The magazine rack is overflowing, the dining room table holds all the papers of the last weeks worth of incoming mail or projects to do, the stairs are an obstacle course and you are pretty sure: You are in extreme need of clutter control!Having to much stuff can certainly overwhelm you, drain you and frustrate you. It makes it difficult to get things done.
Having too much stuff can certainly overwhelm you, drain you and frustrate you. It makes it difficult to get things done.
Let me share a story of a client who called me to their office. She was a creative person, worked in design and product management and that part of the job she really loved – working on the product with the design team and clients. Unfortunately, that was only about 10 percent of her work that she actually did.
The majority of the time she spent with the “flow”:
- Keeping track of meeting notes
- Searching for files
- Trying to stay up-to-date with the latest technology news.
I’m sure you can relate. She was mentally exhausted and felt drained at the end of the day. Worse she always felt she accomplished nothing worthwhile at work and with her time.
Once we reduced the noise around her and the stuff, she was able to focus on her work, had more time for things that mattered most for her. She led the most balanced, productive and cluttered year of her life after we finished working together.
Clutter – what is that?
What one person calls clutter, another person calls treasure or memorabilia. So really the first step is to define what clutter is.
In my 20+ years of organizing experience with clients and in the corporate world there are really 2 types of clutter:
- “Memory” clutter reminds you of important events, like old school programs or newspaper clippings.
- “Someday” clutter refers to items you won’t toss because you feel you may need it someday.
- “Money” clutter means you or s.o. spend a lot of money on the item and you feel you just need to keep it (even if you never touched it.)
“It’s about balance. If you have so much stuff it drags you into the past or pulls you into the future, you cannot live in the present.” – Peter Walsh
For understanding the effects clutter has on your health and attitude this short definition is enough. I will write later on a longer in-depth piece about what clutter actually is.
Clutter and your health, energy, time, creativity and productivity
I’m always hearing over and over the same things when I’m called to help with cluttered homes or offices when I’m asking my clients to describe in one sentence their mess:
- “My energy is drained.”
- “I can’t find things.”
- “It interferes with crucial parts of my life.” (for example not getting to work on time, navigating staircases or not inviting people over).
A lot of people say they are overwhelmed. What that means? They become nonfunctional and nonproductive. That is normally when clients call me in desperation for help.
Clutter is bad for your physical health AND mental health. It clouds your creativity, your positivity, your entire mind really. Too much clutter is a fire hazard.
Dust, mould and animal dander that collect easily in cluttered homes are ALL bad for allergies and asthma.
Often people see clutter and describe it with words like “suffocating” and “I can’t breathe”.
Clutter can also be a physical manifestation of mental health issues. Those clients of mine that are overwhelmed with memory clutter may have an undue preoccupation with things in the past and become or are depressed. Those who cannot toss out items or stuff because they worry they may need them someday maybe or are too anxious and controlled by fears.
The truth is you actually hurt your brain by keeping something that was costing you money and you never used it. How so? It is painful to come to terms with the fact that YOU wasted money or made it mistake by buying it in the first place.
There are two parts in your brain: the anterior cingulate cortex and insula that both react to pain. Those brain parts also light up when you cut your finger on paper or drink a coffee that’s too hot.
Your brain views the loss of a much-valued possession the same as something that causes you physical pain. The more you are committed to an item emotionally or financially, the more you want to keep it around. (If you want to know more in-depth look up the Yale-Research and this article.
Clutter can have a negative impact on your focus and process information. I have noticed that in many of my clients lives. It is been proven by Scientific research as well. The findings are that physical clutter in your surroundings competes for your attention, resulting in decreased performance and increased stress. (see also: Princeton Neuroscience Institute)
That is why you keep looking (at least your mind) in this cluttered shelf or on the piled dining table and takes away significantly from your focused brain-space to get this program created or work on that client’s project. That is also one reason why you work with a more creative, focused mode, when turning OFF all notifications on your mobile devices and telephones.
Clutter peaks stress hormones when dealing (even just in your mind) with it. The processes that happen in your brain are similar to those that happen when you multi-task. Sorry to inform you, multi-tasking is nothing to be proud of or to train. Both clutter and multi-tasking are overloading your senses, making you feel stressed and impair your work to think creatively. (UCLA research is one of many studies that prove my point).
Clutter may be even making you put on weight (or to be open: make you fat). In my long practice, I have noticed an association between the amount of clutter and the amount of weight (in most cases when my clients are not excessively doing sports.) The common denominator here? A life of consumption – too much stuff, too much to eat!
Clutter is NOT just physical
Files on your computer, notifications on Twitter, Facebook and Co, anything that goes “ping” on your computer at night competes for your attention. This creates a digital form of clutter that erodes your ability to focus and perform creative tasks.
“Bits are a new material.” – Mark Hurst (Bit Literacy)
When your brain has too much on it’s plate, it splits power up. The results? Your become AWFUL at:
- Filtering information
- Switching quickly between tasks
- Keeping a strong working memory
The overconsumption of digital stuff has the same effect on your brain as physical clutter.
Clutter and Money
Proven as well: Clutter loses you money. How so? You have unopened bills in your paper stack that you forget about and suddenly here comes the friendly reminder plus a surcharge or fine on top for not paying.
You cannot find your chequebook (France is VERY BIG in paying via cheques by the way.). You lost sight of your account balance because somewhere is your latest statement with the newest balance, you just don’t know where.
Your piles grow because you don’t have the money to clear out the old ones and are unsure of what to keep and what to throw away.
You simply don’t know you had already a red shirt, so you buy a new one and waste your money on a shirt you actually don’t need in the first place. Another favourite of my clients is the overflowing pile of receipts in their wallet and purse and the lost sight of their budget (if one exists even) because it is not updated with the latest spending.
Oftentimes clutter goes hand in hand with scarcity thinking: “I’m not worth it.” And of all your limiting beliefs that prevent you from receiving money (and other things) in your life in the first place and is simply put BS.
Clutter messes with your relationships
Having clutter keeps you in the past, makes you feel tired and lethargic. So there is simply no energy and room for something new coming into your life, be it a new friend, this hot looking boyfriend or even the mate for life.
At the same time, clutter can affect the way you treat people. You treat people as you treat yourself. If you let yourself “go” and clutter takes over your home and life, you may attract people who mistreat you because subconsciously you feel that is what you deserve. When organizing your home you can improve ALL of your relationships in the process.
Clutter puts your life on hold
Don’t let your life slip away. Sit down right now and write down a list of all the things you would like to do IF only your clutter would be sorted and let this be your inspiration /motivation for you to get on with it.
In what ways do you feel clutter effects your life? Are you ready to change that? Are you ready to live your dream life and stop wasting your health, time, energy, mind and creativity/productivity?
I will guide in just 4 weeks to a more balanced, peaceful, organized and shining life. Simply Organized, Simply Free is where we’ll make it happen – together.LEARN MORE
PS: The doors to Simply Organized, Simply Free will be closing again in 5 days. If you would like to learn more about this program, and make sure it’s the perfect fit for you, hop onto the “Simply Organized–your warm and vibrant tribe” group and join for live stream tomorrow (Tuesday) at 9 am. As a bonus, there will be a 20 min live Q&A to help you with solving your organizing situations.