can reduced stress lead to less clutter?

I love how seeing clean, clear lines around my home evokes in me a feeling of relaxation. However, how does someone find the time and energy to declutter to achieve this experience?

A photo of Jo, arms raised with hands on the back of her head in a relaxed pose, facing her front window that is filled with green leaves dotted with sunshine.
I am taking a break by stepping out of the office to
enjoy the beautiful summer view.

As a coach, I work with many creative and community builders who work in a home office. Many are also freelancers who travel from place to place and depend on their home space to provide a stable refuge. The topic of reducing clutter and getting organized comes up as a way to increase productivity and to reduce stress. Through our exploration, my clients quickly find out that it’s a bit more complicated then just throwing things out and donning the rubber gloves to give their place a good clean!

How does stress intersect with decluttering?

My posts in the past have detailed ways to be more efficient to assist with reducing stress but my commentary hints at my struggle with the concept of just doing too much, period. Why are we driven to accomplish so many things? Why do we have to function at peak efficiency? Why can’t we slow down, do less and as you all know I love to do – say no!

Well, as recent research demonstrates, we know that prolonged stress can diminish our performance (likely from a breakdown in cognitive ability) and possibly lead to burnout and physical ailments. If reduction of stress-inducing activities isn’t possible at the moment, then at least take the time to shut down periodically. And I mean ‘turn off’! I benefit from No Gadget Nights and I try mindful meditation. Read more about how sometimes “it’s healthy to shirk your responsibilities” by Vidya Kauri (Globe and Mail) Point being, with low brain and emotional strength from negative stress, how can we find the energy to clean up at the end of the day?

This leads me to the collection and maintaining of ‘stuff’. I believe mental clutter leads to tangible clutter. Certainly explore these tangible excuses for clutter in this post from ‘Real Simple’ that do involve feelings of guilt and responsibility but I would like to go deeper. When life is chaotic, you may just want to ‘crash’ somewhere that is comfortable. Your stuff, no matter how much there is, is yours and that can be very comforting. When working with a coach, you may discover other ways that clutter ‘serves you’, reasons that may be disquieting at first to look at.

Dealing with the mental to get to the physical.

Essentially, clients have revealed that they are hiding behind their things. Working in a cluttered environment not only tangibly inhibits creativity but also diminishes the spiritual strength required to run your own business. It’s a clever way to empower any doubts you have about success. It also inhibits engagement with others: people aren’t invited over or sitting down to dinner with family isn’t possible. It may also be preventing growth in life by holding onto past objects that may seize a person’s ability to cope with fear and pain. Letting go of tangible things means facing the possibility of moving on from regret. If it’s hard to imagine what another direction would feel like, creative visioning exercises and changing vocabulary can start you off to experiencing the benefits of setting your space free before the actual work gets done. With a sense of possibility, it may be easier to get down to the tasks at hand.

Change is good. Change can be hard!

By the time folks hire me as their coach, they have made a decision to make a move. Often they can’t articulate why this is the right time but they are giving themselves permission to advance to a preferred state of being. Hmm, sounds like work! Physical work to clear the way for emotional work or vice versa? Well, only you get to decide what’s best for you. Reach out to your support network and ask for help. Hire a coach to make sense of what’s happening and create an action plan. And once the stuff is out, you may want to hire a professional organizer to set up your place just right for you. And to my starting point about being driven to accomplish so much, think of it this way; getting organized does take effort but it only has to happen once. With a new philosophy, you can be benefiting from a physical space that works for you for a long time. This leaves mental and emotional room to cope with stress elsewhere and welcomes love and abundance. Surely, that will feel GOOD! 🙂

I would love to hear your perspective on stress and clutter! Please comment below.