Decluttering your home has been talked about quite a lot lately, but the benefits are more than just hype. There are psychological benefits, financial and even health reasons to live with less. You can make some money too by selling items that have value but just aren’t needed any longer.

Health Benefits for Decluttering:

  • Dust and pet hair collects on unused items. If you have fewer items, you collect less dust. If you have a shelf with fewer items on it, it’s easier to dust regularly, too. Your HVAC systems, even your vacuum cleaner, can re-circulate that dust from cluttered areas you don’t use to areas of the house you do. Remove the items the dust collects on and you reduce the dust and allergens.
  • Sleep better: If your cluttered home is stressing you out in the evening, that stress follows you into your dreams. It can be more challenging to wind down and get the restful sleep that your body and mind require. Restful, restorative sleep is diminished when you are still processing worries, even subconsciously, at bedtime. Consider starting your decluttering project in your bedroom to create a more peaceful space that allows you the energy to tackle the rest of the house.
  • If you have more space, you can stretch out and regularly do things like floor exercises or yoga. You could even make space for equipment like a rowing machine or a treadmill.

Psychological Benefits of Decluttering:

  • There’s real science behind this idea. UCLA’s Center for Everyday Lives and Families actually studied the impacts of stress on individuals and households back in 2005, with an update in 2012:
    • The study found that our need to reward ourselves materially may increase our stress—at least for moms. In their video tours, mothers use words like “mess,” “not fun” and “very chaotic” to describe their homes. These moms had markedly higher cortisol levels, the stress hormone, after walking through their cluttered homes.
    • The hormone cortisol is associated with stress and can trigger feelings of anxiety and depression. Symptoms of excess cortisol include rapid weight gain in the face and belly. While we need some cortisol because it’s the “fight-or-flight” hormone, researchers at University of Utah Healthcare say cortisol becomes harmful when the stress doesn’t let up.
    • There is even a connection between eating poorly and clutter because if you have a negative inner dialog about your living room, it probably follows you into the kitchen. When you are already feeling badly about one thing like stuff that you feel needs to clean up, it zaps your energy to step up and make the effort to prepare healthier foods. “Oh, let’s just order pizza” becomes a vicious cycle.
    • You can see how living in a messy space can give rise to other negative emotions like depression and frustration. We all feel a certain emotional pressure to sort through piles of things or file the bills or go through those old videos. After a long day at work or taking care of the family, that adds to a sense of failure and discouragement. Just having the stuff adds to a sense of unfinished work. It’s like a debt: we know we are going to have to do something about it eventually so it weighs on us mentally.
    • Or it might be embarrassing to you to have a cluttered space which reduces a willingness to have friends over and socialize, and that can further push your mental state down.
  • Focus: If you’re not feeling badly about things that aren’t done or getting done, you can think about things you do want to do. Clutter also makes the mind wander. It’s easier to focus on the things you need to in a tidy office or study area.
  • Efficiency: Having fewer things makes it easier to find the things you want which obviously reduces stress and makes you feel better. You have more time for things you enjoy like friends or family or hobbies.
  • Confidence: If you can reach out and put your finger right on the piece of paper you need to make a point or the perfect accessories for an outfit, that confidence shines through the rest of your day. If you feel more confident, you allow yourself to make other decisions that are good for you like to get out for more exercise or socialize with favorite friends or make healthier food choices. It all starts to come together.

Financial Benefits of Decluttering:

  • You can sell your items on and make some extra money off the items you don’t need anymore.
  • Set up the items you decided to sell in a separate area, away from your newly cleaned up space like in your garage or a side room:
    • Make sure this is an open space, clear of clutter, so you can lay your items out for photos. Items with photos sell better than those without images.
    • You want good lighting, either natural light from a window or bring in a lamp or two.
    • Take 3-6 photos of each item. Show things like labels, front and backs of things, or indicate relative size by including a ruler or tape measure in the image with your item. You get more credibility as a seller when you are upfront about damage or wear; a lot of people will think imperfections are fine if they know about them ahead of time.
    • Sort the items in your selling space by type like “Household” or “Clothes” so they are easier to find again when someone is ready to buy. An old bookcase that didn’t survive decluttering can be really useful for sorting here.
    • Keep all the items you decided to sell in this other space. Don’t cart things back and forth. You just cleaned them out of the house!
    • If the space is in your garage or out in a shed, then buyers who come to visit don’t even have to come inside to see what you have.
  • It might even be fun to do this project with your kids. They can be involved in a constructive project. By doing some of the work with you, they become invested in keeping the house decluttered. If it is in line with your family values, you can incentivize them by sharing the profits with them.
  • Set up a money-sharing account like Paypal or Venmo so it is easy to take payment and the money goes right into your bank account instead of into buying more stuff. has a good evaluation of the top money sharing apps.

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when you start so pick one room or one closet and spend 15 minutes a day on it. You’ll find as you make progress, your tolerance for digging in will grow. Good luck decluttering!

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