Could overcoming depression really be as simple as cleaning your house?
Researchers have found a connection between cluttered homes and stress, depression and even the breakdown of family traditions.
In a four-year study of 32 middle-class, dual-income families, UCLA researchers discovered many significant findings regarding the relationship between stress and mess. They published their findings in a book, “Life at Home in the Twenty-First Century: 32 Families Open Their Doors.”
The families involved in the study were not hoarders, just average households that accumulated “stuff,” from furnishings and televisions to art and trophies and even food and cleaning supplies purchased from big-box stores.
These material possessions take up a great deal of space and, apparently, positive energy.
In fact, the garages of 3/4ths of the study participants were so packed with belongings that there was no room left for their cars. Sound familiar? I know at least 5 people on my street who have garages like that.
Of all the participants studied, women seem to be hardest hit by the clutter surrounding them. Mothers in the group had elevated levels of stress hormones that correlated with the volume of possessions they had to manage.
Kids are affected by clutter and material possessions as well. Even though Los Angeles boasts beautiful weather year-round, the children in the study rarely played outdoors.
Although the families recognized these consistent and challenging issues, few took steps to make changes.
A survey by the National Association for Professional Organizers found that 54 percent of Americans are overwhelmed by their clutter. Of these, 78 percent let it build up because they don’t know what to do about it.
If your piles of stuff have you feeling defeated and depressed, start small. Professional organizer and author Cas Aarssen suggests starting with a “21-item toss.” Every day for a week, find 21 things around your home that you can donate or throw away. By the end of the week, you will have made a dent in decluttering and will likely be motivated to carry on.
And, once you get started sorting through that clutter, here’s a tip to help you out: Get four boxes (or bags or baskets, doesn’t matter). For the four-box method, here’s what you need to do, simply label each box with one of these names:
Keep: These are the absolutely must-keep items. They should be important (and not just sentimental). Try to be firm with this.
Sell/Donate: Some things you get rid of you can sell. It can be through a garage sale or online, Just get rid of it and put some extra money in your pockets! If you can’t sell it, then donate it to a good cause. Someone will get good use out of your unwanted stuff.
Trash: Be ruthless with your junk like old magazines, papers and other things you don’t need and no one else wants or needs.
Store: Sometimes there are a few items that you love, but just don’t use all the time. They need to find a home, but not in your house on a regular basis. Consider storing this items elsewhere. If you can’t find a home for them in your house and you don’t want to pay for storage, put these items in the Sell/Donate or Trash box.
Small steps will get you far when it comes to de-cluttering. You won’t believe how much progress you’ll make and how much better you’ll feel!