Updated: May 5, 2021
Have you ever seen those minimalist style interior designs and think to yourself, “I wish my home looked like that”? But, do you have that one designated shelf, countertop, or side table that just becomes your go-to place for dropping off things you don’t know where to store? Do you feel like your home isn’t tidy or neat enough because of that one part that always seems to end up getting messy and eventually will pile up with things you don’t need? This is a sign that you might have a clutter problem, but lucky for you, achieving the minimalist lifestyle isn’t as difficult as it seems, and in the process of moving towards a minimalist lifestyle, you could improve your mental well-being, save money, and potentially do your part to save the environment as well. So if you’re interested in minimalist design and how sustainability can be incorporated, this blog post will cover what really causes clutter, why you should consider decluttering, and some small tips to help you get started and move towards that minimalist lifestyle.
What Causes Clutter and Why Should You Declutter?
Clutter is defined as the “overabundance of possessions that collectively create chaotic and disorderly living spaces” by Professor Joseph Ferrari. Sound familiar to anyone? Most of us have some shape or form of clutter around our homes but what we don’t realize is why it builds up in the first place. Well in actuality, a lot of the clutter that accumulates in your home is surprisingly linked to your emotions. Like Mia Danielle mentions in her article, humans “have the tendency to infuse our belongings with emotion”. This is why a lot of the clutter that accumulates stays that way — whether it’s due to sentimental value, depression, past traumas, comfort, or laziness — it is because there are emotions attached that prevent you from removing the clutter from your life. For example, take an object in your home that was gifted to you by a friend. If you haven’t used the object in over a year, ask yourself, “Why are you really keeping it?” Maybe it’s from a close friend and you feel bad if you throw it out because of ts a representation of your bond and their affection towards you. Or maybe it’s a friend you are no longer close to and it’s a reminder of what once was, and what you no longer have. Or maybe you’re just extremely lazy, are currently procrastinating on cleaning up your home, and trying to avoid having to “adult”.
Whatever the reason for your clutter is, there are surprisingly numerous benefits to decluttering your living space. First of all, it reduces your levels of stress and anxiety to declutter your home. Studies have shown that clutter can increase your levels of cortisol (the stress hormone), making you feel more anxious and having a negative effect on your mental health. Research has also shown that clutter can increase levels of frustration and life dissatisfaction in people, particularly those in older age groups. Additionally, clutter puts your mind into a multitasking mindset, which actually makes you lose focus on the task at hand and will make it more difficult for you to concentrate and get work done. With that being said, most of us already have multiple different sources of stress and don’t need clutter to add on top of those worries, which should be an incentive in itself to start decluttering your home and workspace.
Secondly, having a clutter-free environment is more aesthetically pleasing and frees up space in your home. Think of those minimalistic type pictures of modern homes we often see on social media and how clean and sleek everything looks without all the clutter present. Wouldn’t we all like to have tidier, cleaner, and aesthetically pleasing homes too? All the clutter piling up in your home is also unintentionally taking up a lot more space than you realize, which could be better used for other activities or places to store other, more important items.
Thirdly, decluttering, and maintaining a more minimalist home will also save you money and is better for the environment. All that money you aren’t spending on things that eventually end up as clutter can go towards a new phone/device or that one thing on your Amazon wish list that you’ve been saving up for but can’t seem to buy just yet. Additionally, if you’re buying less stuff you’ll have less clutter to eventually throw away, which decreases the amount of waste you’re generating and how much you are contributing to landfills every year.
How to Declutter
Now with all those reasons for why you should declutter your home, how do you actually go about doing so? Well, Zen Habits, a lifestyle blog, recommends the following 4 basic principles: collect, choose, eliminate, and organize. Essentially, you collect all of the clutter around your home, choose the most important items that need to be kept, eliminate everything non-essential, and organize back all of the items in your important pile into your home. Sounds easy right?
However, the hardest part is always starting to declutter and finding the motivation to do so. While we’ve already provided you with some motivations above, it can be a little daunting to try and tackle your whole home in one go, so try starting by picking one specific location in your home decluttering that space then and there. It could be a shelf, or a countertop, or a side table, but just pick one place to get started with and focus on that space for 10 minutes. Alternatively, if you don't have the time to do it right now, make a note and schedule a decluttering session for the weekend. Make sure you put it in your calendar or note it down in the method you use to organize events so that you are more likely to actually complete the task has made a form of concrete commitment to it in your schedule.
Another recommendation by Professor Ferrari is to get a friend to help you when you’re decluttering your space, and to ask your friend to hold up each item and pose the question of whether you really need the item or not because research shows that touching an item makes you less likely to get rid of it because of a sense of sentimental attachment towards the object.
Another tip for decluttering your home is to reduce how much you buy the begin with. When you go shopping and are about to impulsively buy another item, ask yourself, “Do I really need this, or do I just want it? WIll it eventually add to the clutter in my home?” Constantly asking and holding yourself accountable for the purchases that you make will result in you accumulating fewer belongings, which in return will decrease the amount of clutter you will need to eventually sort through in your home. This tip, in particular, will also make it easier for you to get rid of clutter before it exists because as Professor Ferrari says, it is easier to become attached to things you already own and are located within your home. As a positive side note, following this tip also mean that you are one step closer to living a more environmentally conscious and potentially zero waste lifestyle, as these types of lifestyles require you to consider what you're buying and question whether these potential purchases are necessities or indulgences. By buying less stuff you will also be contributing less to the consumer-driven industry, thereby reducing the amount of waste generated by your household.
These are just some tips to help you get started with decluttering and motivate you to tackle that shelf or table that you have been eyeing but avoiding for months. We challenge you to start today with tackling that clutter spot that’s been bothering you for just 10 minutes, or to plan for a cleaning session this weekend and note it down so you don’t forget. You’ll be surprised how much you can accomplish if you set aside the time to do so and put your mind to it. Additionally, if you are curious about eco-minimalist lifestyles, how to declutter or responsibly dispose of your clutter, or you're just interested in learning more about environmentalism and sustainability, be sure to subscribe to our newsletter, stay tuned for more blog posts, and follow us on Instagram @wellmadewrld !