Have you ever realized that your space – whether it be your bedroom, home, or office – was so cluttered that you felt physical and emotional stress? Between knick-knacks shoved into your junk drawer, disorganized stacks of paper on your desk, or unworn clothing bursting from your closet, most of us have experienced the difficulty of letting go of our clutter. What many people don’t realize is that having untidy spaces with jumbles of clutter can affect your mental health, leaving you feeling stressed, distracted, and overwhelmed. Researchers at UCLA’s Center on Everyday Lives and Families has even determined that there is a link between clutter and cortisol (the primary stress hormone), and that this correlation is most profound in women. Although it may be easy to identify the clutter in your home, it can be quite difficult to let go, especially if you don’t know where to begin.
I am currently in the middle of a cross-country move, which has encouraged me to declutter my space and prioritize which belongings to bring with me. When I first began packing, I felt overwhelmed by the volume of miscellaneous things that were stuffed into bins and drawers, and I wanted to make room for everything. How could I get rid of my freshman year dorm key or my ill-fitting t-shirt from a past beach trip with friends! I was attributing sentimental worth to items that were only saturating my space and adding no real value to my life. Once I realized that these items were causing more stress than contentment, I was able to start letting go and making space for the belongings that are truly important to me. While sorting and organizing, I kept Marie Kondo’s mantra in mind: “The best way to choose what to keep and what to throw away is to take each item in one’s hand and ask, ‘Does this spark joy?’ If it does, keep it. If not, dispose of it.” As my pile of goods for donation grew, I felt less stress and more gratitude. I could finally take time to treasure the items that had gotten lost in the clutter, like my favorite photo of my sister that had been concealed under a pile of used notebooks, and my glass jewelry dish that was a gift from my mother. I also recognized that the items sitting idly in my home were in great condition, so rather than sitting around unused, they could be cherished by another person. Each aspect of decluttering helped to free both my space and my mind, and contributed greatly to the growth of a healthier mindset.
As we begin the month of May, I would like to encourage you to begin a journey of “spring cleaning” and decluttering any spaces that make you feel stressed and overwhelmed. My best advice is to start small – focus on one drawer, one shelf, or one box, and determine which of your items spark joy. If it is something that is needed, frequently used, or a source of happiness, keep it and designate it to a specific space. Otherwise, find gratitude in knowing that you can let it go, and that someone else may find value and use in it.
If you are located in the Triangle, here is a list of local businesses where you can donate or sell your used items:
- Rumors Chapel Hill
- Clothes Mentor
- CommunityWorx Thrift Shop
- ReStore Durham
- Trosa Thrift Store and Donation Center