Cool, Calm and Clutter-Free

By Lesley Myrick

Let go of the rest to focus on the best

Take a moment to notice the dining room photo above. Really study it. What do you see?

I see beautiful herringbone wood floors. A stunning chandelier. Fresh cut flowers that bring life and vibrancy. An elegant space to gather with friends, food and a great bottle of wine. It’s cool, calm and clutter-free — totally a room I’d like to spend time in.

Now, picture that same dining room with a pile of junk mail on the table. Kids toys strewn on the floor. A few random boxes stacked in the corner filled with stuff that “you’ll get around to putting away someday.” Kinda kills the mood, doesn’t it? No longer do you appreciate the design details, the architecture or the ambiance of the space. All you can focus on is the crap in the way. And boy, does seeing that crap day in and day out drain your energy!

Clutter, my friends, is a total buzzkill.

If you’re living in a home overrun with stuff, it’s time to make a change. Not only for the benefits of how your home will look but also how it will feel. A clutter-free home can drastically improve your quality of life. Here’s proof:

Researchers at UCLA’s Center on the Everyday Lives of Families studied the relationship between 32 California families and the thousands of objects in their homes. One discovery was a high link between cortisol (yup, that’s the stress hormone) in female homeowners and a high density of household objects. Meaning that the more stuff is in the home, the more stress women feel.

In addition, a study published in the scientific journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin used linguistic analysis software to measure the way 60 people discussed their homes.

“Women who described their living spaces as ‘cluttered’ or full of ‘unfinished projects’ were more likely to be depressed and fatigued than women who described their homes as ‘restful’ and ‘restorative,’” noted Jennifer Snyder, certified professional organizer and owner of Neat as a Pin Organizing Experts here in Waco. “Spaces without clutter free up our mental energy for things we want to be thinking about. All of the stuff we have sitting around demands our attention and even makes us feel badly about ourselves.”

As if that wasn’t compelling enough, check this out: the United States bears only 3 percent of the world’s children, yet we account for a whopping 40 percent of all the toys purchased on earth. It’s not just stepping on an errant Lego piece that makes us cranky, it’s the sheer volume of toys and stuff in our home. It’s taking our time, attention and energy, and it’s raising our stress levels.

OK, so we know a clutter-free home means less stress and more joy. Marie Kondo’s books “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” and “Spark Joy” have recently catapulted this concept into the mainstream. Less stress and more joy are reasons enough for me to let the excess go!

I acknowledge this is easier said than done, of course. All this stuff didn’t end up in our homes on its own or all at once. We consciously, or unconsciously, allowed every single item in over time, and it’s up to us to decide to send it on its way. But it’s not about taking this to an extreme level and getting rid of everything but the absolute bare essentials. My design mantra comes from English designer and artist William Morris:

“Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”

So that’s the sweet spot — keep only what you use and love, and have the courage to let the rest go if it’s not useful or beautiful. Because, let me tell you, you will be just fine without seven extra soup ladles (where did they all come from, anyway?), or that dress that’s a little too tight that you’re holding on to for “one day” or those vintage tchotchkes you inherited from your great-grandmother that you don’t even like but you feel guilty letting go of them. When we have less stuff, “we’re able to find what we need when we need it,” Snyder said. “This saves us a ton of time searching for things and even more money in not having to rebuy things we already own and cannot find.”

By clearing clutter, you make space for things that really matter and allow your meaningful items to take center stage. The furnishings and decor you truly love can actually be seen and appreciated! I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather see my awesome, leopard-print cowhide rug every day than a little sliver of leopard peeking out from under books, magazines, shoes, toys and general junk. And I want to sit in my awesome yellow wing chair instead of wondering where it went because it’s obstructed by piles of laundry.

Clearing clutter means letting go of the rest to focus on the best parts of your home and decor. That’s reason enough for me to grab a trash bag this weekend and get started. How about you?

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