Less Clutter, Less Stress

Find out how reducing clutter in your home can benefit your overall health and wellness.

Medically reviewed in March 2021

Jane and I usually have lunch after yoga class on Saturdays. Recently, she politely excused herself and told me how excited she was to continue decluttering her house.

“Come over later and take a look at my drawers,” she said. “It’s changing my life.”

I could not wait to see what she was doing. When I arrived at her house, she proudly showed me all the space she was able to open up in her drawers and closets.

She had been using the techniques suggested by Marie Kondo in her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. Kondo teaches about the idea of letting go of things that don’t spark joy. She explains how to touch and hold each piece of clothing (or anything in your house) and ask yourself, “Does this spark joy?” If it doesn’t, it’s time to let it go. When all that is left around you is that which sparks joy there is more room in your life.

This idea of letting go is woven throughout the teachings of yoga. It is a call to orderliness and cleanliness, both external and internal. Cleaning and letting go allows energy to flow freely. When we create order and spaciousness around us, we can free up our mental energy as well. We release and it’s in that release that we dissolve all kinds of blockages. Clutter makes it more difficult to relax both physically and mentally, explains Sherrie Bourg Carter, PsyD, in an article in Psychology Today entitled “ 8 Reasons Why Mess Causes Stress. 8 Reasons and 8 Remedies.” Clutter, she says, signals to our brains that our work is never done.

Making the Space to Receive
We all know the feeling we get when things pile up around us. Even if it’s just that one closet, drawer or corner, it has an effect on our ability to feel free and unencumbered. We  tell ourselves we should be more organized. Yet the idea of actually doing something about that feeling can be completely overwhelming. Once we let go, however, we have the space to receive. It helps us open our hearts to give and receive both physically and emotionally.

In the Chinese art of Feng Shui, there is much thought that goes into how things are placed strategically in our space because ultimately it affects our mind and our success in the world. Before the items are placed carefully around us, however, we are taught to declutter our surroundings. In his book Feng Shui for Dummies, author David Kennedy writes, “Whether or not you’re aware of it, your environment profoundly affects your health, wealth, family life, relationship, and yes, even your destiny.” In the same way that our “things” can clutter our surroundings, our thoughts and fears can clutter our minds. As we begin to find order around us, we start to find order and space within us. And in turn, if we find order and space within us we begin to create order in the space around us.

Meditation for Organization
Your daily meditation practice is one of the most important tools for organizing the mind. In meditation, we focus the mind and let all the other thoughts gently arise and dissipate. We allow the “clutter in the mind” to gently unwind as we redirect our attention to a single point. While holding attention to a single point or object, we infuse that attention with more awareness of what is arising. We do this without any judgment, and by holding a compassionate space for all thought to come and go, we can soften and let go. We begin to feel lighter and freer, just like when we let go of physical objects that create clutter. The mind stops clinging and becomes more organized. There is a clarity that emerges and a profound sense of joy when we make space for ourselves.

Looking for other ways to live a healthier, happier life? Reverse heart disease and diabetes, lose weight and reduce stress with these tips from Dean Ornish.

This content was originally published on Ornish Living.

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