Whether it’s the digital clutter of email pings in the middle of the night, stacks of unfiled paperwork on the floor, mementos crammed onto a desk, or stepping on toys as you walk into your house, clutter is taking over America.
There’s so much stuff cluttering our life that paying to store our excess in a storage unit has become part of everyday life for 8.9 percent of American households. According to 2012 data from the Self Storage Association, self-storage is up 50% from 1995.
There is 7.3 square feet of self-storage space for every person in the U.S., allowing every American to stand under the total canopy of self-storage roofing!
While you might think that you’ll use in the future what you’ve chosen to store because it has sentimental value, or you spent money on acquiring it, the majority of these items just clutter your life and eventually get neglected.
All of this clutter affects your mind, and ultimately, your work and personal life. Having too many things around you can hurt your ability to focus and process information, according to a Princeton University study that found that physical clutter competes for your attention and lowers performance while increasing stress.
Researchers at UCLA found that the stress hormones of mothers spiked when they spent time dealing with their belongings. 75% of the families in the study couldn’t park their cars in their garages because they were packed with other things.
So if clutter is so hurtful to our lives, why do people keep accumulating junk? Yale researchers found that the same areas of the brain that light up when you feel physical pain are affected by the loss of a valued possession. Researchers found that hoarders, when confronted with tossing their own junk, had increased brain activity that correlates with pain (anterior cingulate cortex and the insula).
While it might be momentarily painful to get rid of your clutter, whether it’s a cluttered house or an overflowing in-box, an overload of clutter can make you feel stressed and unable to think creatively. Additionally, clutter creates inescapable stress, resulting in parents yelling at their kids to clean up their rooms.
What to do about it? Start by finding your clutter pain zone. How much clutter can you live with before you feel stressed? And where do you have the most clutter?
After you’ve limited how much stuff you have on your desk, how many toys you allow to be thrown on the floor, or how often you check Facebook, follow through and stick to those constraints. Limit yourself to a certain number of toys, for example, and give the rest to charity or your local library.
Review your stuff every month and get rid of stuff you don’t use. Haven’t worn a sweater in a year? Time for it to go. Clean off your desktop at the end of every day.
However you are able to get rid of clutter in your life, it’s essential to be aware of it and know how it can affect you. According to a WebMD story, clutter can even affect your weight. The author of a book titled “Does This Clutter Make My Butt Look Fat?” found an association between the amount of clutter people have and their excess weight. They led a life of consumption, full of stuff – including food.
By eliminating clutter, you can focus on other areas of your life that are more important — your kids or the activities you really enjoy. You’ll be surprised by how much money you can spend on these activities when you’re not spending on storage space for stuff you don’t need and likely will never use again.