Clutter can significantly impact our mental health, making us feel anxious, helpless, and overwhelmed, as psychology suggests. However, clutter is often overlooked as a source of stress in our homes and workplaces.

To get started, choose a place and divide items into three piles: keep, donate or sell, and discard – like expired products. You might come across things that can be repurposed, but save that DIY for another weekend.

Decluttering is not just about throwing things away; it’s about finding ways to organise everything you want to keep. As you move from one room to the next, think about useful things that bring you joy, and trigger happy memories.

If you struggle to decide which items to keep or let go of, ask yourself whether they bring you joy or happy memories. If the answer is no, it’s time to bid them farewell. However, if the answer is yes, and you need assistance in moving them from one place to another, PICK&MOVE is here to help you with the A to B of decluttering.

Why does mess lead to so much stress? Here are eight reasons:

1. Clutter overwhelms our senses with excessive stimuli, such as visual, olfactory and tactile stimuli, causing our senses to work overtime on stimuli that aren’t necessary or important.

2. Clutter distracts us by distracting us from what we should focus on.

3. Clutter makes it more difficult to relax, both physically and mentally.

4. Clutter constantly signals our brains that our work is never done.

5. Clutter makes us anxious because we’re never sure what it will take to get to the bottom of the pile.

6. Clutter creates feelings of guilt (“I should be more organized”) and embarrassment, especially when others unexpectedly visit our homes or workspaces.

7. Clutter inhibits creativity and productivity by invading the open spaces that allow most people to think, brainstorm, and problem-solve.

8. Clutter frustrates us by preventing us from locating what we need quickly (e.g. files and paperwork lost in the “pile” or keys swallowed up by the clutter).

Fortunately, clutter is one of the easiest stressors to fix, unlike other commonly recognized sources of stress, such as jobs and relationships. Here are some ideas:

1/ Decluttering can be daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. You can make it a family activity by involving everyone in the process. Start with a room everyone uses and assign each person a section to handle. For those who are tackling the job alone, it’s best to start with one area at a time, complete the decluttering process for that area, and then move on to the next. This will give you a sense of accomplishment as you see your successes gradually.

2/ To make finding frequently used items and supplies easier, you can create designated spaces for them. However, it’s best to make these spaces “closed”, such as drawers and cabinets. Storing things on open shelves or on top of your desk can create visual stimuli that cause stress and reduce the amount of open space you see.

3/ If you don’t use it, don’t want it, or don’t need it, it’s best to get rid of it. You can toss, recycle, or donate it, but don’t keep it. If it’s something you use rarely, store it (or if it’s your office, in a high or low place) to leave more accessible space for things you use more often. To avoid keeping unnecessary items, put a date on the box. If you haven’t opened the box in a year, whatever is inside is probably unnecessary.

4/ After using something, immediately put it back in its designated space. It may sound simple, but it takes practice and commitment to make it a habit.

5/ Create a pending folder to centralize and easily locate pending projects. A pending folder helps you clear off your workspace while providing a readily accessible folder.

6/ To avoid letting papers pile up, you should go through them as soon as you can, tossing what you don’t need and storing what is necessary in its proper place. Be mindful of what you bring into your spaces and what others leave behind.

7/ Before you leave your primary workspace, clean it up. Although it’s normal to pull things out while working, cleaning your workspace before you leave gives you a sense of closure and makes you feel good when you return to a nice, clean space.

8/ Make decluttering fun! As you clean things out, put on some of your favourite tunes. Upbeat music can help you enjoy the task and make the time pass faster. You’ll probably work faster than you would without music.

Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that clutter doesn’t only apply to our physical environment. Mental clutter can be just as stressful, if not more stressful, than physical clutter. Although there is an entire article (at least) of suggestions I could offer for mental de-cluttering, one of the most basic and useful tips I can offer on mental de-cluttering is to focus on one project at a time without distractions such as cell phones, emails, and other electronic gadgets.

You’ll be amazed at how much more you’ll accomplish when focusing on a project without allowing anything else to get in the way. While I recognize that’s hard to accomplish today, it is doable—and I think you’ll agree, well worth the effort once you see how much you get done and how great you feel about it once the task is done.