Declutter Your Life

Have you heard about the recent craze of people just wanting to “tidy up?”  While the desire to declutter is not new, it has been recently popularized by Marie Kondo sharing her KonMari Method on her new Netflix show.  If you haven’t seen it yet, I highly recommend checking it out– it’s excellent!   I’ve had multiple clients ask me why decluttering has been so popular lately, and for a short answer: there are clear psychological reasons for that.

Here are some things to know about excessive clutter and why you feel better when your environment is organized.

Why does excessive clutter create so much stress?

  • Physical clutter overwhelms your brain in the same way multitasking does, leaving you robbed of mental energy and consequently tired, anxious, and overwhelmed.
  • Our brain prefers order because it’s easier to deal with.When our brain is overwhelmed with clutter, it does not work as efficiently.
  • Clutter can lead to decreased mood, decreased self-esteem, and increased stress, especially for women.
  • Clutter can also lead to anxiety, shame, depression, and frustration, which may prevent people from hosting social events in their home.

Why is it so hard to declutter? 

  • Excessive clutter can elevate anxiety. There is an optimal level of anxiety for performance. With too much clutter, your anxiety heightens, your senses get overwhelmed, and you become paralyzed and unable to declutter.
  • Our possessions embody memories and interests, and the thought of getting rid of them can evoke guilt, shame, and regret for some.
  • The anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) is one of the areas of the brain involved in the modulation and processing of physical and emotional pain. Researchers recently identified that the ACC is activated when people let go of their valued possessions.   This means our brain responds to the loss of valued possessions similarly to something that causes you physical pain. The more emotionally committed you are, or have been, to an item, the more you want to keep it around.

Why is decluttering helpful?

  • An organized home helps with ease and efficiency in completing household tasks. This makes everyday tasks less stressful and provides you with the opportunity to attend to your self-care needs more easily, which in turn improves your quality of life.
  • People often report feeling “lighter” because their brain is more able to focus on what they are doing.Clutter competes for our attention causing us to multitask and pushing our senses into overdrive. Decluttering allows for better focus, improved concentration, and decreased frustration.
  • Decluttering naturally improves your mood by giving you a sense of accomplishment, confidence, and task mastery.
  • Decluttering can lead to increased socialization, improved mood, increased confidence, and a more fulfilled life.
  • Living in an uncluttered space can lead to an increased sense of calm, increased energy, improved concentration and improved focus.

Remember: behavior change precipitates feeling change.  So once you start the process of decluttering it will be easier to do it!

I was asked to contribute for an article on Mind Mastery Lab, a website “dedicated to personal growth and self-improvement.” The prompt was “How to change your life for the better?” I chose to discuss the psychological effects of decluttering.  To see the above portion and the full article with other contributors, click here:

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Phone: 646-580-4822
Dr. Eisner is licensed to see clients living
in New York or Florida
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