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The Psychology Behind Decluttering

Facing the formidable creature that was my junk-filled desk cabinet, I remembered Marie Kondo’s book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” that I, ironically, never got to reading due to its stowed-away state somewhere deep in my garage. I am the type of person to experience two cleaning moods: my this-thing-is-useless-I’m-driving-to-Goodwill-to-donate-it mood and, the more sentimental but-this-brings-back-so-many-memories mood. The latter is the infamous culprit behind the universal problem of holding onto possessions for longer than needed. As Americans, we spend an average of 1.2 trillion dollars, annually, on nonessential goods and services which we tend to forget or discard in a short while after purchase. That amount of money has world-altering potential: just imagine how many of our national and global problems would be eradicated if we invested it in a meaningful way! I don’t think I can say the same is true for my bottomless Bath & Body Works collection (I mean, how many scented lotions does one need?)

 

It’s safe to say that decluttering involves both a physical and mental transformation. Psychological findings prove that getting rid of your miscellany can serve as emotional therapy, and for no cost. Thrilled by the potential of spiritual growth, I took an in-depth look at the life-changing effects that happen when you commit to a little cleaning session here and there.

 

  1. Instant Productivity Boost

It’s hard to think that a jumbled desk space can metamorphose into physical discomfort and laziness, but when one sits down to complete a certain task, objects irrelevant to that task can provide an unpleasant distraction. To optimize productivity, your work area needs to contain the bare essentials–nothing less, nothing more. Have a set binder or organizer where you place documents or other papers in need of completion to avoid unneeded stress from frantically searching for a missing page. Studies have also shown that making a brain-map layout of your to-do list using sticky notes can add a visual component to organization and act as a stimuli to promote efficiency.

 

2)   Wardrobe Functionality

An often overlooked part of organization is the wardrobe. Clothes are important symbols of the wearer’s preferences and personality, but can reside in that shifting gray area between purely want and purely need. It’s often enthralling to treat yourself to a new article of clothing every now and then, just for the sake of it. Essentiality gets shifted to the background as impulse leads the way. According to Affluenza, shopping malls outnumber high schools in America, yet the average American manages to throw away 65 pounds of clothing a year. Decluttering is great, but why prioritize shopping to the point of overshadowing education, just to dump your purchases in a year or two? A minimalist wardrobe can help combat this threatening shopping epidemic. Even the most refined fashionista only requires the bare basics of a few bottoms, tops, pairs of shoes, and a couple of more fancy clothing items. I can personally attest to the heart-tugging sadness that arises from saying goodbye to your once favorite dress, that signature piece of clothing that used to define your whole existence. Yet, you should ask yourself: “Will I go out wearing this tomorrow?” Any sort of reservations are your cue to get your boxes out and start a donation drive.

 

3)   Positivity Galore

Once you’ve methodically emptied out all the junk from the various nooks and crannies in your living space, take the moment to reflect on your accomplishment. A cleaner house leads to a freer mind, as you can enjoy your space without its overbearing existence, or nonexistence at that. If you don’t trust me, then surely you’ll believe the ancient Chinese tradition of Feng Shui, which preaches the power of open spaces in promoting the flow of positive energy and inspiring newfound health, inspiration, and balance in your life. Not only will you see and feel the physical manifestation of your cleaning efforts, but also experience fulfillment that goes above and beyond the superficial happiness that underlies consumerism.

 

Once you’ve decided to implement the art of decluttering in your life, the rest will come easy as you open up to the magnificent possibilities of finding greater purpose in the absence of excess.

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