Clutter – Is this stressing you out?

One of the perks so to speak of living in a prosperous country is the abundance of everything. There is so much stuff you can accumulate. Clothes, dishes, paintings, music, furniture on and on. At some point all this stuff can become clutter. First let’s establish what clutter is. Clutter is a crowded or confused mass or collection 

The older we get the more life we have lived and the more we have accumulated. Spiritually, knowledge and yes possessions. You picked up a shell at a beach on your vacation you kept it, it’s in your house somewhere, and the vacation was 8 years ago….  I think you get my point. As individuals with anxiety for us we should from time to time take an accounting of what we own and categorize it into needs and wants.

Now at no point am I going to tell you what you should need and what you should want that’s completely up to the individual. That said, as you read this take a look around your surroundings. How many singular items can you count? Let’s assume you are at a PC, so each speaker, keyboard, and chair, monitor, on and on. Now count the wires, add it to the total. Did you count the desk or table the pc was on? The point of the exercise is, is to reveal to you just how much stuff we all really have.

This look like your desk?

Of course this entire concept is predicated on degrees. I mean if you are a single person and have 30 drinking glasses I would say that is excessive. A family of 6 is 30 excessive? Maybe not. Clutter takes up visual space and in a lot of cases emotional space as well. We have ascribed a memory or feeling to these items, like our shell we got from the beach 8 years ago. This isn’t meant to minimalize or trivialize any of that.

More important it’s meant to reveal to you that by accumulating more stuff, you create the possibility of obtaining clutter. Clutter then becomes a distraction to the anxious mind as you have more and more tangible items to concentrate on that you have assigned an intangible benefit too. Sure some mementos are irreplaceable and you can’t disassociate the emotion from them. But sometimes, more stuff is a mask to a larger issue. Sometimes more stuff is a distraction so you don’t have to let go of past memories.

There is a simple exercise you can employ should you think clutter is impacting your life negatively. Pack as if you were going to move. That’s right, pack up your stuff into boxes, the whole 9 yards do the exercise. Label the boxes, etc. Then let them sit in the rooms in which you packed them in and give it 2-4 weeks. At the end of the time period see how many things you had to pull out of the box. I’m betting you find it’s less than 50% of the stuff you own.

Is that other 50% clutter? Could be, you certainly didn’t need it for the last 2-4 weeks did you?

Interested in more posts on anxiety and Clutter? Check out my post here.

Clutter – Is this stressing you out?

One of the perks so to speak of living in a prosperous country is the abundance of everything. There is so much stuff you can accumulate. Clothes, dishes, paintings, music, furniture on and on. At some point all this stuff can become clutter. First let’s establish what clutter is. Clutter is a crowded or confused mass or collection 

The older we get the more life we have lived and the more we have accumulated. Spiritually, knowledge and yes possessions. You picked up a shell at a beach on your vacation you kept it, it’s in your house somewhere, and the vacation was 8 years ago….  I think you get my point. As individuals with anxiety for us we should from time to time take an accounting of what we own and categorize it into needs and wants.

Now at no point am I going to tell you what you should need and what you should want that’s completely up to the individual. That said, as you read this take a look around your surroundings. How many singular items can you count? Let’s assume you are at a PC, so each speaker, keyboard, and chair, monitor, on and on. Now count the wires, add it to the total. Did you count the desk or table the pc was on? The point of the exercise is, is to reveal to you just how much stuff we all really have.

This look like your desk?

Of course this entire concept is predicated on degrees. I mean if you are a single person and have 30 drinking glasses I would say that is excessive. A family of 6 is 30 excessive? Maybe not. Clutter takes up visual space and in a lot of cases emotional space as well. We have ascribed a memory or feeling to these items, like our shell we got from the beach 8 years ago. This isn’t meant to minimalize or trivialize any of that.

More important it’s meant to reveal to you that by accumulating more stuff, you create the possibility of obtaining clutter. Clutter then becomes a distraction to the anxious mind as you have more and more tangible items to concentrate on that you have assigned an intangible benefit too. Sure some mementos are irreplaceable and you can’t disassociate the emotion from them. But sometimes, more stuff is a mask to a larger issue. Sometimes more stuff is a distraction so you don’t have to let go of past memories.

There is a simple exercise you can employ should you think clutter is impacting your life negatively. Pack as if you were going to move. That’s right, pack up your stuff into boxes, the whole 9 yards do the exercise. Label the boxes, etc. Then let them sit in the rooms in which you packed them in and give it 2-4 weeks. At the end of the time period see how many things you had to pull out of the box. I’m betting you find it’s less than 50% of the stuff you own.

Is that other 50% clutter? Could be, you certainly didn’t need it for the last 2-4 weeks did you?

Interested in more posts on anxiety and Clutter? Check out my post here.

stressed-out-woman

Maybe it’s the clutter?

I always thought that was a great word “clutter” I don’t know why I just did. What if though clutter is contributing to your increased anxiety? I found a good article here That talks about how clutter can trigger stress and anxiety.

From the article: “Psychologist Sherrie Bourg Carter says: “Clutter can play a significant role in how we feel about our homes, our workplaces, and ourselves. Messy homes and workspaces leave us feeling anxious, helpless, and overwhelmed. Yet, rarely is clutter recognized as a significant source of stress in our lives.” 

Its so true isn’t it? We aren’t talking about hoarders, that is a much deeper psychological issue but what I am talking about is general clutter in your “spaces”. As an example, before I leave my office every night I try and put things away and or make it look as neat as possible.

Prior to doing this when I would come in in the morning, I would feel overwhelmed and not know where to begin. I still feel this way at home, in my car etc. and no I am not a neat freak. I think what happens to many of us, at least me anyway, is all this clutter creates sensory stimulus that requires us to account for multiple things at one time.

Piles of clothes, kids’ toys, food wrappers in cars, books, make up kits on and on. We have more stuff now then most of our ancestors and it requires mental effort to categorize and prioritize each one. This can be overwhelming, and anxiety can take over and you collapse back into your safe space of hiding out.

I found one technique that has helped me over the years. I try and designate 5 minutes a day to “decluttering”. Before leaving work, I clean up my desk, before going to bed I clean up the spaces I uses. As best I can of course, I’m not bring out a mop and pail, but I am picking things up off the floor.

This is a little thing that happens to a lot of us with anxiety. Clutter can pile up fast and can over stimulate you, particularly on bad days. Pick up, clean up, straighten up a little bit everyday and try and rid yourself of yet another trigger.

Clutter can lead to Anxiety

Are you a pack rat? Do you have clothes in your house that you haven’t worn in over 5 years? Have you accumulated items in your life that you can’t remember where they came from? Clutter can lead to anxiety. A lot of “stuff” leads to over stimulation and over stimulation creates the conditions by which your brain has to many inputs. You being to have intrusive thoughts, you begin to think about the items, when the items are around…

I found a good article here about this issue:

From the article: “On a practical level, “the disorganization and chaos that clutter creates can make it more difficult to accomplish daily life tasks,” says Catherine Roster, Ph.D., a professor at the University of New Mexico’s Anderson School of Management, and co-author of a 2016 study on the impact of our messy ways. What’s more, “clutter can increase negative emotions, such as feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, or even embarrassed.” It can even induce a spike in cortisol, a stress hormone.”

There it is again our old friend cortisol. Clutter or “stuff” can be anything really. Your clutter might be different than mine, as an example someone you know may have 3-4 cars in their driveway they just “like to fix them” or you may know someone who has a house full of nick knacks. In the extreme you have hoarders who accumulates so much clutter that it literally takes over their living space. Ideally this doesn’t affect you.

Many people do not have this issue, but if you find yourself “collecting” things it might be time to take a hard look at your possessions. This isn’t minimalist post, you are entitled to have whatever you want if you aren’t harming other people. That said, when the season change it’s a great time to look at what you have. I will give you an example I have sports gear in my house. Basketballs, golf clubs, etc.

I have to much and it takes up real-estate in my house that could be used for something else or nothing at all. I don’t suffer from this particular anxiety but ideally, I should go through those items and give away the ones I don’t use any more. Removing items from your living space you no longer use (like old clothes) can reduce your stress from clutter but also increase your giving spirit which is a good thing.

Think about it, how many of the things that you have do you actually use? Do you even know how many possessions you have?