It’s about much more than just ‘tidying up’

Decluttering has become a popular topic of conversation. Much of this can be attributed to Marie Kondo and her book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, which is now the basis of a Netflix series. But, it is also gaining momentum because more and more people are recognizing not only that they have overwhelming amounts of stuff, but that it is a source of stress. When I first saw this book I fixated on the words “tidying up”— and it had no real appeal for me. But, after helping families declutter their homes as a precursor or alternative to renovating, the “life-changing magic” resonates profoundly with me. I discovered many hidden benefits of decluttering that I never would have imagined, which make finding the time and motivation to declutter even more important than I realized.

Five hidden benefits of decluttering our homes.

  1. Greater happiness. Contrary to what marketing campaigns suggest, most stuff doesn’t make us that happy—and certainly not over the long term. Instead, it becomes a source of stress as it accumulates in our homes. Its physical presence is a source of stress. The conflicts we often have over the payment for or the organization and maintenance of this stuff become another source of stress. Though this stuff may have brought pleasure initially, getting it out of our space can bring longer-lasting happiness.
  2. More self-awareness. Going through your belongings individually and determining which items make you the happiest can provide substantial insight into the things that matter most to you. With so much going on in our modern lives and our culture of consumerism and overwhelming and inexpensive options that can be on our doorstep in one click, it’s really easy to lose track of what is most important to us. This exercise helps us refocus and gain clarity about what we value most. Besides helping in the decluttering process it can shape future habits.
  3. More time. Once your stuff is organized and pared down you will spend less time looking for things, sorting things, maintaining things, repairing things and arguing about all of the above. Americans spend 2.5 days a year just looking for lost items. Imagine how much time you can recoup by eliminating all time spent moving around, cleaning, fixing and arguing about them as well.
  4. Improved relationships. With less stuff and more time, people are able to spend more time nurturing their relationships free of all the stress and disagreements that come with having and managing stuff. Think about a past tense rush out the door when you were hunting for some needed item and argued with your partner over who had it last or moved it somewhere silly. Imagine the difference if it simply hadn’t been an issue and you spent that time wishing each other a good day.
  5. More meaningful spending. With greater awareness about what really matters, what you already own and what you have bought in the past that didn’t make you happy, people who declutter have a lot more information at their disposal to help them make better purchases going forward. The result can be fewer and more meaningful purchases and less spending overall.

Bonus Benefit: the ability to live well in a smaller, more affordable space. While the primary purpose of a home is to provide shelter for people, more and more square footage is being demanded to store growing piles of stuff. When people start to run out of space in their home, many opt to resolve this issue by looking for a larger home or renovating. This is obviously much more time consuming and expensive than decluttering. The why is complicated, but for many, they don’t even realize what the true problem is. I have gone into homes to consult on renovation/rebuilds only to come to the conclusion that a major declutter would answer their problems and save the family a ton of money and stress.

Besides the benefits of decluttering, like more space and a cleaner home, these hidden benefits may be less obvious. However, they are very real and can be great motivators to start the process. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed, so my advice is to start small with a few steps to simplify your home. If you need more help, I’m happy to discuss it.