Weekend Four: The Tale of the little dust bunnies

This weekend’s declutter challenge is a bit of a free for all. We do have a main focus and that is the dust collectors that cover our tabletops, counter tops and other innocent surfaces about our homes.

In addition to the dust collectors and having already decluttered (or in the process of decluttering) the main areas of the home, we will leave it up to you as to what room you want to pursue next. The kids toy room? The laundry? The office? Is the dining room a particular dumping ground in your house?

When I look about my own home, I am aware of how many piles of things I have laying around in want of a home. There are the stacks of papers that need to be filed, books that need to go back into to bookshelves, miscellaneous items that need to be sorted, stored or disposed of. I can even see where I have tried to declutter but have been interrupted or run out of time. I personally like to only have one or two things on any surface around the home as I feel it’s more visually appealing and stresses me less. But other people love to have their surfaces teeming with items that scream their personality or décor ideals, each to their fabulous self I say!

Were you aware of exactly how stressful visual clutter, and clutter in general can be? It has been scientifically proven! The direct link between excess home clutter and higher stress levels has been made in numerous studies in recent years. Our home is supposed to be our private refuge, but its value as a comforting space declines if it’s not kept in an orderly fashion.

The science behind how clutter causes you stress

study conducted by Princeton University Neuroscience researchers found that a cluttered home environment impedes your ability to focus.

When we have a hard time focusing, our mental faculties get worn down and frustration ensues, causing stress. Struggling to focus properly also inhibits our ability to be creative and to problem solve.

The Yale School of Medicine published a study that revealed some surprising results. When the study’s participants who were less inclined to throw away things were forced to part with belongings, researchers found increased activity in the areas of their brains that are associated with conflict and pain. It literally hurts some of us to part with things we own.

Findings from UCLA researchers showed that women who had an increased level of clutter in their homes also had higher levels of a stress hormone known as high cortisol. Their study also found that the tidier a home was, the happier its occupants seemed to be.

Further evidence of clutter’s negative impact on our lives

On a less scientific level, but still worth a mention, is a recent Huffington Post survey of 1,000 U.S. adults. In it, 81% of men and 87% of women expressed some level of anxiety over how organized their home was. “Worrying my home isn’t clean or organized enough” came fifth on their list of the most common stress triggers in their lives.

When you live in a cluttered home, there’s a constant feeling of guilt (even if you’re not fully aware of it) over the disorganized state of your space.

Our brains are always telling us there’s still plenty of work to be done, which makes it harder to relax.

Let’s give our brains a break and get stuck into this week’s challenge and as always – let’s make a plan.

As I’ve done previously, I will share what I am doing so you can use that as a springboard. I have decided to tackle a space that is physically in the middle of my home. It is a thoroughfare, sitting area, office and playroom all in one. Originally it was used as a Dining room but being at the south end of the house and with no view we use it as a multipurpose space. There are three bookshelves, a toy table, a wine cabinet, a rocking chair, and my desk with desk chair – a fair bit of furniture for this medium sized room.

Hers what I my plan looks like:

  1. Remove all items from surface areas
  2. Sort through these – do they have a home? Are they paper clutter and need filing or chucking? Is it an item that can be sold or donated?
  3. Rearrange bookshelves so all books are stacked in a less cluttered state (I did a cull a few months ago otherwise I would cull a few books at this point)
  4. Sort through toys. Do they all need to be out? Should I do a rotate of toys? Do I need storage solutions for the toys that are out in this room?
  5. Wipes down all surfaces including the bookshelves
  6. Vacuum carpet
  7. Observe how the furniture is arranged in this room. Is there another way to arrange things that would suit the room better and utilise the space available?
  8. Prune! Put things back, taking care to keep the look unfussy and uncluttered. Each item must have a role. Like with the plants in the garden cutting back to the essential gives us space to grow and breathe!

Below are some inspiring infographics from @arielarts found on Pinterest. Just because we are minimising what we have out on our surfaces doesn’t mean you can’t get creative and make it an inviting space:

When you are in the throes of chaos in the middle of the spare room or office or whatever space you are tackling – keep in mind the important advantages to have a decluttered space apart from the scientific ones we have mentioned above.

If you have read our blog post on Goal Setting (if you haven’t here’s the link An Om Moment – (femmefinance.co.nz)) remember what we said about visualising the outcome if you fail to complete the goals you have set yourself within this challenge.

Here are a few attractive advantages to decluttering your spaces to keep your minimalising mindset focused:

  • Your home environment should be your greatest support system

Being clutter free means that you have a house that is under control the majority of the time. If sickness hits (there’s this pesky thing called Covid doing the rounds), if you are having a low energy period of time or you are just rushed off your feet with being a social butterfly or work activities are at a high, you have a home where the things you have in it have a role and a place and you are able to take the time for yourself without everything falling apart.

  • Freedom from chores and a Fixed Mindset

Stagnant energy goes hand in hand with a cluttered environment. Do you ever have the feeling that when you tidy your brain feels tidy? That’s the psychological effects of decluttering. In fact, clutter can be so distracting that it causes our brain to shift into multitasking mode which happens to be completely at odds with focus. The stress from this can make you feel overwhelmed leading you to procrastinate what needs to be done, making you feel helpless and creating a fixed mindset. Getting rid of all the unnecessary in your home can give you freedom. With less you can focus more. With less you have more energy. With less you have more time! If you have managed to create a workable capsule wardrobe or downsized considerable, there is less laundry to do. If you have a select few items on your surfaces, there’s is less to clean, and you can do it quicker and therefore have more time to enjoy your cup of coffee on a Sunday morning. If you have decluttered the stuff in your cupboards, be it the kitchen, bedrooms, or playroom to what really serves you, you have more space, can find things easier and less to trip up on or step over.

  • Growth of all the things

Having fewer things to be responsible for can be freeing allowing you time for yourself to focus on you and what you are wanting to get out of life. Be it more time to get in a workout, to sit and dream up a side hustle, spend time with family or friends, freedom for growth! And this can look different for different people. Then there’s the growth aspect of your finances. With spending less you have more financially. You can start making investments, pay for a course or study to get where you want to be in your career, travel, renovations, house deposit the list can go on all because you decluttered!

And with that last advantage to decluttering, we will sign off! Next week is the last challenge in The Declutter Challenge by Femme Finance and it is a bit more of a deep dive then having a cluttered countertop. We will be talking about friendships, finances and cleaning out the automobile.

Good luck with this weekend’s challenge and don’t forget to let us know how you go – we would love to hear what your experience has been!

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