How Decluttering Can Help With Anxiety Relief
What Is Minimalism?
Minimalism involves having as few belongings as possible and that’s it- right? Well, according to Becoming Minimalist:
Minimalism is intentionality. It is marked by clarity, purpose, and intentionality. At its core, minimalism is the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of everything that distracts us from it. It is a life that forces intentionality.
Minimalism And… Anxiety Relief?
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So what does this have to do with anxiety relief? One of the hallmarks of anxiety is overthinking, overstressing, and over-worrying. Essentially, anxiety is the opposite of minimalism. If minimalism is a life of intentionality and less distractions… well, anxiety is a life of distraction, a lack of focus, excess stress, and allowing your circumstances and worries to dictate your mood and choices.
Minimalism is making simple choices that bring you fulfillment, joy, and purpose. It is following the mantra that less is more, because you are putting more thought and purpose into those important choices you are making.
On the other hand, the opposite of minimalism: overwhelm and clutter, can lead to anxiety. The overwhelm of too many tasks, responsibilities, thoughts, fears, belongings, you name it! When you have a cluttered space this can make it even more difficult to relax and focus on anxiety relief.
They say a cluttered desk is a cluttered mind for a reason.
Owning less and being more intentional with your purchases can lead to more calm and fulfillment- and I want to show you how.
How Owning Less Can Lead To Anxiety Relief
Physical clutter translates to mental clutter. The belongings we own, whether they are readily visible or not, translate to mental space. There is a reason people take time to decorate, organize, and clean. The state of your space and belongings can be very impactful on your mental health.
When you have clutter or excess belongings, you are adding extra decisions or tasks to your life. If you have papers on your desk piling up, somewhere in the back of your mind is the task: go through the papers.
If you have a closet overflowing with clothing, when it comes time to get dressed the decision will be more time-consuming.
If you are holding onto gifts that you will never use just because you feel bad getting rid of them, you are creating the stress of owning an item you don’t truly enjoy, and the guilt of having to lie to the person who gave it to you about whether or not you use it.
These are but a few small examples, but having excess clutter around is one of the most glaring examples. Your mind processes inputs around you without your conscious awareness. When you have mail, receipts, magazines, and items piling up on all of your surfaces- it can be mentally draining whether you are conscious of this or not.
I don’t want to generalize; each and every person has different tolerance levels for clutter and cleanliness. As with most other measures, humans fall on a spectrum. But, I’m sure
you can’t deny how good it feels to have a clear, organized space. And if you’re not sure how it feels, why not try it out?
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Reducing Physical Clutter
Make a schedule to go through all of your belongings- although arduous it is so worth it! Whether it is one day, one week, or one month at a time, make a plan to start going
through all of your belongings.
The main goal is to discern whether or not you love the item. Marie Kondo, author of The Life-Changing Magic Of Tidying Up, uses the term “spark joy.” She suggests that you hold onto the item with no distractions and really pay attention to how you feel. Do you love the item? Are you indifferent? Do you really hate it?
Surrounding yourself with belongings that you love and that bring you joy will lead to more fulfillment and happiness. Although your belongings do not define your happiness, it is undoubted that your mood can be influenced by your surroundings.
When you are decluttering choose one of four options for your belongings:
- Keep (Only if you love it or it brings you fulfillment.)
Donating your items to a local thrift store or organization in need can be an opportunity for another person to derive joy from your old belongings. Start small and notice how it makes you feel.
Decluttering can often lead to a reduction of stress, anxiety relief, and a sense of accomplishment and calm. If you are overwhelmed with going through all of your belongings, start with a small area such as a junk drawer and see how you feel.
Reducing Digital Clutter
There is such a thing as digital clutter. That overflowing inbox, hard drive, or Google Drive can be just as stressful as physical clutter. I’m sure we have all been to the point where our inboxes are flooding with newsletters, coupons, discounts, etc… (I’m guilty of that right now…)
It can feel like lifting a weight off to go through and delete and organize your emails and digital storage. If this is something you have been putting off or haven’t even considered, try setting aside just 15 minutes this week to delete, organize, or back-up the digital clutter around you.
Reducing The Clutter Cycle
So let’s say you have decluttered and reorganized, how do you prevent things from just piling up again? I have listed a few simple rules that can help you maintain this state so your decluttering for your anxiety relief can become automatic.
Tips To Maintain A Clutter Free Space For Anxiety Relief:
- Follow the “one in one out” rule: For every item you bring into your home, take one item out. I use this very often with clothing. To prevent my closet from getting to the point of overflowing, I donate one item of clothing for every item I purchase.
- Have a place for everything: Organization and storage can be so important. If you have a place for every belonging, then things will be less likely to end up in random places and you will know where something is when you need it. Make it a point to put things away when you get home, at the end of the day, or in the morning.
- Keep surfaces clear: It is almost a guarantee if you put one thing on a surface (table, nightstand, coffee table, etc.) then it will start to gather additional items. By keeping surfaces clear, you can prevent this clutter from piling up. Use the rule above to have a place for everything.
- Organize paperwork at least once weekly: I know one thing that tends to pile up for me is mail and paperwork. Leave it in a folder, basket, or location where you can revisit these things when you have time and sort through them. Making this a habit at least once weekly will prevent things from piling up.
- Have an outbox: No, not your email outbox. I mean a box by your front door, in the garage, or wherever is convenient that contains items that are going out to be donated or sold. If you are feeling unsure if you want to get rid of that shirt, but feel like you should, leave it in this box for a few weeks. If you haven’t needed it or missed it during this time, it’s a sign that it doesn’t add value to your life: Get rid of it.
Increasing Your Intentionality With Your Purchases
Another way of reducing clutter and creating a home and space you love is becoming more intentional with the things you bring into your home.
Before you purchase anything ask yourself, do I need this? Do I love this? If you have any hesitation- the answer is usually no. Only buy things you LOVE and you will feel so much happier in your space.
If you live with a significant other or roommates, have a conversation about what you agree to purchase for decoration, supplies, etc. There may be times that you
have to compromise and that’s okay. Sometimes coming to a middle ground is necessary because nobody can agree on everything all the time!
Make the choices that you can with your personal space and belongings.
Minimalism Does Not Have To Be This:
Most people have an image in their mind of a minimalist house or room with white walls, furniture, and no decorations- and that is pretty sterile. The point of minimalism is not to remove any and all personality and feeling from your living space. On the other hand, if this photo brings you fulfillment, then by all means go for it.
Ultimately, making the choice to become more “minimalistic” and intentional with your choices consists of surrounding yourself with what makes you happy. Whether that is bright colors, decorations, string lights, or a bookshelf full of books. Create a space and cultivate belongings that make you smile, and donate or sell the rest.
The process of having control over your space, belongings, and getting rid of excess will help you on your journey towards anxiety relief.
Below is a list of my favorite minimalism resources: