New year. New space. Ways to declutter your life.

January 1, 2021 Providence Body & Mind Team

This article was updated on January 1, 2021 to reflect recent information.

Key takeaways:

  • Cutting clutter in your physical space can help reduce the chaos in your mental space.
  • Kids can benefit from decluttering, too.
  • Feng shui may help make your home more comfortable and energized.

[3 MIN READ]

With so much going on in the world, you may not be as focused on what’s going on in your home, especially when it comes to clutter. But as the pandemic continues to make the world seem so out of control, there is a way to gain a measure of control over your life. At the same time, you can also create a much-needed sense of normalcy. The way to do both is to organize your spaces at home.

We are spending more time at home than ever and whether we realize it or not, our physical space has an impact on our emotional well-being.

“We are spending more time at home than ever and whether we realize it or not, our physical space has an impact on our emotional well-being. As such, creating a space that is both calming and comfortable can help us cope during this challenging time,” says Vanessa Casillas, PsyD, Regional Director of Behavioral Health Integration and Specialty Clinics at Providence Medical Group.

In short, now may be the best time to declutter your life.

Clutter: It’s more than just too much stuff

Clutter consists of more than a pile of unmatched socks that never seems to get any smaller. Or having a box of items you’ve been meaning to donate that has a permanent spot in the trunk of your car.

Clutter is a sign of uncontrolled excess. Too much stuff. Too many thoughts. Too many responsibilities.

Clutter is a sign of uncontrolled excess. Too much stuff. Too many thoughts. Too many responsibilities. It can be overwhelming. Especially now.

Even as the new year kicks in, it’s safe to say there will still be kids spending some part of their school time distance learning. And adults will spend more months telecommuting. Decluttering can help you and your family feel empowered to take control of this important part of your life and see positive results because of it.  

Declutter your space, declutter your life

Before you start decluttering your home, Dr. Casillas has this advice: “Spend time reflecting on your current space. How does it make you feel? What do you like about it? What are things you would like to change about it? Once you have spent time reflecting on these things and any other questions that come up, experiment with making small changes in your space that you think might be helpful to you. For example, paint a wall, add a plant, declutter the corner you’ve been looking at for weeks on end. Take note of what you notice internally as you make these small changes.”

Research shows clearing your physical space can help clear your mental space as well.

Declutter your house

If "stuff" has taken over your space, getting rid of the things you no longer use or need will free up more than your floors and closets. Research shows clearing your physical space can help clear your mental space as well.

  • Start small by decluttering and cleaning in 5 to 10-minute intervals and increase your time once you’ve built up momentum.
  • Donate or throw away one item a day for a year and you’ll have removed 365 items from your home with minimal effort.
  • Ask yourself: Do I need this? Do I love this? Do I use this regularly? If the answer is “no,” recycle it, donate it, or throw it away.
  • Check over your home office space, whether it’s a dedicated room or a corner of the dining room table. Organize your papers and office supplies and put everything away every night. As a remote worker, it may be hard to end your workday because you’re at home. It can help to close out the day if you put papers away and shut down your computer—and then walk away!
  • Take before-and-after photos as you tackle each area or room. Keeping track of your progress can help keep you motivated and actively involved in the decluttering process.

Declutter with your kids in mind

More than anyone, kids may be feeling a lack of control over their lives. You can help give them a sense of control by helping them declutter their rooms. (If space allows, you could even set up a place where they can do their schoolwork in comfort.)

Even the youngest kids want to make decisions about their spaces and belongings. They may need a little more help or motivation to declutter, but it’s safe to say they’ll feel more empowered and less bogged down with stuff once their task is complete. 

Even the youngest kids want to make decisions about their spaces and belongings. You may have a child who’s a born neatnik (congratulations!) and will purge their items regularly. Other kids may need a little more help or motivation to declutter, but it’s safe to say they’ll feel more empowered and less bogged down with stuff once their task is complete. 

Throughout the process, allow your child to help decide what to keep, what to give away and what to save as special mementos.

Declutter your digital life

Have digital newsletters, magazines and social media taken over your computer, phone and tablet? Information overload is one of the more draining forms of clutter. You don’t have to cut yourself off from the world altogether, but setting some limits to the onslaught of information you receive daily can reduce your stress level and improve your peace of mind.

  • Unsubscribe to any newsletters, magazines, podcasts or RSS feeds that you no longer enjoy or need.
  • If social media has become intrusive to your “real” life, set time limits for yourself and then stick to them. You may be surprised by how much of your day you’ve freed up.
  • Delete any files and programs you don’t need on your computer. Purge no-longer-used icons from your desktop. Get rid of all the unread, unwanted emails in your inbox.

Declutter your schedule

The demands on your time and attention can be never-ending. Reducing your non-essential commitments is one of the most effective ways you can declutter your life. Even though you may not be physically going as many places as you did before the pandemic, digital commitments can be draining too.

Create a list of priorities and then schedule your time accordingly. Re-evaluate the list regularly to ensure it’s still an accurate reflection of what you consider most important.

  • Create a list of priorities and then schedule your time accordingly. Re-evaluate the list regularly to ensure it’s still an accurate reflection of what you consider most important.
  • Say no to volunteer activities that bring limited value to your life.
  • Make time for yourself. While you’re paring down your schedule, don’t skimp on the time you set aside to refresh, relax and restore.

Design with feng shui

Feng shui (pronounced “fung schway”) is a Chinese philosophy that arranges items in living spaces to bring about balance with the natural world. Feng shui’s goal is to connect energy forces and create harmony between people and where they live.

In feng shui, it’s believed that clutter takes up the space that incoming energy needs. 

Experts in feng shui place certain colors and arrange furnishings in rooms to help enhance comfort. They believe this practice helps create a peaceful home setting, and in turn a peaceful mind and body. In feng shui, it’s believed that clutter takes up the space that incoming energy needs. Specialists believe that decluttering will ease stress and bring order even in these disordered times.

Other ways you can use feng shui when decluttering:

  • Make your entryway inviting. This is the first place you enter in your home—make it a welcoming and inviting source of good energy by getting rid of clutter and dust.
  • Make your paths clear. You want the most-used routes in your home to be free of tripping hazards. First of all, you’ll spare your body from harm. But you’ll also have a more efficient space that flows better.
  • Make room for plants. In feng shui, plants add fresh, vital life energy to your home.

Declutter for better living today—and tomorrow

It may seem hard to believe, but one day we’ll return to life without lockdowns, where home doesn’t have to be the schoolroom and office cubicle, too. Still, you won’t regret taking time now to declutter your life for a more comfortable, productive and stress-free present—and future. Dr. Casillas sums it up well: “Your space matters!”

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Find a doctor

At Providence, we offer the tools and resources you need to declutter and manage your healthcare needs conveniently and efficiently. You can find a specialist in our provider directory. Or you can search for a primary care doctor in your area.

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Share how you plan to #simplify and #declutteryour life in 2021 with readers @providence.

Related resources

4 women share their experiences with stress caused by the COVID pandemic

5 Healthy New Year's Resolutions (That Don't Involve Losing Weight)

The Journal of Neuroscience

Parenting During Quarantine

Dealing with sustained change during COVID-19

This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.

About the Author

The Providence Body & Mind Team is dedicated to providing medically-sound, data-backed insights and advice on how to reach and maintain your optimal health through a mixture of exercise, mindfulness, preventative care and healthy living in general.

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