The gift of decluttering

My husband presented me with a gift a couple weeks ago. Actually, the gift was a declaration, and one I fully support. Jim declared he was ready to declutter. Now, how the two of us go about decluttering is another story!  Nonetheless, when the gift was presented, I decided to focus on the end result…unused “stuff” would make it across the threshold. Yay!

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Why would I consider this declaration a gift? After all, it is falling to me to decide how to dispose of the items. The gift is that when my surroundings are free of clutter, I feel more relaxed and at ease. My mind is clearer, I have more energy, and my productivity increases. It’s not that my living space needs to be perfect, but I do like it free of “unfinished business.” The table full of mail, shoes in the entryway, dishes in the sink, a workbench piled high, clothes scattered about…all these unfinished tasks weigh on my mind and become distractions.

While clutter by itself does not cause stress (…believe me when I say clutter tolerance varies!), researchers have identified a link between elevated cortisol levels (the stress hormone) and clutter. For me, the idea of having more on my to-do list than feels manageable can get me twitching. For others, the burden of making decisions or the frustration of not being able to find an item can cause cortisol to spike.

When cortisol rises and stays elevated, the body reacts in any number of ways: irritability, fatigue, anxiety, increased blood pressure, difficulty sleeping, depression, even weight gain. On the food side, researchers from Cornell University’s Food & Brand Lab discovered that cluttered kitchens lead to higher calorie intake, too. This makes sense since eating is a common stress response.

Possessions often define us and are closely linked to comfort, security and status. It’s easy to keep things beyond their usefulness because of the memories, hopes, or feelings of guilt and fear that can bubble when we think about getting rid of them. I’m sure you can relate to how hard it is to get rid of your terribly worn but favorite running shoes, the mittens your mother knit when you were in grade school, the weight bench you haven’t used in decades, or the two dozen movie CDs you thought you couldn’t live without.

For me, decluttering is empowering. I feel good making the decision to move something on, completing a task, and sharing items with people who will benefit from them.

There is no “one way” to go about decluttering. You can take the warrior’s approach and dedicate a full day or weekend to getting rid of stuff, or you can declutter in baby steps. Jim’s approach is to find one item each day to add to our declutter pile. At the end of the week, I decide which items will be donated, recycled, consigned or thrown away. In just a few weeks, the effect has been very satisfying.

If “stuff” is weighing you down and your cortisol level is on the rise, you can do something about it. Find one thing to get rid of today. Maybe it’s on a closet shelf, in a kitchen cupboard, or sitting at the back door. The simple act of decluttering will add to your peace of mind…today.

Here’s to your health and vitality!

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I believe good health is as close as your kitchen. My nutrition practice is based on nutrient-dense, whole food and lifestyle choices that support health and wellness, especially during times of high stress and transitions. My role is to educate, guide and support individuals who want to break the stress-induced cycle of depletion and regain control of their health. As a Board Certified in Holistic Nutrition® (Candidate), I look forward to helping you create a vibrant life. To learn more, contact me at 303-442-2492 or by email

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