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Adlen Robinson: Reducing clutter can ease stress
Adlen Robinson

Recently I read an article about a big study that said when you get rid of clutter in your home and life, you reduce your stress level. I don’t need a study to assure me that clutter causes.

 I have been a “neat freak” since I was a little girl. My little bedroom was where I practiced my neatness. I made my bed almost every morning — something I still do. As a young person, I remember not being able to study or do my homework unless my room was clean and my desk was tidy. Even now, I find it much easier to concentrate when my office is neat and my desk is uncluttered. 

When our children were babies, toddlers and just young, keeping things neat was always a challenge. In fact, things were never all that neat. Still, I always had lots of bins and containers (labeled, of course), to do the best I could to keep clutter in its place in an “organized chaotic” sort of way.

 All of that being said, as I thought about writing this column, I thought about areas of the house that might be cluttered, but were out of site. 

We all know that age old phrase “out of sight, out of mind.” I thought about the cabinets under my bathroom sink. When was the last time I had cleaned those areas out? Since I couldn’t remember, that meant it had been years. How bad could it be? 

So, thinking it would take only a few minutes, I decided to tackle those cabinets and drawers.

First, I pulled everything out, which took much longer than I thought. I was shocked at all of the clutter which I never use. Three curling irons? I haven’t curled my hair with one of those in years. I don’t even remember the last time I used one. And why in the world did I have three of them? I began loading a box for charity with and a big trash bag with things that just needed to be tossed out. 

One of the strangest things I discovered was a giant container of Vaseline. To my knowledge, I hadn’t used Vaseline since I was a young girl when we used it for chapped lips. As I racked my brain, I remembered that years ago (and I mean maybe 10 or 15 years ago), we tried using Vaseline on a bird feeder pole to deter the squirrels from climbing up the pole to eat the bird food. It didn’t work well, by the way, but apparently I kept the Vaseline for some reason. 

There were other things that needed to be thrown away. The attachments that come with your blow dryer that I have never in my life used. Lots of makeup that I don’t wear — ladies understand this. To explain to my male readers, we women buy makeup and often the colors don’t work or we just don’t like it. So, instead of throwing away something we just paid $10 or more for, we stick it in a drawer. 

Anyway, after a few hours of sorting, throwing away, and then keeping what I did use and need, I was left with a tidy and somewhat sparse cabinet and neat drawers where I could see everything easily. No more rooting around looking for that I needed.

As always when I purge things, I felt so much better. Did you know there are studies showing that clutter in our lives causes us actual, real stress? While I am not surprised by this, I do understand how getting rid of clutter is harder for some people. One of my close friends says her husband never wants to throw anything away or give anything away. She calls him a hoarder. I don’t think he is a hoarder in the clinically defined way — those people need serious therapy. But I have seen his office, and it’s a big mess. I know he would be much less stressed if his office was organized.

 If you have clutter and want to purge your life of excess “stuff,” make a written plan. Write down the rooms or spaces you want to organize and set aside a few hours on a Saturday or Sunday to begin the project. I promise, once you begin your purging journey, you will be amazed at the feeling of calmness you feel. 

Good luck fellow purgers. Let me know about your successes. 

South Forsyth resident Adlen Robinson is author of “Home Matters: The Guide to Organizing Your Life and Home.” Email her at adlen@adlenshomematters.com.