Clutter is more than just a nuisance. It’s a problem with a whole host of consequences. Some even say it ruins your life. Your home, your work, and your relationships all suffer when your space is overrun with stuff.
But that’s not all.
The Consequences of Clutter
Your health and wellness is at stake, too. Dust, germs, and allergens love to hide amidst too much stuff, triggering allergies and illness. It also increases the risks of fires and falls, and makes you less likely to exercise and more likely to overeat. And that’s just how it affects you physically.
Clutter also has an overwhelmingly negative effect on your mental health. Sure, clutter has been proven to increase your creativity. But the risk to your emotional well-being is much greater than the reward. For one thing, the amount of stuff you have piled up around you has a direct impact on your stress and cortisol levels. Clutter can also lead to feelings of shame or inadequacy, which can lead to depression, anxiety, and isolation. Finally, a mess is a distraction that causes us to lose focus, reduces our brain processing power, and impacts our behavior.
Decluttering and Addiction Recovery
For people in addiction recovery, the impacts of clutter can be even more severe. That’s because increased stress, feelings of depression, and inability to focus can all wreak havoc on an otherwise well-laid recovery plan. In some cases, these negative feelings may even lead to relapse.
Decluttering, on the other hand, has the exact opposite effect. By reducing the amount of stuff you own and cleaning up your physical space, you almost literally free up space in your brain as well. Your stress levels decrease. Your hormones level out. You can focus on the things that matter, like your job, your relationships, and your recovery.
In other words, an addict in recovery can always benefit from a clean start. Discarding old possessions and creating a space that feels fresh and new can help a person in recovery discard old habits and create a new life for himself or herself.
Getting Rid of Stuff is Hard
With all the benefits decluttering has to offer, why do so many of us still have so much stuff? Actually, there are lots of reasons we can’t seem to part with it. For one, we spend a lot of money acquiring things. We view our clothes, shoes, electronics, furniture, musical instruments, books, and artwork as investments. Even if we don’t use the item anymore, it can be hard let it go.
Of course, that’s not the only excuse for not embracing minimalism. We are also hesitant to cut ties with items that have sentimental value or that we think may be useful in the future. And, in some cases, we simply think we have to keep stuff. So, we hoard our children’s artwork. We rent storage units to house our deceased relative’s collection of knick knacks. We build bigger houses with more storage closets, garages, and basements, and we keep going until we’ve filled all those spaces, too.
But there is hope.
How to Get Started
First things first: give yourself permission to get rid of anything and everything that you don’t use or that doesn’t bring you joy. That includes gifts, mementos, souvenirs, and yes, even your kid’s artwork. Remember that the negative consequences of clutter are way worse than the guilt you feel for wanting to get rid of it.
Then, pick a strategy. There are endless decluttering methods, from getting rid of big items first to tackling one closet, bookshelf, or drawer at a time. Some minimalist experts simply advise getting rid of one item on the first day, two on the second, three on the third, and so on until you’re clutter free. The key is to pick a method, and commit to it.
Finally, cut yourself some slack. Decluttering isn’t just difficult because of the physical labor. It’s emotionally exhausting, too. If you feel overwhelmed, take a short break. If you run into memories, paraphernalia, or other items from your past life, be sure to reach out for support. Phone a friend, or leave the space for a while to decompress. After all, the whole goal of this process is to enhance and support your recovery process.