31 Days

Day 19

Clear the Clutter

Cleaning your desk illustration

You know the feeling of getting into a bed with fresh, clean sheets? The crisp newness is reassuring, isn't it? Clearing away the clutter brings that feeling into all aspects of your life. What's clutter, exactly? It's the accumulation of stuff that gets in the way of our daily life. The tricky thing is that clutter usually starts out with good intentions—clothes you might wear, papers on your desk you'll get to later and old tech gear that could try to sell, but haven't gotten around to it.

But this clutter effects us more than we realize, says Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Ph.D, a Professor Emerita of Psychological and Brain Sciences at the University of Massachusetts. She says that streamlining has been proven to give you more energy and mental processing power. “Getting rid of the clutter in your home seems to be a key factor that you may not have realized is so important to your feelings of happiness,” she wrote in a manifesto for Psychology Today. “This process may be painful at the time, but it should help you overcome this important obstacle to your well-being.” Here's how to clear the way.

Cleaning your desk illustration

Segment Your Tasks

Instead of trying to tackle your whole house (or every aspect of your life) at once, focus on smaller, more manageable projects that will offer big gratification once completed. Set aside a day or an afternoon to work on something and try not to think about the other areas of your life that need attention. Just focus on getting this task finished.

Set Goals

Such a seemingly never-ending task can be overwhelming at times. Keep your focus by setting specific goals. Give yourself an hour (or two) to accomplish a task. Perhaps you aim to fill one trash bag of junk every week. Or maybe you simply need to commit to having a specific room finished by a certain date.

Aim for the

If you've been good about clearing out clothes you don't wear and not letting junk mail pile up, opt for areas in your life that are overlooked but could use some cleaning up. When was the last time you striped your bed (mattress cover, dust ruffle, duvet, etc.) and washed everything while emptying out whatever's been lurking under the bed? Or perhaps that medicine cabinet, overflowing with nearly-empty tubes and expired medicine, could be cleaned out and organized.

Bring It to Work

Take everything off the top of your desk. Give it a full wipe down and then start putting the items back, deciding if it needs to be there. This is when we tend to find a lot of out-of-date items that were being saved for a time that's since passed. Some personal items add character and may keep you motivated but too much clutter will suffocate your productivity. Give yourself room to work.

Messy Diet

John Stewart eating popcorn

A 2016 study found that people will actually eat more cookies and snacks if the environment in which they’re offered a choice of foods is chaotic and cluttered. The mess puts you in “a low self-control mindset.”