Want Not, Waste Not: The World-Changing Magic of Sustainable Decluttering

Photo Credit:  Becca McHaffie/Unsplash

You may not be surprised to find out that clutter stresses you out, or that there is a clear link between procrastination and clutter. If you, like me, want to create a more “zen-like” space, there is a fascinating new study just published in Current Psychology that you should know about.

Tova Sherman is the co-founder and CEO of reachAbility.

Tova Sherman is the co-founder and CEO of reachAbility.

“Clutter is an overabundance of possessions that collectively create chaotic and disorderly living spaces,” said Joseph Ferrari, a professor of psychology at DePaul University in Chicago and the lead in the study. 

Dr. Ferrari’s research team questioned three groups of adults about clutter and life satisfaction: college students; young adults in their 20s and 30s; and older adults, most in their 50s.

They assessed volunteers’ tendency to procrastinate, asking them to respond to statements like “I pay bills on time” using a five-point scale, ranging from strongly disagree to strongly agree. 

Interestingly, procrastination was closely tied to clutter, because sorting through and tossing items is a task that many people find unpleasant and therefore avoid. It takes time to file away important papers or sort through a dining room table buried under books.

The researchers also measured participants’ general well-being in relation to how clutter might be affecting their lives, asking them to gauge agreement with sentences such as “the clutter in my home upsets me” and “I have to move things in order to accomplish tasks in my home.”

The results were clear; clutter creates stress, and the older you are, the more agitated clutter makes you.

 Maybe that is why the hottest new show on Netflix is called “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo”.  For those of you who do not know; Marie Kondo is a de-clutter Guru whose little turquoise book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing,  set off a decluttering craze across the globe. It is okay if you missed the craze; I have made a career of missing trends.

Kondo’s book & show breaks down her radical, two-pronged approach to tidying that has really caught on. 

First, put your hands on everything you own, ask yourself if it sparks joy, and if it doesn’t, thank it for its service and get rid of it. 

Second, once only your most joy-giving belongings remain, put every item in a place where it’s visible, accessible, and easy to grab, and then put back. Only then, Kondo says, will you have reached the nirvana of housekeeping.

For me that all makes bestseller sense, but how we dispose of our unloved articles is what I wish to touch on. 

Did you know the average American discards 65 lbs of clothing a year? How cool would it be to stem that waste, locally and among friends?

I am referring to swapping parties. This is not a new idea; my friends of all shapes and sizes have been doing clothing and accessory swaps for years, and we all love the opportunity to create, not waste! We have even swapped artwork, furniture and more. Just add a few snacks and a yummy punch and you’ve got a great off-season event. 

I say if you want to de-clutter and de-stress, then let’s make a celebration out of it! Just make sure everyone helps to clean up after the event, and for any leftovers there is always Value Village.

I feel more relaxed already.

Check out this link on holding your own clothing swap: