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Health Benefits of De-cluttering

For the past several days, my wife Margaret and I have been going through our home, room by room, and de-cluttering like mad.

Though we've never been ones to accumulate a bunch of knick knacks or expensive toys, with two little boys demanding most of our attention over the past few years, we recently realized that a serious spring cleaning job was in order.

We ended up donating several boxes of books to our public library.

We also took at least a dozen large bags of baby clothes and a variety of miscellaneous items to our local Goodwill store.

What sorts of miscellaneous items? You know, things that you intend to use someday, but that haven't come out of the closet for years.

We're just about finished with our ginormous cleaning spree; all that's left is a little storage room in our basement, which definitely won't be a walk in the park.

But let me tell you, it feels amazingly good to know that there's very little in our home right now that we aren't making good use of.

If your living or work spaces have accumulated some unnecessary items - things that you don't truly need - I encourage you to think about going on a cleaning and donating field day (or week) of your own.

There are actually a number of published studies that demonstrate a strong link between a build up of clutter and risk of developing a variety of health challenges.

A resistance to de-cluttering is usually called "hoarding" in medical literature, and my understanding is that this is a real clinical condition that can significantly decrease quality of life for the hoarder, and for those who live with the hoarder.

If you're serious about de-cluttering and want some guidance, here's how I'd recommend that you go about it:

Use four separate bags or boxes to categorize the following groups of items:

  1. To donate to a local goodwill or salvation army store.

  2. To donate to a local public library.

  3. To recycle.

  4. To throw out with the garbage or to take to the dump.

When sorting through your stuff, if you're not sure if an item should go or stay, ask yourself if you've used it within the past six months. If the answer is no, then you might strongly consider letting it go and making more space to breathe and enjoy a clutter-free life.

Beyond the feelings of freedom and peace that come with de-cluttering is the relief of knowing that should you move in the near future, you'll be seventy steps ahead of the game when it comes time to pack and haul.

Another benefit - not a pleasant one for most to think about - is this: should we pass on unexpectedly, keeping a de-cluttered home is a huge gift that we'll be leaving our loved ones who will be left to sort through our things - this can be extraordinarily helpful during a tragic time for our families.

If this post inspires you to turn your living or work spaces into pristine, open areas that are free of unnecessary items, or if you have any tips or experiences on de-cluttering, I'd appreciate you sharing in the comments section below. Thank you.


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I've spent the better part of this last month de-cluttering our entire house and I most defintiely agree that standing in a room that is clean and clear of clutter and unused "stuff" creates a great feeling of peace for me. I've had a hard time putting into words how good I've felt and why during this year's Spring Cleaning, so I was happily surprised by this little article about cleaning out clutter. I feel like the cleaning has been symbolic for me--cleaning out the "closets" of my mind, becoming aware of and letting go of beliefs and attitudes that no longer work for me. I've found many things that were once useful or helpful to me that I have passed along to family or friends, in the hopes that they will find them helpful or useful. AND I've found so many useful things that I didn't know we even had! I have a few more rooms to go yet, but I am thrilled with the new feeling my home has now. So, Dr. Ben Kim--right there with you! Keep up your fantastic work. I look forward to your newsletter and frequently share your articles with friends and family. Happy Spring!

I am a big proponent of de-cluttering. It feels fantastic to live in a clean home where you can easily find the things you need and not worry about tripping over something! One comment about donating books to a library, some libraries do not place donated books on their shelves for folks to borrow. Instead, they sell all donated materials to raise cash to buy new books.

I found inspiration in your article and I'm going to start de-cluttering today. I don't get so inspired to do things for just me, but when you mentioned that clutter affects the lives of people you live with, I noticed. And we don't even have obvious clutter! I'm affected by "hidden" clutter in closets and boxes and storage areas. That's what I'm going to work on... Thanks so much for your good articles and newsletters. They are much appreciated!

Dr. Kim's articles are so very helpful and well balanced. I love his genuineness and concern for others' well being. This article is extremely timely as Spring is in the air and with Spring comes growth and renewal. It's a time to take stock and unburden yourself of all unnecessary stuff. After all, "less is more"!