It’s hard not to fall prey to the American drive to have more. We live in a consumer-driven culture. Case in point, one of the first idioms I learned was, “Keeping up with the Joneses.” But as we fritter away our hard-earned money on “stuff,” we start to accumulate more than we can actually handle. Before we know it, we’re drowning in the byproducts of capitalism.
Years and years of this “more” mentality has caused a subtle shift in our culture. Many of us are starting to seek a more simplified life. We’re looking to surround ourselves only with the things we either truly love or truly need.
However, actually obtaining (and maintaining) such a lifestyle means getting rid of a lot of possessions—and then organizing what’s left. Although this may seem like an insurmountable task, it’s ultimately worthwhile.
Because decluttering and organizing feels amazing.
It’s a Rush
Did you know that decluttering and organizing releases endorphins? One of the main reasons why these tasks are so satisfying is because our brains are literally pouring on the feel-good chemicals. This leads to reduced stress and anxiety and improves our mood!
One way to really get those endorphins flowing is to take on a task that you perceive to be more difficult or challenging than others. For instance, consider organizing your digital photos. According to a survey by Everpresent, 83% of families have not consolidated their digital photos into a single library. Gathering all of your photos into one place, arranging and labeling them, and then uploading them to an online library or external hard drive can take many hours (or even days). That said, the rush you’ll get when the job is done and your precious memories are safe will be well worth it!
It Gives You a Sense of Accomplishment
So many of life’s little chores don’t leave you with an observable end product. You work and work and work, and… nothing. Decluttering and organizing, however, delivers results you can really see. And believe it or not, achieving these results can have positive effects in other areas of your life.
When you accomplish a goal—even a small one such as cleaning out the junk drawer—you gain confidence. You realize that you can succeed when you put your mind to something. The more of these tasks you accomplish, the more confidence you build. These repeated triumphs arm you with the courage you need to face all of life’s challenges.
It Gives You Control
Creating a clean desk space gives you a sense of control over your environment. Since we often feel a lack of control in other areas of our lives, having this control over our homes is incredibly comforting (even if it’s only on a subconscious level).
What’s more, there’s actually an evolutionary need for that control. Humans are wired to keep track of their surroundings at all times. We’re naturally drawn to uncluttered spaces that are easier to scan—and when we’re safely within them, we feel more relaxed.
It’s a strange thing to say, but the mindlessness of cleaning is actually one of its biggest perks. The physical elements of housework are often simple, repetitive tasks. This makes the activity highly meditative. Whether you listen to music or podcasts while you clean or let the silence of the house take over, allowing your brain to take a break from everyday thoughts while you clean is the perfect way to meditate while staying active.
It Makes You Feel Better
Disorganization can have a terrible effect on your sense of self-worth. If your home is cluttered and dirty, it’s not hard to internalize. The more disordered and disheveled your environment becomes, the worse you end up feeling about yourself.
A 2010 study from the University of California revealed that women who described their homes as being cluttered or filled with unfinished projects were more likely to be depressed and fatigued than women who characterized their living spaces as being restful and restorative. They also found that women who lived in cluttered environments had higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
It’s a Stress-Buster
Speaking of stress, clutter is surprisingly hard on our brains. Your brain is constantly processing visual information, and too much clutter can make it hard for it to be efficient. Keeping your home decluttered and organized helps to reduce unnecessary stimuli and allows you to stay focused on your goals.
It Makes Life Easier
One of the greatest reasons to declutter (besides it feeling awesome) is as a segue into a minimalist lifestyle. Every item you get rid of is one less thing you have to find a place for, regularly clean, maintain, and repair. The fewer items you own, the less time and energy you have to spend on taking care of things. Instead of collecting stuff for the sake of having it, only purchase and hold onto the items that mean something to you or you genuinely need.
It Empowers You to Move Forward
Have you ever kept an item strictly because you felt obligated to? An invitation to a friend’s wedding or a ticket stub from a concert? Sometimes the only reason we save items is that we feel responsibility, nostalgia, or even guilt when we look at them. But, in the spirit of minimalism, if we don’t love or use something, there’s no reason to keep it. Getting rid of these items will help you stay focused on the present and the future, rather than burdened by the past.
More and more people are starting to realize that the decades-old crusade to accumulate as many worldly goods as possible doesn’t always lead to happiness. In fact, it’s quite the opposite—too much stuff can lead to added stress and anxiety. Taking time to declutter and organize your home is a surefire way to feel more relaxed, in control, and at peace. And that’s worth all the money in the world!
About the author: Liz Greene is a feminist, makeup enthusiast, and anxiety-ridden realist from the beautiful city of trees, Boise, Idaho. When she’s not writing, she enjoys eating fancy cheeses, fantasizing about what life would be like if she had an Iron Man suit, and re-watching Venture Bros. episodes for the 100th time.
This post was originally published on September 24, 2018, and has since been updated.