For their book Life at Home in the TwentyFirst Century, a team of researchers visited the homes of 32 typical middle-class, dual income families in Los Angeles. In the first house they went to, they logged more than 2,000 possessions—in the first three rooms alone. Our well-documented obsession with stuff has spawned a backlash, naturally, including a movement of people who aspire to pare down to no more than 100 items—and utensils and underwear count. Many claim that a less cluttered home will lead to a less cluttered mind. But does it really work that way? Not necessarily, says Coby Kozlowski, MA, E-RYT, a Kripalu faculty member. “I don’t think it’s so black and white, though I do think having less stuff creates space in your life that can be supportive to reducing stress. Stuff requires maintenance, which can eat up time and energy.” Of course, not all clutter shows up in a tangible form. Much of the clutter that holds us back in life is actually emotional clutter—some of it caused by possessions, but much of it caused by experience. The best way to free your mind of clutter, says Kozlowski, is to first pay it some attention.
“Notice habitual thoughts that don’t serve you, and let them go,” she says. “Once you start observing the thoughts that aren’t supportive to feeling more alive, you’ll create freedom. This is a constant practice, a living meditation.” Other tips include journaling, breathing and co-listening—giving the “clutter” space to move out. “Having a friend or partner just listen without commentary allows you to have valuable time to declutter by sharing,” says Kozlowski. “Or go do your favorite activity—dance, hit golf balls, change it up. Just get out of your head and into your body.” Still, there’s the matter of all that stuff. Kozlowski offers some tips on how to declutter your space—and your mind will follow.
"Much of the clutter that holds us back in life is actually emotional clutter—some of it caused by possessions, but much of it caused by experience."
Set an intention. Decluttering will take effort, so it’s important to acknowledge why you’re doing it. For example, a statement like “I am going to declutter one room a week because it will allow me to feel more relaxed and peaceful” will help you stay on task.
Be accountable. If you have a hard time throwing things out, enlist a friend to help. And commit to getting rid of storage units. If you have something in storage— or in boxes in the basement—for longer than six months, get rid of it.
Keep new stuff in check. Americans tend to spend the first half of their lives accumulating stuff and the second half getting rid of it. Try this: Anytime you buy something new, give five things to Goodwill. And don’t buy anything you can’t afford—no credit cards!
Remind yourself of the consequences. Visit your local landfill and witness what you’re contributing to with unnecessary purchases— more stuff that will end up in the ground. Then, celebrate all the new space you’ve created in your home and your life!