Clear the Clutter to Reduce Stress

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De-clutter your home and your mind. Here, some basic tips to simplify your life and reduce stress.

A good, thorough ‘clearing-out’ produces more than better hygiene and organization: Less mess also means less stress.

Clutter is more than just an irritation. Being surrounded by more things than we can manage sends a visual message that life is out of control, which can lead to the familiar vicious circle where disorder brings about procrastination, which brings about even more disorder … and so on.

Even worse, when you’re feeling stressed, cortisol (the stress hormone) can short-circuit the brain, causing forgetfulness, exhaustion and even meltdowns.

Click through for some tips from the Mayo Clinic to simplify your life and reduce stress.

De-clutter to de-stress

Conquer clutter at home
Just as Rome wasn’t built in a day, most people find it easier to tackle one project (or battle) at a time. Instead of looking for a day or (alas) a weekend when you can get the entire house or apartment organized, start with the more manageable goal of targeting a single area, such as a closet or the junk drawer in the kitchen.

Be prepared to take a hard look at your possessions — and if (in the words of William Morris) you find an item neither useful nor beautiful, get rid of it. Items in good condition can be passed on to friends or family, given away to charity, or in some cases, put up for sale. (Read about selling on consignment and how to Turn clutter into cash.)

Absolutely can’t part with some items? Store them in a box and label it with an expiration date. And if the box remains unopened after that date, simply donate or trash the box — without opening it. (For more de-cluttering tips, see Lose the clutter.)

Of course, keeping your personal files and financial records current are also important for reducing the chaos and stress of everyday life. (For tips on getting your financial house in order, see 8 steps to get financially organized.)

Mind the mental mess
Just as our homes and work spaces get cluttered, so do our brains. For years, multitasking was touted as a way to become super-efficient, but recent research suggests otherwise. In fact, studies show that people who multitask are less able to concentrate and are more easily distracted than people who do not juggle mental tasks.

One possible explanation is that multitasking prevents you from getting into a mental zone or flow — a state of being completely absorbed in an activity. Experts say that working in this manner — focusing on one task at a time — leads to less conflicts and contradictions and better productivity, engagement and fulfillment. (For more on this, see De-clutter your brain.)

Get unplugged
We need them for our work and our personal lives, but TVs, radios, smart phones, laptops, and video games can contribute to another form of mental overload. Being constantly flooded with stimuli — even if it’s entertaining — can cause stress. Now and then it’s good to unplug — or at the very least, minimize audiovisual clutter by, say, switching off the TV while you’re talking on your cell phone. And if you’re feeling especially stressed, you may want to consider taking a brief break from the news. (Did you know that laughter is a great de-stressor? See Laughter is the best medicine and Bring more laughter into your life.)

Clear your calendar
Packing too many activities into your day is yet another form of clutter. Life seems to get increasingly busy, and it’s all too easy to become overwhelmed with professional and social obligations. Learn to say yes only to events that are truly important or that you care about. (Have a hard time saying no? See The art of no.)

The bottom line: If your personal space is cluttered, it’s not a haven from stress, but a big stressor in itself.

Sources: The Mayo Clinic;