8 Tips to Declutter Your Space & Your Mind!
By: Domonique Robinson
I have been living in my tiny NYC 1-bedroom apartment for 4 and a half years now. When I first moved in, it was home - small but mine. I decorated like I was Martha Stewart. I used colors that I loved, I put amazing quotes on the walls, I hung mirrors strategically, and I made sure I had a space to be productive and purposeful. As time progressed and life hit me over the head, I acquired more and more things. Somethings practical and useful, and somethings just plain ridiculous and redundant.
More recently, I noticed that home didn’t feel like home anymore. All of the things that I had accumulated and held on to became clutter - a big mess. I literally found myself feeling stressed, overwhelmed, and exhausted by being in my own space. It was more than just the physicality of things, it was affecting me mentally, emotionally, and spiritually too. Sometimes I would literally feel all over the place - like a mess. My mind would be buzzing but my thoughts were cloudy and my mood was off.
It wasn’t until earlier this year when I broke my leg and was forced to be on leave from work that I had to spend a lot of time at home again. This is when I noticed I was drowning in my own space.
As I got better physically from my injury, I was eager to declutter my tiny apartment and in turn, get rid of my mental clutter. Why did I need two blenders? Why did I have 9 coffee mugs when I live alone? Why did I still have mail from years ago? Why did I still have clothes that I couldn’t fit no matter what diet I tried? Why did I have a free water bottle and tote bag from almost every health fair I’d ever attended? And why did I think it was okay to collect those souvenir shot glasses from every new city and country I visited?
Clutter is the accumulation of too many items without having the available space for it, therefore creating a disorderly living space. Maybe if I had a bigger kitchen with more cabinet space I could keep the 9 mugs and the ridiculous souvenir shot glasses. But I don’t and I have no use for so many. Just like the Crockpot that I have no counter space for and use maybe once a year to make chili - can I admit that I don’t even care for chili? Or how about the Keurig that I haven’t even used in two years - yeah, I can let that go too.
Clutter impacts more than just the space in your home.
Mental Health: A cluttered physical space often mirrors a cluttered mind. Clutter increases your stress levels and creates more fatigue. Those with cluttered homes often report more feelings of depression. It hinders your ability to relax and sleep well - especially if the clutter is in your bedroom.
Ability to think clearly: Clutter impacts how you process information and lowers your ability to focus. Clutter causes over stimulation and serves as a distraction. It produces frustration which we all know is a barrier to effectively thinking things through and being creative.
Eating Habits: Studies show that people with cluttered living spaces eat more snacks and unhealthy foods since the environment around them has them feeling out of control. Clutter promotes overeating and binge eating - yup, who would have thought?
Tips for Decluttering.
Enlist a partner: One thing that my mother loves to call on me for is help with seasonal cleaning, and now I understand why. Having a partner to check you and remind you of why you don’t need something, or why you should just get rid of something helps a lot.
Giveaway or sell items still in good condition or of value: We often feel the need to keep items because it’s still in great condition, or because we paid so much for it. In cases like these, selling or giving away items can make us feel more at ease. You can giveaway items to local organizations who help those in need or if you need to make a few bucks you can even sell items on apps like LetGo or OfferUp.
Organize: My new rule is that if it doesn’t have its own designated space in my home then it doesn’t live here. I no longer buy or keep things without knowing exactly where it is going to fit.
Share: Recently I wanted to buy a power drill to hang shelves that I’ve added to better organize my home. My friend and I went out to look for affordable power drills we could each buy since she needed one too. When we got to the register she had an amazing idea, “how about we just buy one and share it?” We literally live a few blocks apart and neither one of us would be using it but so often. So we decided to split the costs and share it. It also saves me space as I let her keep it at her home which has more closet space than mine ;-)
Look for inspiration: When I first decided that I would declutter my apartment I looked for tips, suggestions, and inspiration. I decided that not only did I want to declutter, but I wanted to brighten up my space and rearrange things a bit. I looked at photos and videos and took note of setups I liked. There are a lot of online articles, magazines, and TV shows that cater to making home more comfortable.
Set a schedule: You may not have the time to declutter your whole apartment over one weekend, but maybe you have an hour on Monday, and a few hours on a Saturday - schedule it. Come up with a doable schedule of how you plan to tackle this new project. Maybe you’ll start with your bathroom or bedroom - it’s up to you!
Use technology: E-books can replace physical books. Those old CDs from high school are all on Apple music or whatever streaming service you use. Your favorite movies that you keep on DVD are on Netflix or Fire Stick. You don’t need printed photos of every trip, storing them on your phone or computer is cool too. Paperless billing will eliminate paper clutter. Scan and store important mail instead of keeping the physical mail.
Create new rules for yourself: Creating rules to stick to will help you avoid ending up back in a cluttered space. Make rules about different things like the timeframe you’ll give yourself to open and manage mail, not taking freebies home just because you won it - especially if you don’t need it and have space for it, or not buying new clothes unless you are willing to get rid of clothes in your closet that you no longer need.
Remember that a comfortable and clutter free environment is vital for positive mental health.
Less is more!
About the Author
Domonique Robinson is a Licensed Social Worker in New York City where she was born and raised. Domonique has over 9 years of experience working with children, adults, and families who seek healing and emotional wellbeing. In 2013, she obtained her Bachelor’s degree in Social Work from Lehman College and in 2014 obtained her Master’s degree in Social Work from Hunter College. She currently works as a School Mental Health Consultant and a Psychotherapist. Her passion includes educating the black community on mental health and self care through her blog at DomoniqueRobinson.com. You can follow her on instagram at: @DomoniqueRobinsonLMSW