Would you be surprised if I told you that cleaning your house can count as a form of detoxification?
Just like the environmental toxins we talked about yesterday, clutter is a very real threat to our health – albeit in different ways. It’s no secret that Americans’ problem with “stuff” has been escalating. The self storage industry “has been the fastest growing segment of the commercial real estate industry over the last 40 years” and “generated $27.2 Billion” in revenue in 2014 alone! (source)
While television shows like Hoarders may offer reassurance that our own personal stuff problems aren’t nearly as bad as they could be, most of us are regrettably familiar with the stress and chaos that comes from a cluttered life. We’ve stood in front of overstuffed closets lamenting that we have nothing to wear. We’ve pawed through an entire cabinet of tupperware, somehow unable to find a single matching lid and container (or to get the mess back in the cabinet when we give up!). We’ve stared at the piles of junk that we swear magically proliferate on their own while our backs are turned.
Amidst the physical stress of messy surroundings, many of us have also had the vague and uncomfortable suspicion that the taxing nature of clutter creeps into our heads as well. Marie Kondo does an excellent job of unpacking the mental and emotional aspects of clutter in her popular book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. (Note: It’s a slim book and fast read, but very worth while, whether clutter tends to be a battle for you or not!)
With that in mind, let’s take a quick look at why decluttering can be an important form of detox:
1. Clutter causes stress… and lots of it. Ever stepped on a Lego when you were rushing to get out of the house on time? I rest my case. Seriously, though, “[s]tudies show the average person wastes 4.3 hours per week searching for papers” – and that’s just papers! (source) Now add in the time lost hunting down missing shoes, the bill you know is (over)due, or that stupid receipt when you need to return something. Think how much you could do in those 5+ hours every week if you could easily lay your hands on what you wanted, when you wanted it!
2. Decluttering can be a gateway to addressing issues that are less tangible, but no less weighty. Objects acquire their own gravitas and guilt by association; difficulty letting go of something we clearly no longer want/use often reflects a failure to come to terms with the situation or relationship we associate with the “thing” in question. The process of getting rid of those items (and getting the help needed to do so, when necessary) can be an essential step in personal catharsis. If you think freeing up cellular energy empowers positive bodily change, wait until you see what happens when you release mental and emotional energy to fuel positive lifestyle change!
3. Our surroundings directly impact our mentality. Both research and anecdotal evidence agree that a large portion of the population functions at a higher level in clean, organized environments. Have you ever heard the saying “a friend is someone who knows the song of your heart and can sing it back to you when you’ve forgotten”? In many ways, the same idea applies to our homes (and offices); our spaces sing the song of our lives at a subconscious level. When clean and orderly, their melody is soothing and encouraging. When they’re chaotic and messy, the song gets discordant and depressing. Imagine the impact on your physical, mental and emotional health if you spent your days in surroundings that constantly reflect back to you your potential and best self!
4. Decluttering reveals other problem areas. It’s gross, but true: clutter hides a lot. From physically toxic messes and mold to emotional land mines like bad habits and precarious relationships, clutter can mask serious (and usually escalating) hazards. Left unattended, they bigger, nastier, more toxic, and harder to fix. Revealed to the light of our attention, they can be safely and effectively dealt without before they do terrible damage.
There are all kinds of approaches, systems, and methods for decluttering your home and your life. While I recommend checking out Marie Kondo’s book, there are tons of free resources on line to help you get started using whatever method works best for you. I’d love to hear your favorite approach to decluttering and your experiences with detoxing through decluttering!