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Want less stress? Declutter your life

By Sandi Schwartz

Is all that “stuff” surrounding you stressing you out? The sheer existence of clutter can make us feel anxious, helpless, overwhelmed, embarrassed, ashamed and/or guilty. According to a study by UCLA’s Center on Everyday Lives and Families, the amount of stress family members experience at home is directly proportional to the amount of stuff they accumulate.

We may not even recognize that clutter is the source of our stress, especially if it’s been part of our environment for a while. With a few steps, you can identify why the mess is causing you stress and what to do about it.


Clutter causes stress because it:

  • Overstimulates our mind and overloads our senses
  • Distracts us
  • Constantly signals our brain that we have more work to do
  • Makes it very hard for us to relax both physically and mentally
  • Creates feelings of guilt and embarrassment when guests come over and see our disorganization.
  • Frustrates us when we have trouble finding what we need
  • Stunts creativity and productivity because our brain is overwhelmed


The stuff taking over your closets, drawers and counters starts to create negative energy throughout your home. Those piles exude chaos, disorder and confusion.

When we clean up, our stress starts to dissipate, and we feel more positive energy to help us live a happier, healthier life.

According to Joyce Marter, licensed clinical professional counselor and founder of Urban Balance, “Our environment is a direct reflection of our internal mental health and vice versa. So, if our home is disorganized, our minds may feel scattered as well. Home organization promotes serenity and wellness in your life.” She suggests purging unnecessary items from our home so that we can live more efficiently. When we have less clutter to manage, we save time and are less stressed.


Simplify your environment by clearing out items that you no longer need or that no longer bring you joy and clean up the areas where it tends to get messy and disorganized.

Here are some organizing tips:

  • Set a schedule: By adding decluttering to your calendar, you will prevent it from piling up. Create a routine, like the first Sunday of every month or before certain holidays. The end of summer before school starts and during spring break are perfect times to purge.
  • Make it fun. Recruit the whole family, put on some music and bring the snacks. Start a contest to see who can organize their room the best or collect the most items for charity.
  • Stop the junk at the door. When you come home from an event with a handful of giveaways, get rid of the junk immediately. This also is a great way to handle mail; recycle unwanted mail before it ends up on your desk or countertop.
  • Return everything to its place. Save yourself cleanup time by putting things back where you found them as soon as you are done using them.
  • Invest in organizational products. Keep it simple — file folders for important papers, a to-do basket for items that need to be tackled right away, baskets or containers to store loose photographs, storage bins for out-of-season clothing, etc.

Finally, follow this popular sorting method that most experts suggest:

  1. Keep items that you continue to need and use, which bring joy to your life.
  2. Sell items that you want to unload online or at a yard sale.
  3. Donate items to individuals who could use them or to a local charity.
  4. Trash unwanted or unused items that are too damaged to be donated or sold. Recycle if possible.
  5. Store items that you can’t decide what to do with. Box them up, and put a date on them. Store them out of the way, and revisit in six months.

Sandi Schwartz is a multi-award-winning environmental author and freelance journalist. Connect with her at or

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