When COVID-19 began sweeping around the world and entire countries went into lockdown, we wrote about sudden new challenges like staying active and remaining connected during turbulent times. Now that we're entering the third year of the pandemic, with a mishmash of restrictions and recommendations, many of us feel stuck in a sort of limbo state.
Instead of fixating on the uncertainty around us, why not focus on what we can control. Whether it was finding ways to avoid a sedentary lifestyle or working on mental fitness, self-care has been critical since the pandemic began. But after two years of staying closer to home and picking up new “pandemic hobbies”, many of us have woken up to a house full of stuff we don’t use or need. In this article, we’ll explore decluttering your home as a form of self-care.
How Do We Accumulate So Much Stuff?
Most of us naturally build up clutter throughout our lives. Whether it's clothes, books, cookware, or assorted decorations and knick knacks, we steadily acquire things. But we don't always get rid of them at the same rate. Sometimes it’s because of sentimental value or the idea we’ll use them later. Other times, we just ignore the clutter or tell ourselves we’ll deal with it soon.
Too often, though, “soon” never comes. And as the clutter grows, the idea of sorting through things becomes more daunting. If you’re an empty-nester or transitioning into retirement, decluttering is a great way to make sure that your home and its contents match your current lifestyle.
Why is Decluttering Important for Self-Care?
Most of us aren’t exactly the same person we were before the pandemic. Our lifestyles, routines, habits, and outlooks have changed. However, many of us haven’t parted with old possessions; thus our clutter reflects who we used to be, rather than who we are now.
Your stuff may seem harmless, but built-up clutter can take a toll on your well-being. While most of us think of home as a safe space, researchers found that excessive clutter has a negative impact on how comfortable and secure people feel at home. It can also encourage procrastination, depression, and even have a negative impact on cognitive function.
Decluttering doesn't just prevent the negative side effects of having too much stuff. There are a variety of self-care benefits:
- Less is more - Getting rid of clutter allows us to better appreciate the abundance of the things we truly need and use, rather than focusing on simply having a lot of stuff.
- A feeling of accomplishment - Dealing with the process of decluttering is a nice reminder of how it feels to successfully tackle something you’ve been dreading.
- More space - Getting rid of stuff doesn’t magically make your home bigger, but it does free up space, which can make rooms feel bigger and more inviting.
- Improved well-being - Decluttering your cookware can make your kitchen more useful, improve your relationship with food, allow you to eat healthier, and make cooking projects with your loved ones easier.
- Free time and energy - Imagine the amount of time and energy you’ll save if you don’t need to clean, manage, or think about stuff you no longer need or want.
- Inner peace - Most importantly, removing clutter is a way to focus clearly on what we find meaningful, and rid ourselves of distractions and emotional baggage.
Strategies for Approaching Decluttering
It took years to accumulate so much stuff, but it won’t take nearly that long to get rid of it. Decluttering might seem like an insurmountable task, but there are a few good ways to make it more manageable:
- Set rules: Before you start, decide what constitutes something you no longer need. If you have clothes you haven't worn in over a year, why are you keeping them?
- Be prepared: Make sure you have trash bags, boxes, and storage bins ready to go so you can focus on decluttering without needing to stop for supplies.
- Work in short bursts: Don't try to tackle the entire process at once. Set a timer for 20 or 30 minutes and just focus on what's in front of you.
- Choose a destination: Aside from a few valuables that might be worth reselling, you'll either throw out or donate most items. Decide what you're going to do with things as you sort so you don't have to handle them multiple times.
- Organize while you work: You're not getting rid of everything you own. But if you're keeping something, don't just ignore it. Make sure it's stored in the best possible place, especially valuables and important documents.
- Clean as you go: Once you've cleared a space of clutter, dust or clean it as necessary so you don't need to go back to it later.
Shift Your Mindset to Make the Changes Last
Once you’ve gone through the process, the last thing you want is to find yourself with a cluttered house again in six months. The best way to avoid this is to change your mindset about possessions. Rather than feeding into consumerism and the cycle of disposable products with unsustainable environmental impacts, focus on what will truly enrich your life in retirement.
Whether it’s nurturing relationships with loved ones or building connections by volunteering, there’s a wide world of happiness to find in retirement. If buying something supports these goals, great! But don’t let tangible goods be a goal in and of themselves.
Here are some good questions to ask yourself before deciding to bring something new home:
- Will this improve or enhance my life?
- Am I actually going to use this, or will it end up sitting in a corner?
- If I do need to get rid of it, can I donate it or will it just end up in a landfill?
- Will I get enough joy or value out of this to justify the cost and the space it takes up?
With these tips in mind, you can keep your house uncluttered and enjoy the peace and comfort that a clean and orderly space provides.
Looking for tips to make spring cleaning your year-round mindset? Download our Declutter Checklist today and get on the path to a more organized and peaceful home.
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