4 benefits of decluttering your home including reduced stress

benefits of decluttering
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I discovered the benefits of decluttering when I moved from a house to a condo in 2013.

As a divorced mom, the upkeep of a three-story dwelling had taken its toll on me both physically and financially.

I loved the idea of pushing garbage down a chute rather than lugging huge bins to the curb every week.

And no more snow shoveling in winter sounded too good to be true.

Only problem, we would have to downsize our possessions to fit comfortably into the new space.

The more we purged, the easier it became to say goodbye to things that had outlived their usefulness.

The more we purged, the easier it became to say goodbye to things that had outlived their usefulness. Click To Tweet

The truth that downsizing and decluttering only improved our lives came as a big surprise. There was no down side.

4 benefits of decluttering

Many people acknowledge that the clutter in their homes causes undue stress. But they have no time to do anything about it.

I believe if more people knew the life-changing benefits of decluttering they would find the time, and experience balance in all areas of their lives.

Here are just four of the many benefits of decluttering your home.

1. Reduced stress

It’s hard to relax in a cluttered room. Trying to decompress after a hard day in a space strewn with stuff is all but impossible.

You spend your down time reorganizing junk or putting things away, rather than putting your feet up. And that builds frustration, the opposite of what you want when your goal is to unwind.

Every day you experience the tension of time spent looking for items. Kids are late for school because they can’t find their shoes or books.

That pressure trickles down to your loved ones who bear the brunt of your annoyance. Not to mention the effect on your own peace of mind.

Clutter in your surroundings hurts your ability to focus. The extraneous items in your field of vision take you away from the task at hand.

Clutter in your surroundings hurts your ability to focus. Click To Tweet

Whether you have to physically clear the items, or simply take note of them in your mind, clutter divides your attention.

In this way it can negatively impact your productivity as well. Clearing the clutter for good alleviates all these stressors.

2. Improved confidence

Successful decluttering of your space feels like a major achievement, because it is! You’ve done something most people lack the self-discipline to carry out.

You’re facing an issue head on and refusing to settle for less than you deserve. You’ve made tough decisions about what stays or what goes.

As you decide what to keep or donate, you get more clear on your values. You get to know yourself better as you discover your likes and dislikes.

As you decide what to keep or donate, you get more clear on your values. Click To Tweet

When you look around and see a space you feel proud to call your own, your confidence increases. You feel in control of your space and your life.

3. Financial rewards

When you take the time to declutter your home, you reap financial rewards. You can sell quality brand name items on Craigslist or Kijiji.

When you clean out your closet, those designer clothes you no longer wear will fetch you a good price online or at the consignment store.

You’ll find bills inside pockets of clothes you haven’t worn in months or years.

When you clean up your files, you find credit balances on card statements or bank accounts you forgot about.

Hosting a garage sale will net you hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

Your newly organized life could inspire you to create a budget each month (or download an app). Now you’ll see long-term financial benefits of decluttering.

4. Improved family time

When you live in a cluttered house, you and your family spend too much time clearing up messes and not enough time enjoying one another.

Rather than spending time outdoors together, you waste Saturday afternoons cleaning out the garage. And because of clutter creep, it needs doing over and over.

Your frustration over a messy environment means you yell at your kids to tidy up. Then you feel guilty or angry at them for having to be told the same thing again and again.

When you get serious about decluttering and stop merely managing the mess, peace ensues.

3 challenges of minimalism and how to overcome them

challenges of minimalism, simplicity, personal growth, boundaries, toxic family
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I wrote about the four major benefits of decluttering in a previous post. In the interest of balance, I’d like to address some of the challenges of minimalism you might encounter on your journey.

Convincing your family to get on board is just one of the challenges of minimalism you might experience.

On your way toward a simpler life, there are three major obstacles. They take courage to overcome but here’s how to deal with them and come out victorious.

1. Family

You know all the benefits of minimalism. You’re looking forward to embarking on a deep decluttering journey.

To your surprise, your family doesn’t share your passion for downsizing. They’re scared you’re trying to take away their prized possessions.

Here are a few tips for getting your family on side when it comes to minimalism.

Give them control

Assure them you’ll get their permission before giving away any of their possessions. And stick to your promise.

Give them control over their own space, like their bedrooms, which they can declutter to their own comfort level. You get to tackle the common areas like living room and kitchen.

Show them the rewards

Demonstrate the rewards of decluttering. Rather than a dozen mediocre birthday presents, they can enjoy an amazing experience like a day trip.

Spending less on things will enable you to go on vacation or pay off debt faster. Tangible rewards incentivize your family by showing them decluttering is in their best interest.

2. Culture

Another of the major challenges of minimalism is the culture we live in. It’s become more popular in recent years, but minimalism still goes against the cultural grain.

It's become more popular in recent years, but minimalism still goes against the cultural grain. Click To Tweet

Our culture has moved away from the good stewardship it once valued. Now, we’re taught to covet material things, seek out brand names, and buy fast fashion.

Here are tips for dealing with the cultural challenges of minimalism.

Shift your mindset

When you struggle with feelings of inadequacy as you pare down your wardrobe, think about French women. Their closets consist of a few quality items they mix and match and wear again and again.

Who’s more fashionable than the French? Your streamlined wardrobe is simply more carefully edited. You’ve chosen quality over quantity.

Take pride in good stewardship

Rather than shame over your old iPhone, feel proud that you refuse to upgrade when the current model works just fine.

Even if you’re not a green warrior, consuming less is fantastic for the environment. This is true on a global scale, but also within your own home.

For instance, making your own cleaning products with simple ingredients rather than buying commercial brands, has a huge impact on your health. It clears the air and helps you breathe better, literally.

3. Yourself

Of all the challenges of minimalism, this one might be the hardest. You’re up against a lifetime of faulty programming.

Your fear of change. Your fear of disappointing people. Fear of standing up for your own needs.

Downsizing and decluttering is more than physical. The deeper you go in the process, the more boundaries you’ll have to set.

It might seem easier to stay the same. You may feel very alone at times.

Here are tips for dealing with your own tendency to stay stuck and resist the good change downsizing promotes in your life.

Have the hard conversations

If you have family members or friends who balk at your new commitment to a clutter-free lifestyle, talk to them about it.

Well before Christmas have a serious discussion about your expectations around gift-giving. Be clear about what you will and will not accept.

Tell them they can give one gift per family member (or whatever number you decide). If they ignore your wishes, let them know the children will pick one and give the rest away to a worthwhile cause.

Write down your top 5 values

Deciding what to keep and let go of helps you get clear on what you value. As a result you might find there are things in your life that don’t align with those values.

It’s possible you’ve lived your whole life misaligned with your values and this has caused you a great deal of pain. The disconnect has made you seek escape through unhelpful habits or even addictions.

When you get clear on your values and live by them, your sense of peace and fulfillment increases exponentially. You don’t have to turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms like shopping or excess wine to make you feel better.

When you get clear on your values and live by them, your sense of peace and fulfillment increases. Click To Tweet

If you crave connection, for instance, spending most of your time with superficial people is going to harm you. Spend less time with them and cultivate relationships with people who share your desire to go deep.

In the same way, if you value solitude, a full house and constant contact with others will only leave you feeling depleted. Insist on alone time, plan for it, protect it and leave the house to get it when you need to.

Enlist support

Join groups that encourage your new minimalist lifestyle. Spend more time with people who embrace living with less.

Read blogs written by folks who have gone through the downsizing process and are now enjoying the results.

Try the Project 333 wardrobe challenge and wear the same 33 items of clothing for 3 months. Find others online who are doing the same.

Listen to podcasts that celebrate the myriad ways downsizing leads to a better life in all areas.

Simplicity definition and how to live a less complex life

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Do you crave simplicity but are unsure how to achieve it? Maybe you’re not even certain what it is.

The dictionary describes simplicity in a few ways:

1. Freedom from complexity, intricacy, or division into parts.

The last bit intrigued me because it speaks to integrity. When you achieve simplicity, you’re no longer separated into parts but embody a cohesive whole.

You’re aligned with your authentic self, your values.

You’re no longer pulled in different directions, or doing things that aren’t you. You show up as yourself all the time, uncompromising and whole, not fragmented.

2. absence of luxury, pretentiousness, ornament, etc.

I love how this definition combines material and psychological elements of simplicity. Status objects and fancy things are conflated with a pretentious mindset.

When we’re not sure who we are, we rely on things to give us value. Of course, it never works.

It’s a cover up for a lack of fulfillment. Misalignment with values is the usual culprit.

3. freedom from deceit or guile; sincerity.

I love this one best of all. I want to print these words in lovely lettering and hang them on my wall. Simplicity equals sincerity.

And here we come back to the integrity piece. Knowing who you are, and letting the words of your mouth and meditation of your heart reflect that.

Setting healthy boundaries that let other people know where they end and you begin.

Healthy boundaries let other people know where they end and you begin. Click To Tweet

There are four ways to achieve this beautiful simplicity in your life. To build a life of integrity that keeps you whole rather than in pieces.

A life in which your value is not found in the things you own. Where you trust yourself and others trust you, too.

Because your decisions align with your true desires, not attempts to people please. Interestingly, they all involve saying no.

1. Simplicity means saying no to social pressure

Mom, resist the pressure to enroll your children in too many extracurricular activities. Two at a time is a good rule of thumb.

More than that and you’re running around, missing dinners together, and imposing unneeded stress on yourself and your family.

They don’t need to play the sports everyone else does. Why not find an activity unique to them?

My daughter, now grown, used to take horseback riding lessons. That was unusual in our suburban environment as the stables were a half hour away in the country.

She did something uncommon, an early alignment with her values. And time in nature with those magnificent animals had a profound impact on her.

Say no to the latest fashion trends and gadgets, both for yourself and your kids. This goes back to the second definition: refuse to derive your value from the things you own.

Teaching your kids how little those things matter is a wonderful gift. As a result, their character will grow as they embrace your value of people over things.

Rather than feel sorry for themselves or envious of others, they will feel called to something higher and more meaningful in their lives.

2. Simplicity means saying no to constant contact

Some people feel compelled to show up on every social media platform and run themselves ragged keeping up with them all.

Could you focus on one or two and delete the others? Simplicity means streamlining. Remember the first definition about wholeness and freedom from complexity.

You might feel obliged to answer every text or email as soon as it comes in. Guess what? You don’t have to. You can let that phone ring and answer that text later, even tomorrow.

Simplicity means being intentional with your time. Click To Tweet

Simplicity means being intentional with your time. Rather than reacting to every demand for your attention, set aside certain times in your day to sit down and mindfully reply.

This way, you remain in control of your life and teach people what to expect from you.

3. Simplicity means saying no to things that counter your values

Have you figured out your values? If not, now is the time. Say no to things that don’t align with them.

For instance, if you value solitude, say no to too many social events. Guard your time alone because your wholeness depends on you standing up for your needs.

Or maybe you value spontaneity. Say no to a rigid schedule marked in pen for the rest of the year.

Some people swear by a daily planner, but that feels confining and even depressing to you. Honor your need for surprise in your life.

When we say yes to things that don’t align with our values, we feel unfulfilled. That leads to self-soothing in unhealthy ways like overeating and drinking too much wine.

When we don't align with our values, we feel unfulfilled. Click To Tweet

When aligned with your values, you feel “full” and don’t need to turn to artificial helpers. In this way, simplicity keeps you both physically and mentally strong.

4. Simplicity means saying no to busyness

Busyness is different than productivity. Busy distracts you from what needs to change in your life.

Busy builds walls and keeps us from connecting with one another in meaningful ways. When you run into someone and ask how they’re doing, do they reply, “busy”? Do you?

What are you avoiding when you run down a litany of things you have done and have to do? You’re missing an opportunity to connect more deeply.

Do you have a feeling of pride over being busy? Be honest. Does it make you feel needed and important?

Are there other more authentic ways you could achieve that same need for significance?

Or maybe you feel inadequate because everyone seems busier than you. Refer to the dictionary definitions above. Your choice to embrace simplicity is a rejection of pretentiousness, deceit and guile.

You’re not deriving your worth from the things you do or own or plan. Your activities are driven by your values. That’s why you’re not overly busy.

You refuse to let life run you over anymore. Now, you live intentionally and that means doing less because you say no more often.

You experience the freedom and spontaneity of life without meaningless obligations. You know who you are and what you want and your life reflects that.

What have you decided to say no to?

How to simplify your life: 6 ways to reduce stress and stay healthy

simplify your life

My downsizing journey started in 2009 when I moved into a smaller home after divorce. Since then, I’ve made a concerted effort to simplify my life.

It’s taken courage to say yes to less when the world says more. It’s prompted me to get more clear on what I believe in and say no more often.

Some people love the idea of simplicity but are unsure how to get there. In some ways, it means questioning everything you’ve been taught.

Simplicity means questioning everything you've been taught. Click To Tweet

There are many things we take for granted or do because our parents did them. Consider whether you might live without some of those things everyone deems “essential”.

If you’re interested in how to simplify your life, rest easy. You don’t really have to DO anything. It’s all about letting go. Here are 6 ways to simplify your life.

1. Cancel your gym membership

If you’re an active person, you might not believe you could stay fit without a gym membership. You would be wrong.

The Minimalists have a great podcast episode with fitness expert Ben Greenfield. He tells you how to maintain a high level of fitness without ever setting foot in a gym.

Getting your fitness organically throughout the day saves you time on travel, money on membership fees, and frustration when you don’t get to the gym.

2. Declutter your closet

Okay, I said you wouldn’t have to do anything, but this one’s kind of fun. After you’ve pared down your closet using my 5-step guide, consider joining Project 333.

This is blogger Courtney Carver’s challenge to whittle down your wardrobe to 33 items every three months. (Including shoes and accessories; excluding pyjamas and workout wear.)

The now-famous challenge provides you with much-needed boundaries to keep your closet under control. And keeps you from growing bored with your minimalist wardrobe, because you switch it up every quarter.

3. Intermittent fasting

Keto diets, paleo diets, it’s hard to keep up and there’s a new one every month it seems. Whatever happened to the Zone plan Jennifer Aniston used to champion?

To simplify your life, let go of fad diets and do intermittent fasting instead. If you want to lose or maintain weight, simply reduce the window within which you eat.

Intermittent fasting generally means eating for eight hours a day and fasting for 16. But you can adjust the time to suit you.

Be aware there’s an adjustment period of a few weeks where you will feel hungry during the fasting period, but that goes away as your body adjusts to your new schedule.

4. Buy only what you need

Strike the word “shopping” from your vocabulary. Minimalists are intentional about how and when they spend their money. They only shop when they need something specific.

It’s not essential, but you might implement a rule that nothing new comes in your house unless something old goes out.

Great care goes into deciding whether an item deserves space in your life. You hone your values this way as you decide what’s important to you.

And, of course, less spending helps you reduce and eliminate debt, another way to simplify your life.

5. Streamline your to-do list

Maybe you’ve got dozens of things on your daily to-do list and wonder why you always feel behind.

Why not give yourself a fighting chance to feel successful? Be realistic about your daily to-do list.

Reduce your list to three to five items. Such a reasonable number gives you a good chance of completion. If you finish before the end of the day, reward yourself.

Set yourself up for success. Reduce your to-do list to 3-5 items. Click To Tweet

You’ll go to bed feeling victorious rather than frustrated. A simple but effective tool to trick your mind into feeling productive. It’s called being nice to yourself; give it a try.

6. Read

Have you noticed time moves more slowly when you read a book? Reading quiets the chatter in your mind and calms your body.

It keeps you in the present moment rather than flipping from tab to tab on a computer.

I believe reading a physical book has greater power than online media due to the distractions that tempt you with the latter. And something about reading online doesn’t have the same calming effect.

Reading has been proven to make you smarter, healthier, and more empathetic. Click To Tweet

Reading is the antidote to the fast-paced interaction we engage in all day online. Plus, reading has been proven to make you smarter, healthier, and more empathetic.

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These are just six suggestions to help you simplify your life, and there are many more. If it seems overwhelming, try implementing one at a time and see the difference it makes in your life.

How to stop feeling busy and overwhelmed and start being happy

busy
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Feeling busy and overwhelmed holds us back from happiness. It stops us doing all the things we want to do. It prevents good health and well-being.

When we’re overwhelmed it’s because we’ve let life control us rather than the other way around.

We react rather than initiate and we do it way too quickly. For instance, we say yes to meetings and other commitments before we’ve even had a chance to look at our calendars.

We neglect to incorporate white space into our lives. Those our times in your schedule to do absolutely nothing. And yes you need to pencil them in.

We neglect to incorporate white space into our lives. Click To Tweet

If you’re busy and overwhelmed, you feel like you have no other choice. You’re too busy to even think of ways to change or imagine something different for your life.

Don’t wait for a brush with death or a nervous breakdown before you start taking care of your physical and emotional needs.

Here are three things you can do right now to promote more happiness and less busyness in your life.

1. Reduce your spending

Working for money is high on the list of reasons people are too busy. If you’re working too much to maintain your lifestyle, consider making some financial adjustments.

Are you drinking too much wine to cope with an overwhelming schedule? There’s something you could cut out.

Do you eat takeout too often because you’re too tired to prepare meals? Start packing your lunches and cooking dinners and watch your energy levels rise along with your bank balance.

Have you considered moving to a less expensive area? Urban environments are notoriously pricey and fast-paced which makes you feel more busy.

You could downsize to a smaller home. Less square footage is cheaper to buy, rent and maintain. While you’re decluttering to fit into it, you’ll make money selling things you no longer use.

Smaller square footage means less time cleaning. If you hired help to clean your larger space, you can save money by letting them go.

2. Slow down

slow down

Sometimes feeling busy comes from a lack of mindfulness. That means you’re not focused on the present moment.

John Eldredge has an app for that, based on the One Minute Pause chapter of his new book, Get Your Life Back. He calls it a simple way to connect with God in the middle of your busy day.

Prayer and meditation are other ways to slow down. Meditation means different things to different people.

For me, it’s taking time out to sit with my thoughts. I solve many problems this way and even make key decisions.

Take walks in nature if you can. Besides helping us slow down, nature is good for our health. Nature boosts mental capacity and makes us feel happier.

Nature boosts mental capacity and makes us feel happier. Click To Tweet

3. Set limits

Reject the world’s message that you have to be available at all hours because technology has made us more accessible.

Set limits to your work hours and stick to them. Even if you work remotely, shut down your laptop at 5 pm and leave it closed until 9 am the next day (or whichever hours you choose).

Answer emails once or twice a day rather than every twenty minutes. Rather than firing off half-hearted replies, sit down and take the time to give each message the attention and response it deserves.

Consider ignoring emails over the weekend, or even going offline completely on Sundays.

Reduce your daily task list. Stop creating long lists of things you won’t possibly get through in a day.

Stop creating long lists of things you won't possibly get through in a day. Click To Tweet

Some people recommend putting three things on your list and no more. Others say to write one thing on your list! Once that’s completed, you can replace it with one more.

I’ve also heard it recommended to do a brain dump instead of a to-do list. Write down everything you can think of that needs doing in your life. Then pick one or two or three of the most pressing.

The brain dump method is said to relieve overwhelm by getting everything off your mind and onto the page.