Brabantia says the phrase ‘a tidy house, a tidy mind’ applies to three quarters of the nation, as Brits with mental health problems reveal cleaning has a calming effect. With that in mind, we spoke to psychologist Emma Kenny to discuss how minimalism fits into the mix and whether it has a bigger impact on bad mood than just being alright.
Given the recent rise in minimalism, do you think that minimalists tend to be happier than non-minimalists because they have fewer things to maintain?
Minimalism creates a sense of order that can make you feel like you have more control over your wider world, so minimalists are less likely to get bogged down by the burden of excess baggage in their lives, both emotionally and physically, which means they’re likely to do better the happiness index.
What are the benefits of keeping an eye on your home in terms of your mental health?
I’ve worked with premium homeware brand Brabantia, who recently conducted a study that found 76% of us say a clean home is important to our mental health and well-being. Finding places where you can feel good is important to keeping your sanity in check. Living in a chaotic environment can create a type of mental chaos that leads to more negative thought loops. When your house feels and looks clean and tidy, it sends you a message that you are getting done and a reminder to make positive choices in your wide world.
Does tidying up have the same positive mental health effects as simply tidying up?
Tidying up is something you should do on a regular basis as it helps cut out minor things that do little aside from making our homes look messy. When you only keep what you need, you create a minimalist mindset that carries over to other areas of your life. It will mean that not only will you have a beautiful home, but you will also reduce spending, food waste and buying items that you really don’t need. Cleaning up shows you how much you are wasting and helps you optimize and eventually stop this behavior
How can there be a spiraling effect on someone’s mental health from having too many things?
Having too many things usually means you overspend or use this behavior to distract yourself from something that is missing in your life. While you can do this for a period of time, it eventually catches up to you, which means you have to deal with your emotional issues while also having to deal with a house full of unwanted items, which can feel completely overwhelming. Because of this, keeping track of your home has far-reaching benefits.
How can an overwhelming home environment affect relationships between the people living there?
When you look at the landscape of your life and see chaos, delays, or general disorganization, it can lead to increased stress and anxiety. These feelings can become so emotionally problematic that they begin to affect your closest relationships when you end up projecting your feelings onto your relationships instead of taking control and fixing your life. While blaming someone else for our feelings can help us in the short-term, it harms good relationships and doesn’t have a positive impact on your life in the long-term.
What’s the best way to declutter your home if you’ve never done it before?
When it comes to tidying up, you need to take each room one at a time and make sure you finish one before moving on to the next. Make sure you have the cleaning products you need, clear a few hours from your schedule and literally start in a corner of the room and clean up from there. Being reckless is important, if you haven’t worn, used, or needed items in years, send them to the charity store, sell them, or throw them away. Never start decluttering multiple rooms at once as it will make you feel like there are no clean rooms in your house and make you feel even more overwhelmed which is counterproductive.
What impact do you think lockdown has had on people and their relationship with their things?
Lockdown has been difficult for many reasons and everyone will have dealt with and reacted to it differently. A lot of people are now working from home, and that means you’ve started to look at your home differently. You don’t switch off from work when you leave the office, because now home is the office. This blurring of lines means that keeping your house organized is more important than ever. Many of us have realized that too much stuff is emotionally and professionally damaging because organization is key to work and you can’t feel organized if you can’t find things because of all the clutter. Lockdown has provided a pause for thought about how people live their lives and understandably this has caused many people to reconsider how they take care of their homes.
Do you think there is an advantage to the one-in-one-out rule?
Some people practice the one-in-one-out method where, for example, if you send one to the charity store, you only buy one shirt. This works if you’ve completely decluttered your home to begin with, but it will simply maintain the clutter if you haven’t. Asking yourself if you really need more than you have is often a better approach, as this involves minimalist thinking as opposed to maintaining the status quo processing.
What do you think of organizational tools? Do they help or just mask the problem??
Even if you’re not ready to completely declutter your home, using organizational tools can have a positive impact on your entire world and your attitude towards it. When you look at your home and it looks clean and tidy, you feel more positive. So if you have storage furniture and organizational tools that look good, don’t change the flow of your furniture and allow you to deal with your clutter piece by piece will surely benefit you emotionally, ecologically and psychologically.
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