How De-Cluttering Was Excellent For My Mental Health (And Wallet)
How can you convert from a ‘stuff’ addict to an almost-minimalist (and make a bit of cash on the side)? Listen up.
It’s no secret that de-cluttering your home can lead to a boost in your mental health and an overall feeling of having your life together. The de-clutter movement has been all the rage since lifestyle consultant turned bestselling author Marie Kondo released her book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and managed to monetise the act of cleaning up other people’s homes.
Her book, which has a lot of info on how to fold your clothes appropriately and only keep things which spark joy, is backed up by a bunch of research on why you should get rid of things you don’t need.
What’s the point of de-cluttering?
A 2011 study conducted by scientists at the Princeton University Neuroscience Institute says that the more stuff you have, the less your brain is able to focus or process information.
Whether your clutter is scattered around the house or hidden away in the garage, it isn’t just taking up physical space – it’s taking up precious mental real estate in your brain.
So, it’s in your brain’s best interests to deal with those overflowing drawers.
But where does the clutter go, and how can I make the most of my situation?
For the past few months, I’ve been getting rid of my stuff: clothes I’ve worn once, books I’ll never read again, and it has felt like a revelation. Some of it I’ve given directly to op shops, some has gone to friends, and everything else I’ve sold online – because if Marie Kondo can monetise tidying up, I can too.
I started to de-clutter because I realised how much my ‘stuff’ was weighing on me: I felt guilty about all my extra possessions and the mess I was capable of creating with them if I was feeling stressed or down.
I’ve become a big advocate of selling your stuff, and not just because of the few extra bucks in my pocket. I genuinely feel healthier and happier as my large pile of unneeded things disappears, and each time I sell something I feel like Oprah. You get a dress, you get a dress, and you get… this weird tie-dye cape I bought on a whim!
The first step
The first step is admitting that you have a problem. Just kidding! Sort of.
Take a look at your stuff; perhaps your clothes are strewn across the floor in a delicately constructed floordrobe. Maybe your books are precariously balanced atop each other across several bookcases, and you have a bunch of old CDs sitting in a box (you don’t actually own a CD player). Or perhaps you’re tidy under false pretenses: your floor is spotless, but you haven’t opened your cupboard in weeks for fear of what will fall out.
Take a look at your bank account: how many things have you purchased over the past six months that you haven’t worn, used, or seen in weeks? No matter what your brand of hoarding is, it’s time to acknowledge that you can’t go on like this, or you will end up on a reality show.
Figure out what you really need
It’s easy to create reasons to not donate or sell your stuff: what if you do read that book again one day? What if that top does fit again next summer? The simple answer to these questions is: you won’t read it again, even if that top does fit, you’ll still buy another one. Even if you have the physical space for stuff your brain still needs room to breathe.
Go through your clothes and be real with yourself: have you worn that dress in the past three months? Will capes ever be in fashion again? I’m not saying you need to go all-out on minimalism, because the thought of a near-empty home sporting beige walls and a few bits of furniture is upsetting. Find a balance between being gentle with yourself and practising tough love – you don’t bloody well need two copies of The Hobbit.
Figure how you can sell it
There are a bunch of different ways you can sell your belongings. Check out what markets are held near you, and investigate how much it costs to book a stall. If you have some ‘higher end’ clothes to sell, consider finding a consignment store. For those who prefer not to leave the house, throw it on Ebay. You can also try setting up a Facebook event, holding a sale day in your garage with a bunch of pals, or even just put the call out on Twitter.
Facebook Groups are another excellent way to fob your stuff off on someone else. There are hundreds upon hundreds of them out there, and they get pretty specific: clothes for sale in your city or suburb, particular brands, plus size, tall, petite, and any other variation you can think of.
Stay strong, friend
It’s all happening: your stuff is flying off the racks or internet shelves, and each transaction is making you feel a little bit lighter. You’ve reached the most difficult part of this process: making sure you don’t backtrack. With that sweet cash sitting happily in your pocket, it’s easy to think ‘I may as well buy some new stuff with this’. Check yourself, my fabulous consumerist friend.
Rein it in, and put that cash in a savings account, pay off some of the debt that you almost definitely have, or spend it – but only on something that you genuinely need. Good luck, and may Marie Kondo be with you.
Chloe Papas is a journalist and writer based in Victoria. You can find her on Twitter here.