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How Clutter Affects Our Emotions

Posted on November 23, 2018 in Articles

Although we are beginning the winter months and spring cleaning seems a fair ways off, it is actually a good time to start looking to the future and deciding what among those old, unused items you are ready to do without.

While most people don’t actually fall under the category of hoarder, for many of us it can be difficult to part with certain possessions due to an emotional connection. There can be any number of reasons why, but we often find ourselves hanging on to things that we don’t need and will never use again. Why do we do this? When and how does it become a problem? What can we do about it?

Let’s try to answer these questions.

Keeping Things Out of Guilt

Guilt can be a strange thing, and can affect people in surprising ways, prompting them to hold on to certain goods and mementos. While some people will look at their possessions as simple things and not really worry about what becomes of them, others can form very strong attachments to them or what they represent.

It is not uncommon for personal items of a deceased loved one to become a way of remembering them and keeping their memory alive. Closets and drawers remain full of clothes, shelves continue to hold books, trophies, toys, or other personal belongings. For many, the thought of giving these items away makes them feel like they are betraying their loved ones in some way. These items were important to their loved one, they reason, so they should also be important to them.

Other times, something may have been a gift, and the owner feels a need to keep it, perhaps out of a desire to not be rude. It may sit in a closet for months or even years, possibly being forgotten until some event arises where it might be of use. The owner might feel guilty about not using the item and thus keep it in the hope of one day doing do.

Keeping Items Out of Fear

Another common reason for hanging on to items long past the point of logic is simple fear. There is a tendency to think “what if” much of the time, and so things are put aside on the off chance that they might be needed again.

What if those old clothes come back into style? Saving them now is preferable to having to re-buy something similar down the road. What if we lose weight and can suddenly fit in our currently-too-small pants again? What if you have another child and need those baby clothes? Or maybe a family member will have a similar need.

Then, of course, you might be keeping old magazines with recipes that you may decide to try one day. Or maybe the cover is marked as a “special issue” and you anticipate it being worth money at some point in the future.

You may also have experienced some lean times in your life and feel the need to put things aside lest you find yourself in difficult times again. This is often particularly true of older people on reduced incomes.

Keeping Items for Sentimental Reasons

This is perhaps the most common reason for not wanting to let things go. Our possessions can quite often become receptacles for our happy memories, with childhood possessions reminding us of our younger days, our old friends, our departed parents, or even just a general sense of simpler times.

Gifts can remind you of the giver, whether that be someone you once dated, a classmate, or a relative. Seeing the item again can often bring back a flood of memories and emotions both pleasant and bittersweet. Sometimes you might unearth an item that you had put into storage and the mere sight of it sets you off on a wonderful trip down memory lane.

Time to De-clutter

No one is suggesting that you need to get rid of everything, especially if these items bring you pleasure, but often the things that we think we need simply sit in storage, never seeing the light of day. They could very easily be given to someone who might have a greater need for them, or they could be sold for a bit of cash. Clearing out unused items might even give you enough space to build that man cave you’ve always wanted, or maybe create a spare bedroom or home office.

This is a good time of year to take a look at those items that are sitting in your basement or attic and determine what you might be ready to part with. With spring cleaning several months away, you can also put aside those items that you aren’t using but still think you might want to keep. Over the course of the winter, see which items—if any—you find yourself using. If by spring you haven’t taken them out or otherwise used them, then you can most likely let them go.

The Emotional Impact of Clutter

Having too much clutter in your home can also have a multitude of effects that can negatively impact your well-being. Some of the effects of clutter include:

  • Increased stress. Clutter raises your level of the stress hormone cortisol.
  • Respiratory Issues. Cluttered homes usually contain more dust, which can exacerbate breathing problems.
  • Safety Hazard. If your clutter contains many flammable items, it can be a fire hazard. Depending on the level of clutter in your home, it might also physically impede your ability to escape from a fire.
  • Impact on Diet. Clutter can prove to be mentally overwhelming, which may lead to coping mechanisms such as seeking comfort food and overeating.

There are certain possessions that you will understandably want to keep, even if you don’t necessarily make use of them, but allowing too much clutter to build up in your home can be both physically and mentally problematic.

Use the coming months to really examine what items you simply must keep, and what you can do without. Come spring, you will be ready to de-clutter your home and your mind, giving yourself a new start for the new year.

For all your clutter removal needs, contact 604-TRASH-IT today.

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