Four years after I first started massively decluttering every aspect of my life (it’s a process, not an overnight thing), it still amazes me how quickly my mental health takes a nosedive the moment “stuff” starts accumulating.
When I’m feeling depressed again or just not quite well... one look around and there it is: clutter or just too much stuff lying around my apartment., or in my life in general.
If you are unhappy but you don’t know why, you might want to consider this: you have too much stuff sucking up your attention, time, and energy.
By “stuff” I mean: bills, papers, mountains of clothes, apps, emails clogging up your inbox, kitchen overflowing with dishes, a million unread messages on your messenger app, old pictures everywhere, a wallet so full you can no longer close it, books you haven’t read, old laptops that no longer work….
You know… normal Stuff.
You think all that stuff that’s been accumulating in your house, your garage, your closet, or your phone is harmless? That it’s “just” stuff and it’s not like it’s hurting anyone?
Well, think again.
It’s very likely that the presence of those “unsolved” things everywhere around you is weighing you down and affecting your mental health and emotional stability.
All this stuff acts as a constant reminder of the past, of things that need to be done, of things that require your attention that you haven’t done… And all of this could very well be, in some ways, contributing to your anxiety or even depression.
It’s a time sucker
All these things require maintenance and take time. You have to clean them, sort them, organize them, regularly. You are basically a slave to the things you own.
All that stuff you think you own, actually owns you.
Your time is precious and it’s time you started being more mindful as to where you spend it. If you go to the root of things and simplify, you will have fewer things to manage.
I encourage you to unsubscribe to newsletters, get rid of your reward programs and fidelity cards, say no to advertising by mail, exit those group messages you are part of on Fb or WhatsApp… And this includes people too. Don’t be afraid to let go of your unmeaningful relationships as well. The people you don’t really care about but keep in your life suck up your time and energy, time and energy you could put toward nurturing the relationships you do care about.
Related post: How do you build more meaningful relationships?
My point is: simplify.
It’s cluttering your mind
Too much stuff just crowds your mind and affects your mental health. Not only does it create decision fatigue, but it makes everything about your life a chore.
As the decisions accumulate (what to wear with so many clothes, which body wash to use when you have 15 different bottles in your bathroom, etc.), you get more and more mentally exhausted, and can even end up in having you resent all these things or look for ways to escape. By getting more stuff!
I had a spice rack that had over 20 spices in there. I never used them. None of them, and every time I looked at all the spices, I got overwhelmed. I never knew which ones to pick. So I just didn’t cook.
One day I got rid of them all and kept only salt, pepper, and rosemary. Guess what? After doing this I cooked more in one month than I had in 2 years. I guess getting rid of all that stuff gave me the mental space I needed to breathe and be more creative.
You always have to do, do, do, instead of simply be
Your attention is always solicited and you always have things you need to do.
Your inbox is full of emails that need answers, text messages that need replies, clothes that need to be washed, houses that need to be cleaned, people that require attention… Do you have time for the things you want to do? Do you even know what they are?
It’s preventing you from actually doing things
Don’t think that because you have less you will be doing less. It’s quite the opposite. It’s as if the fewer things you have, the more they… circulate, I guess?
My point is, you actually do more when you have less.
As an example, I started reading more, like way more, once I got rid of my books. Even I am surprised to say that because I LOVE my books. They’ve followed me through 2 country changes.
Well, guess what? I still read even if I no longer own the books (except for a few very special ones). I simply go to the library and read 10 times more.
It’s costing you money
When you have “stuff”, you need more stuff to deal with that stuff.
You just bought new pants? Well, now you need a new blouse for this. And a new blazer for that new blouse, because the blazers you already own don’t work with that specific style. And maybe another belt too because the pants are slightly too big.
When you keep accumulating things, you are at risk of entering a never-ending spiral of (wanting) more, more, more.
Adding more stuff will not solve your problems. Try removing stuff first. Then you can think of adding new things if necessary.
Accumulation increases your fear
The more stuff you own, the more you fear losing it.
You might think all those things provide you a sense of security, but this is an illusion and it’s quite the opposite. They make you more afraid.
This works for people too. Sometimes we are afraid to let people go so we hang on to them at the risk of making them and ourselves miserable.
When you rid your life of clutter and unnecessary material things (and people), you free yourself of that fear. And you know what? Most of the things we have in our houses are superfluous.
I encourage you to start learning to let go of people and stuff. It might seem hard at first, but it’s incredibly liberating.
The accumulation of things around us feeds the illusion that “we are too busy”, thus providing us with an excuse to not have to face our lives and ourselves. They are like permanent distractions.
If you spend all your Saturday morning cleaning all that crap you own, well, that’s 3-6 hours you won’t spend sitting down with just yourself and a cup of tea, contemplating your mortality. I’m just saying…
Death is real. But sometimes I feel like we do everything we can to never have to think about it, and yet, deep down that’s all we think about. I’m not judging, I’m guilty of this too.
It’s making you feel guilty
You know that very expensive dress you bought 5 years ago but never wore, ever? Yet, there it is, staring at you every time you open your damn closet. Every single day, you see it. And you are reminded of that expensive mistake. You may think you don’t notice it. But you do. It’s there. You see it. Your brain sees it.
Get rid of it. You’ll feel better.
It stops you from moving on
Memories, tokens, past gifts, they are usually energy suckers too.
They make you hang on to the past.
I’m not trying to be insensitive. I’m probably one of the most sensitive people I know. That’s probably why I had to let go of these sorts of things, so I can move on. I used to hang on to those memories as if my life depended on it; well, I don’t anymore and it’s for the better.
You don’t have to burn everything, but you could try keeping only what’s truly (I mean truly) valuable and store it in a small box somewhere, instead of having a display of hundreds of photos that make you sad in your living room for example.
When you find a way of life that allows you to be the master of your time, you will be happier. Understanding it is one thing, but living like this requires deeper personal transformation and commitment.
But try it first. If you haven’t tried seriously decluttering different aspects of your life, I encourage you to try and let me know in the comment section or via email how this went for you.