Ditch the Clutter, Your Mind and Wallet Will Thank You

How’s the spring cleaning going this year? Are you finished? Still knee deep in your piles of “keep,” “donate,” and “trash” bags? Or did you give up? Should we not even ask? Wherever you are in your annual quest to clean, tidy, and declutter, we’ve got some motivation for you not to quit (or to start). Unless, of course, you’re one of those people who’ve already finished, in which case we salute you (and silently curse you). All that excess clutter around you is more than just an eyesore, or a hazard to your feet (we’re looking at you, LEGO), it can actually drag you down mentally, and be a drain on your finances. So to keep you going, let’s look at how decluttering can be good for your mind and your wallet! 

Your Brain on Decluttering

We’re going to lay something kind of deep on you: sometimes the clutter that has accumulated around you is a physical symptom of what’s going on in your mind (and sometimes it means you have kids, which also means you’ve got a cluttered, stressed mind!). So that means the opposite is also true: decluttering can have a positive affect on your mental health. How?

1. Decluttering can boost your confidence and strengthen your decision-making skills

caucasian woman smiling with her thumb up

Part of what some of us dread about decluttering is all the choices we’ll have to make, especially about what stays and what goes. When you’re in a not-so-great mental state, making decisions can become overwhelming, which can up your anxiety levels. But a good old-fashioned clean-out can boost your confidence in your decision-making skills, and even make you feel empowered! You’ll be restoring your sense of agency and usefulness as you sort through the things that you need, and the things that are might merely be “should keeps,” or things you’re holding onto to please someone or for some other reason that isn’t helpful to you. 

Not only that, but making the choices about what stays and what goes in your environment can be a very powerful way to set boundaries in your life, both with yourself and with those who share your space.

2. It can reduce anxiety

Humans prefer order and symmetry, so decluttered spaces can be calming to an anxious mind; in addition, patterns can also help relieve anxiety. That means that not only does having things ordered and balanced around you help to reduce anxiety, the actual process of creating patterns by sorting similar items, taking inventory, and organizing what stays and what goes can be a sort of coping mechanism to release anxious energy. Not only that, but as Nidhi Tewari, a licensed clinical social worker and mental health therapist, points out, “The process of organizing requires that you be present, so it can be grounding in instances where anxiety is heightened.”

3. It can energize you

We get it: it can be hard to get up off that couch and start the decluttering process. But once you do, you’ll kick yourself into that high-gear, getting-stuff-done mode, which can spill over into other parts of your life. According to clinical psychologist Dr. Bhavna Barmi, “When you accomplish the relatively small task of decluttering, you attain a sense of accomplishment which leaves you more energized and helps you move towards your goals.” After all, anytime something you do (no matter how big or small) takes you toward a goal, you’ll feel better, more productive, and more motivated to keep on keepin’ on!

4. It can reduce stress and boost your mood

african american woman smiling
Decluttering can improve your mood.

Feeling stressed because you can’t find things in your space, or even lashing out at the people around you when things get lost, or when the clutter gets overwhelming? Yup, clutter definitely causes stress; in fact, in one study, when working couples gave tours of their homes, women who used more words describing clutter and disorganization also tended to show higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol, suggesting chronic stress. So, on the flip side of that, decluttering can help to alleviate stress: other studies show that the actual act of cleaning and decluttering can decrease overall stress by lowering cortisol levels, and increasing endorphins (our feel-good hormone).

Your Wallet on Decluttering

Are you starting to feel good already, just thinking about how a decluttering project can benefit your mental health? Great! But the benefits don’t stop there: decluttering can actually save you money, as well! It’s a common misconception that keeping everything will save you money in the long run, but that just isn’t the case (in fact, studies show that storing unused items in your home costs roughly $10 per square foot). Here’s why:

1. You won’t need to buy multiples of anything anymore

Get this: according to one study, U.S. households collectively spend a whopping $2.7 billion annually replacing lost items! But if you declutter, once you’ve gotten rid of excess stuff, and whittled down to the stuff you need, and organized the stuff that’s left, you’ll know exactly what you have and where it is. Great for your stress levels, but also really practical because you’ll no longer end up buying something you already have! 

2. You’ll save money on storage solutions

Ok, a trip to one of those stores that sells endless rows of streamlined storage solutions can be really fun, we admit it. But all of that extra stuff that you need to store all of your extra stuff is costing you a whole lot of money! And here’s a tip while decluttering, while it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of the moment and spend a bunch of money on organization items halfway through the decluttering process, don’t. You need to know how much stuff you’re actually keeping before you buy storage. 

3. You can cash in on the good stuff

Remember that old decluttering technique: divide everything into piles of things to keep, donate, and trash? You can also add a fourth category for the stuff that’s in great shape: sell. That used to be a tall order, with a lot of running around to places like consignment shops, but nowadays you have a ton of options right at your fingertips! Try sites/apps like eBay, Mercari, Poshmark, ThredUp, Vinted, and Facebook Marketplace.

And don’t forget about that donate pile: donating your unwanted stuff feels good (just soak in that good feeling knowing you’re helping others while you declutter!), but it’s also tax deductible.

4. You can’t pay bills you can’t findfiles and papers stacked on top of each other

Nobody likes paying bills, right? But what’s worse is paying your bills late and racking up late fees or hurting your credit score. And that’s what’s happening to a lot of people with cluttered spaces, simply because they misplace their bills! In fact, 25% of adults say they pay bills late because they lose them.

5. A decluttering mindset can rein in spending

You might notice that, once you’ve done some decluttering, you won’t want to go back to the bad old days of a cluttered house, and will be more likely to stay in that “decluttering mindset.” That might also mean that you’ll be less likely to mindlessly buy unnecessary stuff that will just become clutter, which will save you money as you shop!

6. Time is money

Having a cluttered space can suck up your time, and take you away from more productive things. Consider these stats: the average person spends two and a half days searching for misplaced items each year, and nearly 25% of us are late to school or work at least twice a week as a result of searching for lost items. Not only that, but in the average home, getting rid of clutter eliminates 40% of the housework! Just think what you could be doing with all that extra time! You’ll have more time to do stuff yourself, instead of paying someone else to do it, or you’ll be able to find better deals on things. Add to that your reined-in spending, and you might find you have to work less, or you can start paying off your debts!

There you have it: we’ve given you 11 great reasons to get back on that spring cleaning decluttering train. It might feel overwhelming when you look around you at all the clutter that’s dragging you done, but you got this. Just start small and don’t feel like you need to do everything in a day – remember that every step you take towards your goal will make you happier, healthier, and maybe even a little better off financially. 

Make a Difference from Home! How to Virtually Volunteer

 you can volunteer with We’re all spending a LOT of time at home these days, and maybe you’re starting to get just a little bit (ok, very) bored with the same old routine. What do you miss most? If one of the things at the top of your list is feeling like you’re getting out there and making a difference in the world, then we’ve got good news for you. There are ways you can volunteer from the comfort (or the boredom) of your own home. 

1. Start Right at Home (Sort of) illustration of a neighborhood with 2 houses next to each other,

If you think that doing good from home requires a lot of admin, finding formal opportunities, filling out online forms, etc, and if that kind of organization is not your thing, don’t worry. You can start making a difference – and getting a taste for helping others – right in your own neighborhood. Right now, people need a sense of community more than ever, and lending a hand and giving encouragement to those around you can go a long way. For example, thank all the essential workers around you, like trash collectors, mail carriers, and grocery store clerks, with signs, notes, or treats. Find out if neighbors need anything and add necessities to your grocery order, check up on those around you (especially the elderly) with texts, or leave a treat on their porch. Small, random acts of kindness might be some of the biggest things you can do to volunteer right now. 

2. Open Up and Share

Everyone’s got a story to tell, and you know what? Sometimes your story can make a big impact on the lives of others who might be going through the same things you’ve experienced. Think about what you are passionate about, and what things have most affected you in life. Are you a cancer survivor? Have you experienced mental health issues? Are you big into rescuing animals? Have you gone through something as a parent? Reach out to organizations and ask if you can help by sharing your story. Your words might just convince someone to make a donation, or could reach someone who is experiencing the same thing that you’ve gone through. Never underestimate the power of your words!

3. Make Your Voice Heard – Online

a cycle if thoughts and phone and social media and people.
Make your voice heard online by following legislators on social media and connecting with them.

You can use your voice by telling your story online, or you can use it to speak up for change. With just a few extra minutes in your day – and from the comfort of your own couch or in between Zoom meetings – you can take political action. Start by following your legislators (everyone from your town/city council members and your local school board to your state and federal representatives) on social media (we know you were on there anyway!). If there’s an issue you’re passionate about, tag them in your tweets and posts when you advocate for a cause, and be persistent to get their attention. 

Facebook also allows you to directly connect with your representatives through their Town Hall feature, and other websites perform a similar function, like Democracy.io. There are also apps that allow you to track your representatives’ votes, or to contact them with the tap of a button – try Vote Spotter, for example. You’ve got the whole world quite literally in your pocket, so let your fingers do the volunteering!

4. Brighten a Senior’s Day

Visiting nursing or care homes is definitely out of the question these days, but that doesn’t mean that older adults don’t need to know there are people out there who care. In fact, that might be more important than ever, as isolation can hit vulnerable populations the hardest. Reach out to nursing homes, and find out if they have any programs that include connecting with residents by making phone calls or being a pen/email pal.

5. Find Time for Furry Friendsyoung caucasian boy carrying a yellow Labrador puppy.

You’re home, you’re on the couch – why not add a furry friend to cuddle with into the mix? There are still animals out there who need homes, and many shelters are allowing people to register and adopt online. And, now that many shelters are closed to visitors, fostering pets is another great way to volunteer. If you can’t manage either of those options, shelters are always looking for donations of anything from food to blankets to toys.

6. Connect with an Organization

If you ARE the type of person that likes to get more formally involved with well-organized groups, you can look into bigger nonprofits (and some smaller ones, too – just check with them) that offer virtual volunteering opportunities. You can do anything from offer your talents in things like writing, editing, translating, and research to helping share important updates on social media to even transcribing historical documents. Look into the following organizations you can volunteer for, but don’t limit yourself if none of these catches your fancy – there are plenty of others out there waiting for you to lend a hand.

  • United Nations Volunteers
  • The Smithsonian Institute
  • The Red Cross
  • Amnesty Decoders
  • Crisis Text Line
  • Translators Without Borders
  • Zooniverse
  • DoSomething.Org
silhouette of a person with a headset on with video games on the screen.
Get your family, friends, or office involved in an online gaming competition to raise money for charity!

7. Fundraise from Afar

You’re probably not going to be setting up any bake sales or lemonade stands anytime soon, but how about a virtual lemonade stand? Organizations like Alex’s Lemonade, which helps kids battling cancer has some great ideas to check out for setting up fundraisers, like virtual lemonade stands or video game competitions for charity. Or, if you’re really ready to get off your couch, try a virtual race! You can gather donations online and support your favorite organization – some races even let you use your treadmill at home.

8. Pack It Up!

Has all the extra time at home led to some serious decluttering sessions? Did you go crazy on the canned goods at the start of the pandemic? Got enough feminine hygiene products to last more than your lifetime? There are plenty of organizations out there doing good, giving to people in need, and the needs they’re trying to meet are greater than ever. Call around to local food banks and shelters to see what they’re accepting and how you can safely get it to them. Even if they’re not accepting things like clothes or books right now, you can guarantee they’ll be clamoring for them in the near future, so don’t throw anything away that someone else could use! 

For many of us, there is more willingness to give back than there is time or the ability (due to restrictions) to do so. But, we say, where there’s a will, there’s a way! Check out the options above, or think of other ways to volunteer virtually, and you’ll not only help your fellow humans, but you’ll reap all the rewards that volunteering brings to those who give it a try. Let us know how you get involved!

Downsizing? Where to Start

Your house is more than just a roof over your head; it’s where you’ve raised your family and celebrated many of the big moments in your life. It’s where you’ve done so much of your living! And that means it’s probably also where you’ve been accumulating a tremendous amount of stuff. Call it memories, call it clutter, call it what you will, it might be time to deal with all the old knicknacks, photos, childrens’ artwork, out-of-style clothing, dusty toys, unused holiday decorations, etc that are hiding in every corner and haunting your basement and attic. Not sure you’re ready? Well, let’s take a look at why you should consider downsizing now, and some simple ways to get started. 

Why to Get Down with Downsizing

While the thought of decluttering your home might seem daunting, it will be well worth the time it will take. There are so many advantages to downsizing, especially that amazing feeling you get after a big clear-out – I know that I still gaze happily into my tidied tupperware cabinet everyday, even though I cleaned it up months ago! But if you need more incentive, consider the following reasons to clear the clutter:

older caucasian hands holding up an old photo with other laying around.
When clearing out your home, you will come across some memories that you can share with others. 
  • You can share the memories and reduce the burden – If you’ve ever had to clear out a loved one’s home, you know it can be a very big task. But you also know that going through a lifetime of accumulated things can bring up a lot of memories as you come across keepsakes and little treasures. Take the time now to clear out so you can share your own memories, keepsakes, and treasures with your loved ones. In the process, you’ll know that your family won’t be burdened with an overwhelming job later on. 
  • Your house will be market ready – So many seniors make the big decision to sell their family home and move on to smaller digs or a retirement community. Clearing out now means you’ll have a house that’s ready to be photographed and shown to potential buyers – and clearing out will make moving so much easier! Even if you don’t plan on moving right now, when it comes down to it, your house will be sold eventually, so make the job easier for your loved ones.
  • Decluttering = de-stressing – Did you know that multiple psychological studies have shown that having clutter around us makes us feel overwhelmed and stressed, and can even make anxiety and depression worse? Cleaning, on the other hand, is a proven way to reduce stress, and get in a little exercise, too!
  • A cleaner house is a healthier house – Clutter can become a safety hazard as your mobility decreases, but it can also create an unhealthy environment in your house. Clearing out dusty, unused items can help reduce allergens and actually improve the air quality in your home. Just think of all the dust mites, pollen, and mold that will be sent packing when you clear out the clutter!
  • Tax deductions! – You shouldn’t keep everything, but you also shouldn’t throw everything away. Consider donating things to charitable organizations or homeless shelters, and get a tax write-off in the process. 

Hopefully you’ve found a reason from those above to motivate you! So now you might be wondering how to even start. Don’t worry, it’s not as hard as you might think; after all, no one expects the job to get done in one afternoon. What you need is a plan, and we’ve got you covered.

Trust Us, You Can Do This!

Getting started is always the hardest part, so start by telling yourself that you’re going to break the job into bite-size pieces (and reminding yourself how great you’re going to feel when you’ve accomplished your task!). Most organization experts say that making a plan is the way to go, so try following these steps:

caucasian woman holding a bucket with cleaning supplies in it

  • Gather your supplies – Number one on your list? Get yourself in gear by gathering all the supplies you’ll need to do your clear out, like garbage bags, empty boxes, markers, paper towels, and cleaning supplies. Having all of this around you will make you feel ready for the task at hand, and there’ll be no excuses or annoying breaks while you go search for more places to stash your discarded clutter. 
  • Make it seem manageable – Looking at the job ahead of you and seeing it as a possibly never-ending task would be enough to make anyone give up and hit the couch before they even start. So, as we said, break up the job and make it seem manageable. Do this by choosing one room or area at a time, and even giving yourself a set time limit to work. For example, tell yourself, “I’m going to focus on the bedroom closet today and work for two hours, then have a break. My goal is to finish that closet today, and that will be enough of an accomplishment.”
  • Use positive reinforcement – You can also use psychological tactics to keep yourself going. For example, start with a room or area that you use a lot, or that you know will look a lot better after a clear out. Noticeable results will keep you motivated!
  • Start off easy – Once you’ve picked a room to start in, ease yourself into your work by starting with the easy stuff – unquestionable junk. Throw away old makeup, broken bits and pieces, pens that don’t write, or tame your junk drawer and grocery bag collection. 
  • Categorize and use the OHIO rule – Now things start to get trickier. You’ve cleared out the junkiest junk, and now you’ve got to decide what stays and what goes. Go through every single item (yikes!) in your chosen area and, if necessary, think about what purpose it serves you. Do you love it? Or are you keeping it out of habit? Have you not touched it in a year, or not even taken it out of the package? As you think about this, put your items into the following five categories:

    caucasian hands putting a pile of clothes into a brown box.
    When deciding what to do with things, stick to the OHIO rule of whether to keep, give away, sell, throw away, or donate.
    • Keep
    • Give away
    • Garage sale potential
    • Charitable donations
    • Throw away

Avoid having a “maybe” pile, and, if you can, use the OHIO rule, which stands for “only handle it once.” Don’t keep going back and forth about whether to keep an item, only to end up with everything in a maybe pile. Try to pick it up and decide quickly. And, if you find yourself with too many items in the “keep” pile, see what duplicates you have of things and choose one favorite to keep. 

  • Avoid boredom – Try to keep the mood fun! Try playing upbeat music, or asking a friend to help and treating them to pizza. Or, ask your adult children to help if they’re up for it – maybe they’ll find a treasure or two, or at least share some memories with you! 

You’ve got a lifetime of memories in your house, but not everything is a treasure. In fact, the things collecting dust around you can be bad for your mental and physical health. You don’t have to dread the job of downsizing (or put it off until someone else has to do it for you), though. Take a lighthearted and positive approach, congratulate yourself as you make progress, and stick to it, because you can do it! Just think of how wonderful and accomplished you’ll feel afterwards – just don’t spend too much time staring in amazement at your newly decluttered space!

How to Make the Most of “Me Time”

Sometimes you just need a mental health day. And sometimes you get one, and then have no idea what to do with all that “me time.” So you end up feeling guilty, unproductive, and more dissatisfied than when you started. If this sounds familiar to you, then maybe it’s time to examine why you end up feeling this way, and what you can do to counteract it. Sure, “me time” can be a time to simply veg out, but if you’re finding that mental health days aren’t improving your mental health, try to figure out exactly what it is you’re feeling. Maybe you’re feeling disorganized or disconnected, and a day scrolling through Netflix or social media isn’t what you need to get back on track. Whatever it is, you can plan out ways to make the most of your “me time,” so you can be ready to tackle whatever life throws at you. 

If You’re Feeling Disorganized…

We all get that scattered feeling sometimes. It can really hit you when you’ve got down time, and are free to look around at the clutter surrounding you or obsess over all the tasks that seem to be piling up on you, and that you feel like you should be doing. If your mind is racing and jumping all over the place, and you’re trying to drown it all out with some binge watching, why not try instead:

  • Bullet journalingIf you’ve already got a bullet journal started, pull it out. If you haven’t started one, consider doing it now! This creative mix of planner and diary can be whatever you want it to be. You can choose to do anything from track your mental and physical health to plan meals, make shopping lists, and keep track of important dates. Working on your journal a little bit every day could go a long way in calming and focusing your mind.

    woman with curly hair sitting at her table with laptop open and a calculator in front of her and a pen in her hand.
    Take the time to tackle some of your finances!
  • Doing some admin – Sounds fun, right? Maybe not, but it can calm you and give you a sense of accomplishment to tackle some non-intimidating aspects of your finances. Think of filing away all of those receipts and paperwork that fill up your drawers and wallet, setting some bills to auto-pay (after you pay them and check them off your list!), or even starting an easy budget with a user-friendly app. 
  • Decluttering – You don’t have to go crazy and plan for a major overhaul of your whole house, but why not find an area of your bedroom, or a corner of your closet that you can easily reorganize? Pulling out things that you no longer use and donating them to charity can feel freeing- and can make at least a small part of your world look a little tidier and less stress-inducing. 
  • Jotting it down – It might be time to get back to basics and start making some good old-fashioned to-do lists, but try using some specific techniques to make them less intimidating and more focused. Start your lists with the smallest, easiest accomplished task. Keep only one task at the top of your list at a time, and cross it off as you complete it, then move on to the next. 

If You’re Feeling Disconnected…

How is it that we can live in a world where we are constantly connected but still sometimes feel so…disconnected? Scrolling through social media is not always the best way to bring yourself closer to your community or your network, or to humanity at large. Sometimes it just leaves us feeling like we’re missing out on something, or like we’re both isolated and overwhelmed at the same time. If you’re feeling this way, try…

caucasian woman sitting outside with her phone up to her face looking at it with a smile
Call or video chat with your friend to catch up.
  • Calling (or video chatting with) a friend – Sending a text or hopping onto social media are convenient ways to get a message across or superficially see what your friends are up to, but nothing can replace hearing the voice of someone you care about, with all of its emotional inflections. 
  • Paying for a stranger’s coffee – Sick of spending your time “liking” the posts of hordes of faraway acquaintances? One small act of random, in-person kindness is a simple way to feel an instant connection to another human – a tiny, digital thumbs up has nothing on a real smile on someone’s face. 
  • Cooking something you love and sharing it with a friend – If you enjoy cooking, it can feel like a creative and productive act, especially if you share your finished product with someone you care about. 
  • Volunteering Nothing makes you feel closer to your community than giving something back to it. There are so many ways you can give back; even if you only have a few extra hours of “me time,” you can still find an organization that would be glad of your time.

If You’re Feeling Like You Need Some (Self) Love…

Sometimes having extra time on our hands can mean extra time to criticize ourselves. A mental health day can be whatever you want it to be – but it shouldn’t devolve into that! If you’re already the type that makes to-do lists and beats yourself up if you don’t check off every single thing on it every day, or if you’re staring in the mirror and tearing yourself down, then stop and take some time out to live in the moment and just enjoy you, yourself. Try: 

  • Switching up how you get moving – If you’re the type that likes to blow off steam with crazy workouts, try slowing down with a yoga class and focus on breathing and feeling the strength of your body. If you’re more into the slow stuff, try a brisk, sweaty run and see how you feel – it might just invigorate you! back of a woman's head getting her hair cut by a pair of hands.
  • Pampering yourself – Sure, it’s cliched, but sometimes the best thing to do is to treat yourself. What does that look like for you? A mani-pedi? A new haircut and/or color? A massage? Buying something you’ve been saving up for but hesitating on? A simple ice cream cone, hopefully enjoyed with any guilt or other emotions attached to it? In fact, whatever you choose to do, surrender your senses to it and try to remove all feelings of guilt that may be attached to spending money or indulging in extra calories. 
  • Enjoying the silence – Unplug. Turn off the TV. Read a book. Rediscover your love of listening to music.
  • Resting! – That’s right, there’s nothing wrong with taking a much-needed cat nap. Curl up, get cozy, read till you fall asleep, and feel like a carefree kid again.
  • Writing – Even if you’re not the creative type, try journaling about what you’re grateful for, or the positive impacts you’ve had on other people’s lives – trust us, there’s a lot of both!

Having some extra “me time” on your hands is a gift, even if it doesn’t feel like it these days! It’s easy, though, to feel paralyzed when you find yourself faced with this gift, and to end up feeling like you missed your chance to refresh and restore. Don’t get us wrong: you don’t need to fill every moment of your life with tasks, you simply need to find ways to add a sense of calm, joy, connection, or satisfaction with yourself into your life. If that sounds like a difficult task, then start with the simple things that we have suggested – you might just be able to add the mental health back into your mental health day!