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Cost of Clutter on Your Well-Being: 5 Ways to Simplify Your Life

Not all clutter is visible. Today, most of us are constantly thinking about others, and taking care of others, while sadly neglecting ourselves. To help others and to have others rely on you is a dignifying and enriching experience, but it can also lead to feelings of constant stress, frustration and chaos.

If you’re looking for ideas on how to simplify life, you’re not alone. Here are some of the main ways you can reduce stress this August while still engaging in your favorite activities, and not missing a thing. 

Clear Clutter

Many overwhelmed people live in cluttered homes. But house clutter is both an cause and effect of stress. A 2011 study showed that having visual clutter, like having stacks of books or piles of clothes around, triggered sections of the brain related to stress, as well as the fear response attached to the amygdala. Clutter can bring a general feeling of uneasiness and can literally drain your energy, but getting rid of it is difficult for people with busy schedules.

One strategy to simplify life by clearing clutter is to take 15 or 30 minutes each night to tackle one pile at a time, de-cluttering your house space by space, or room by room. Another strategy is to take several hours one weekend and just be done with it. Either way, you’ll remove a subtle but significant energy drain from your life and replace it with the feelings of relaxation that comes from having your home be a stress-free haven.

Keeping it organized and clutter-free can make your home a safe, stress-free place to relax and unwind from the hustle and bustle of daily life, a place you actually look forward to retreating to at the end of a long day. If you clear the physical clutter, you will no doubt clear out your internal gunk/clutter as well, making you feel lighter, (literally and figuratively) happier and less stressed to boot.

Cut Out Negative Relationships

You may already be aware of the value of solid, supportive relationships in your life, such as the friend who picks you up when you’re down, is deeply honest with you to a fault, celebrates with you when you’re happy and shares events in your life as they happen, be it good or bad. You may not be as aware of the effects of conflicted relationships, like the critical, unpredictable, competitive, or fair-weather friend. These friendships come in all sorts of forms and disguises. It turns out that these “toxic friendships” actually drain us more than purely negative relationships. The unpredictable and catch off guard nature of these types of relationships makes them easier to maintain, as opposed to let go.

If you’re wondering how to simplify your life, save yourself grief, frustration and drama by taking an honest stock of your relationships, and decide which are worth maintaining, and which should be let go. While this is no doubt a difficult task to accomplish, you will undoubtedly be healthier and happier in the long run.

Automate What You Can

Getting some of the daily, weekly and monthly work of your life into an automated system can help simplify your life and relieve stress. This leaves more space in your mind for other important matters. Making little changes in your daily routine like setting up automatic timers to turn off your lights, organizing your email inbox with the creation of filters, signing up for automatic bill pay options or unsubscribing from junk-email can be an easy way to start simplifying your life. By putting in a little initial work, you can set it, and then forget about it. 

Learn to Say No

Many of us don’t treat our time as valuable. We over-commit to requests from work, school, and friends, leaving us with no downtime of our own. While most of us have busy schedules these days, it’s important to schedule time for exercise, hobbies and other stress relievers, as well as time for our relationships.

One way to find this time is to get better at saying no to demands that aren’t serving you. Learning how to say no more often could make lasting changes to your stress levels, and find yourself living a more simplified, balanced and joyous life.

Live Within Your Means

To say that money can’t buy happiness is cliché. We all may inherently know this and research has confirmed our intuitions about it. Still, many individuals carry large amounts of debt, to keep up with the Joneses, leading to worries about making ends meet and health problems. The key to avoiding this type of financial stress is simple: live within your means. This may not be easy to implement give human nature, desire and the way we are wired. It can be a difficult change at first, but one that will bring great rewards in the long run, while significantly lowering your stress levels in the process.

If this list feels hard to tackle all at once, and you begin to feel overwhelmed, focus just on one thing from the list above starting in August. This way you can continue your progress of self care that you have made well into the Fall with a sense of freshness, and the feeling of a new beginning with excitement, rejuvenation and an uplifted spirit.

Cost of Clutter on Your Well-Being: 5 Ways to Simplify Your Life

Emily Waters

Emily Waters earned her Master's degree in industrial psychology with an emphasis in human relations. She possesses keen insight into the field of applied psychology, organizational development, motivation, and stress, the latter of which is ubiquitous in the workplace environment and in one’s personal life. One of her academic passions is the understanding of human nature and illness as it pertains to the mind and body. Prior to obtaining her degree, she worked in both the corporate and nonprofit sectors. Presently, she teaches a variety of psychology courses both in public and private universities.

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APA Reference
Waters, E. (2018). Cost of Clutter on Your Well-Being: 5 Ways to Simplify Your Life. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 31, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 5 Aug 2018 (Originally: 5 Aug 2018)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 5 Aug 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.