Clutter sneaks into our homes in unexpected ways. We drop in at a neighbor’s yard sale and take home a couple of items. We see a perfectly good shelf sitting on the side of the road and pick it up. A beautiful weekend leads to exploring junk stores along the Blue Ridge Parkway; we simply must add our finds to our “collection.” Visitors come bearing gifts. You know.
Yes, a healthy lifestyle means that we have interests outside of work. But when those interests literally pile up, we’ve crossed the line.
We become victims of clutter.
So what does unhealthy clutter look like? You may be a victim of clutter if you have:
- Magazines, newspapers, and mail piling up on counters, tables, and floors
- Old boxes stacked in a basement corner
- Mounds of “things to be sorted and saved” in your attic
- That lamp you need to fix, in 7 parts, in a box, on a forgotten shelf in the garage
- A tangle of tools and garden supplies in your shed
- Closet shelves brimming with things shoved out of sight during quick clean-ups
- Dresser drawers that are bursting at the seams and unwilling to close
- A basement full of damp, worn, or “might need it someday” items.
I don’t know about you, but just looking at that list makes me tired. Deciding to tackle clutter feels daunting. Many of us have a tendency to ignore clutter by stepping around the pile of clothes or closing the drawer. However, when the clutter in your home becomes overwhelming, you know it’s also starting to affect your health.
Truth is, decluttering takes real gumption. Tackling clutter and keeping your sanity takes kind of fortitude that would make our grandparents proud. Here’s how to start:
- Take a deep breathe and make note of the clutter in your home (make a list!)
- Declutter by category instead of by location. Rather than deciding to clean the entire living room, choose to focus on old magazines, newspapers, and mail.
- Divide your clutter into 3 piles: giveaway, throw away / recycle, and keep.
- Once you have your clutter sorted, take action. Drive to the nearest donation site, place items in the recycling bin (or take to a recycling facility), and organize the keep pile. Fold clothes, wrap wires, and find a specific place for each item.
- Let the unhealthiness of clutter motivate you to keep going. It’s hard to get excited about a deep clean.. So instead, blast your favorite i-Tunes and focus on the outcomes.
- Give yourself a break. Literally. Work through clutter in 30-60 minute time blocks and then step away from the task.
As the weather warms up and we start to feel restless, we start to get that “spring cleaning” itch. Deep decluttering is the best place to start your seasonal spring clean. Precede tile scrubbing, fan dusting, and window washing with do-able chunks of decluttering. If we don’t address clutter first, then we risk missing crucial home healthiness issues hiding behind our stuff.
Here’s a good example. One client recently asked me about a rug in her basement. It covers a damp spot on the earth floor where water seeps in during heavy rains. Her husband doesn’t see any problem with it. My client, however, dislikes that the dampness seeps into her shoes when she walks over the rug. The thing never dries out, and it smells musty. What do you think that rug could be harboring? In our muggy Appalachian climate, spring also ushers in a season of allergens, mold, and mildew.
That rug is the definition of unhealthy clutter: it’s an unwanted object masking an underlying issue.
The amount of clutter in a home often signals underlying interior issues such as the presence of dust, allergens and pests. If your house is filled with clutter, then the feeling of overwhelm that comes with the housekeeping of so much stuff often extends to regular home maintenance. The whole house environment can be affected, from gutters to filters and ducts. Clutter is a sign of avoidance; avoidance can lead to an unhealthy home.
And clutter doesn’t stop there…
In addition to undermining our physical health, clutter is directly tied to our mental health and stress levels. Items like this old rug and its unhealthiness signal that it’s time to address the deeper issues at hand: why we collect clutter, hang onto it, and how we benefit from letting go.
A proper declutter, followed by a deep clean, can help you ward off humidity and stop major home health issues before they start. In addition to promoting home health, your decluttering will open up your space and support your mental and physical wellbeing. Plus, it will allow you to see and address underlying issues that are undermining the health of your home and those who dwell within it.
Not sure whether to let an item go? Or want to add to the list of places and ways we are tempted to bring home clutter? Email me, and I’ll help you find your way back to A Healthier Home.