Time for a Clear-Out?

Did you know that scientists have proven that being surrounded by untidiness can cause stress?

Neuroscientists at Princeton University found that this surrounding ‘mess’ competes for our attention; consequently living or working in a  cluttered environment interferes with the ability of our brain to process information, affecting us physically, mentally and emotionally. An organised environment can help us to focus, feel calmer, remember things more easily and be more productive.

Clutter is definitely in the eye of the beholder. Only you can decide what qualifies, it is this perception that makes the difference. If you feel overwhelmed by it, it is clutter, if not, no problem.

Generally clutter falls into two categories; that which reminds us of important events such as concert programmes or newspaper cuttings, and secondly items that we keep because we might need them someday. The problem begins when you have so many items from the past filling your environment that you find it impossible to live in the present.

Clutter tends to creep up on us; memories and purchases accumulate over time. Often the reality is that we spent hard earned cash on items that we are never going to use or wear, but it is too painful to part with them. In an article in Psychology Today Kelly McGonigal reports that unlike non-hoarders, hoarders show increased activity in two areas of the brain; the anterior cingulate cortex and the insula, when shown their own clutter. The more a hoarder reported feeling “not right” about throwing something out, the stronger this pattern of activation was.

This feeling of discomfort triggers the same response in the brain that is activated when you feel physical pain from injury to your body. So, when you are faced with parting from a valued possession you experience the same feeling as you would were you physically experiencing a cut. In addition, the more you have committed emotionally or financially to the item, the more you feel the pain.  Physical clutter overloads your senses, you feel stressed and your ability to think creatively is impaired.

So, what can we do to start the process of de-cluttering? Rather than diving in headfirst and all the stress that that will fire off in your brain, why not ask yourself ‘what is my intention for this space?’ Perhaps you want to create a peaceful sitting area where you can relax at the end of the day, spend a little time imagining how that would look and feel to you in reality.

What would need to change in your environment to allow this vision to materialise? Maybe you need to get rid of some furniture, perhaps the bookshelves need a sort out, or the drawers in the sideboard that are overflowing with old equipment manuals need a sort out? Start with the vision, write it down. Imagine how you’ll feel when the space becomes as you would like it.  Once you have your vision you will be clearer on what you need to keep and what you can part with.

Resist the trap of feeling that you have to clean your entire house in one day! Tackle it little by little, start small to gain momentum. Begin with the easiest thing, maybe one drawer or one bookshelf. Instead of tipping out the entire drawer take things out one item at a time and put it in the rubbish pile, the to give away pile or the keep pile.

Setting criteria for your ‘to keep’ pile can also help, you could decide that you will get rid of any item that you have not needed for 12 months, anything that is broken or anything that you have two of. Giving items to charity can ease the pain of parting, knowing that something is going to a good home might just be enough to enable you to make the decision.

Decide how long it will take you to tidy the area you have chosen to start with. Set a timer as you begin, stop when the timer goes off. This puts a time limit on how long you dedicate to the task and will help you stay focused on your vision and the ‘why’ behind the process.

Once you have created your 3 piles go through the ‘to keep’ pile and ensure that you really do need or want everything there. Place only these items back in the drawer in an organised fashion, so that they are easy to find in the future. Stop once your allotted time is complete.

Take a moment to consider how you feel having completed this task. Revisit your vision. Do you feel lighter, calmer, relieved, more energetic, a sense of achievement? Has this first small step inspired you to continue?

Professional organizers report that when we begin to sort out our clutter we begin to take better care of ourselves, our energy increases and, as we become empowered in one area of our lives, we begin to look for other areas in our lives where we can take action.

So, if you feel overwhelmed by your possessions, or are just plain sick of never being able to find what you need, why not take action and begin the process. You never know, you might just clear enough space in your head to begin meditating!

Sarah Jackson
Advanced Hypnotherapy, Massage, Reiki & Beauty Therapist

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