, putting several garbage bags out in the container on the street and make sure the cupboards, shelves and drawers are all neat and tidy again. When I discussed this procedure with my friend who happens to do the same on a regular basis, she said to me “it’s therapeutic, isn’t it?” and I thought, that’s it, exactly. It feels so good and it doesn’t cost a thing.

I’m a massive tidiness nerd anyway, I cannot relax in a messy room. I can’t sit down at the table if there are dirty dishes lying around and I can’t sit down on the sofa if the living room is a mess. I cannot sleep in my bed if the bedroom is not tidy. So I struggle when my kids’ rooms are messy, as much as I try to give them “their space” and make them responsible to look after their rooms (with varying success).

But back to the “therapeutic effect” of cleaning and tidying up. Numerous articles have been written about the benefits of decluttering your house (your wardrobe, your cupboards, your garage….). So let me list some of those benefits here and maybe inspire you to have a “therapeutic session” yourself now or on a rainy day….

#1 Decluttering Makes You Feel in Control

When you clean up, you have to decide what can stay and what needs to go, and where you put things. You have to do this in a reasonably short time (unless you want this to drag on for days), which means you have to make quick decisions. This gives you a great sense of control and confidence in your skill to know what is important and what is not.

#2 Decluttering Gives You Energy

Making these quick decisions and seeing how you progress is energizing. Going from drawer to drawer and cupboard to cupboard feels like ticking off items on a to-do list which gives you a feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction.

#3 Decluttering Helps You Calm Down

As I have mentioned above, I need order to be calm. I can’t rest, neither physically nor mentally, when there is a mess around me. So tidying up, organizing my space, having things neat and tidy makes me feel good. People feel differently about this of course, but even my daughter who happily lives in her messy room for weeks, actually admits that she feels more relaxed in a neat room and can concentrate better on her homework for example if her desk is tidy.

#4 Decluttering Reduces Potential for Conflict

Living in a messy house where nobody can ever find anything creates a lot of potential for arguments and stress. I am sure you know what I mean if you have been flat sharing before or live with your family. A husband who leaves socks and underwear lying all over the floor or kids who can’t put their shoes and bags away after school are very often the beginning of a heated argument. And nobody needs the added stress of not finding something you urgently need. Not being able to locate a document, not finding your car keys, having to trawl through boxes of clothes to find those gloves the minute you want to leave the house, are a waste of your energy.

#5 Decluttering Can Help With Recycling and Reusing

When I go through my piles of stuff, I often discover items that I had forgotten about. Instead of buying more of the same I try to get more use of something old. That not only saves the environment, but the wallet too! How often do you put something away in a cupboard, thinking that might come in handy one day? And what are the chances that you actually remember to pull this item out of the cupboard when that day comes? The more you have stored away in some obscure corner, the less likely you will actually put it to use. So I try to 1) be selective of what I actually keep and 2) when I re-discover such items when I declutter, I try to organize them in a better way so I will actually make use of them.

There is a lady called Marie Kondo who made a whole business out of her way of decluttering. It’s called the KonMari Method™ (check it out on www.konmari.com). Her book The life-changing magic of tidying up has been published in over 30 countries. Her books sold over 8 million copies worldwide. She gives decluttering a real mindfulness spin: If an item is being disposed of because it doesn’t give you joy anymore, you acknowledge its service to you and you show gratefulness.

And one last thing. Sometimes we keep things for sentimental reason. And that is important too. But when I realize that a particular item actually makes me more sad or stressed I think it’s time to let it go. But to keep like one box of obscure and useless stuff is quite ok too I believe – right?

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