5 Negative Health Effects of Clutter (+ 5 Ways to Responsibly Declutter!)
Garage Sale day in my hometown might not sound like a big deal, but it’s a BIG day. People from all over come to find treasures in other people’s trash.
Garage sales are a great way to declutter and avoid sending perfectly good items to landfill! What’s wrong with sending items to landfill? Here’s the short answer: in a landfill, trash decomposes anaerobically (aka without oxygen) releasing methane gas. Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas (the type of gas most responsible for global climate change) and it’s 25 times more potent and harmful than carbon dioxide. A low waste lifestyle aims to send as few items to landfill as possible.
As important as it is to avoid sending items to landfill, I can’t neglect to mention that clutter negatively effects our health! The less clutter we have in our lives, the more we can thrive, physically and emotionally.
Recent studies have looked into the “clutter effect” and found that living with a lot of clutter:
Makes you feel like your home is your enemy when it should be a peaceful environment.
Makes you eat unhealthier: A study in 2017 found that people eat more cookies and snacks in a chaotic environment. Another study out of Cornell University found that a disorganized kitchen placed people in a low self-control mindset and they ate twice as many cookies than in a clean kitchen. Bottom line: you reach for sweets more in a cluttered environment when feeling out of control.
Leads to poorer mental health; a comfortable environment is essential to positive “mental hygiene.”
Less efficient visual processing, meaning that it’s harder to read others’ emotions when surrounded by clutter.
Less efficient thinking. “Mental clutter” is a state of mind in which you can't inhibit irrelevant information. This has been shown to contribute to age-related memory loss.
Marie Kondo is onto something!
On Garage Sale Day, my parents’ best friends brought items over to sell. At the end of the long day, my mom’s best friend said something that really stuck with me:
“For the amount of work we put in- 4 days of packing stuff up, bringing it over, setting up, spending the whole day selling- I must say, it’s so much easier to just throw it all out.”
Point taken. This sums up why we throw perfectly good things out, things that could find use in other’s homes…because it’s SO MUCH easier to do so. It takes time and effort to find new homes for our stuff; time and effort we’d rather spend elsewhere.
HOWEVER, just because something takes time and effort doesn’t mean that we should automatically avoid it! I want us all to reap the benefits of clutter-free lives while also doing our best to avoid sending more to landfill.
Here are 5 ways to make cleaning out your stuff more convenient:
Send clothes to ThredUp, the largest online consignment and thrift store. It’s a pretty seamless process- you sign up for a free account, download a free shipping label (or request them to send you a bag), fill a box with clean clothes and send it back. When the clothes sell, you earn money!
Send higher end clothes and luxury items to Linda’s Closet. The process is almost identical to Thred Up!
Find a Salvation Army, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Goodwill nearby. Often they accept anything from furniture to clothes to household items and you can usually arrange a pick up.
Have an item swap party with your friends. Traditionally, this is done with clothes, but can really work with anything. Have everyone come with one item and then trade!
MOST IMPORTANTLY, RE-EVALUATE YOUR PURCHASING HABITS. The more you have, the easier it is to accumulate. Conversely, the less you have, the harder it is to add because you’re so satisfied with your efficient collection! To tame my purchasing habits, I’ve put a 30 day hold on all my clothing purchases. If I want something, I wait at least 30 days before purchasing. More often then not, I realize at the end of the 30 days that I really don’t need it! This saves money and resources!
A healthy, low waste life is all about setting ourselves up to THRIVE. Responsibly decluttering is a great way to elevate your environments. Here’s to HIGH VIBE spaces.