This time of year, you’re supposed to feel grateful for the roof over your head, for the fact that you have one. But what if you’re not feeling very thankful right now due to the chaos of stuff barely contained beneath that roof? That most likely means one thing — you’re suffering from a serious case of clutter.
Having clutter in your home is like being in a bad relationship. But there comes a time when you realize you’ve had enough, that it’s time to stand up for yourself and move on. Easier said than done, of course, especially when you see that sweet, familiar face of your stuff at every turn.
In 2012, researchers at UCLA concluded a multiyear study that showed clutter to be a cause of elevated stress and even a trigger for depression. In fact, the study found that the damage done by living in a cluttered home is much more than just a messy appearance — turns out that clutter is actually a triple threat to your health, causing physical, emotional, and mental harm.
So we know clutter is a major problem that only grows worse over time. But how do you break up with clutter and break it down?
Try these six steps to declutter and fall back in love with your house.
Get an outside perspective
Invite someone over who has never been to your house — a friend who’s never had time to swing by, or maybe your highly opinionated relative. Stand beside them as they survey the scene of the clutter crime and ask them to tell you what part of the house is most disconcerting. Or just notice what makes them run screaming from your house. Start the process there.
Clean for a cause
As you gaze up at the musty mountaintops of old clothes and shoes you’ve collected and hoarded, think about how many needy people you can help by donating your wardrobe of yesteryear. Take your excess to Goodwill or the Salvation Army. Leave it at a clothing donations dropbox in your neighborhood. For the truly lazy, hand it over to a friend who donates regularly.
Learn to let go
Still have those socks you wore when you broke the school record in pole vaulting? What about the old cast from when your kid broke his arm two years ago? Trash it! Not everything can or should be donated.
Don’t leave room for maybes
Make only three piles of stuff: a trash pile, a donations pile, and a keep/reuse pile (make sure this is your smallest pile).
Rid your home of health hazards
Studies show that Americans spend up to 90 percent of their day indoors, and half of that is at home. Those moldy and dusty piles of stuff will only continue to lower the air quality in your home and can cause or aggravate illnesses and allergies.
Reclaim your space
If you need even more motivation to cut down and throw out, create a new use for one of the cluttered spaces. The more excited you are about turning that corner of mangled lawn furniture into a mini bar, the more likely you are to get decluttering.
People love to say that opposites attract, but in the case of clutter, like attracts like — the clutter only continues to grow as you become more comfortable with, or even desensitized to, the explosion of stuff surrounding you. It won’t be quick and painless to end the reign of clutter.
But there’s never a good time to say it’s over. And trust me, you’ll be very thankful you did.