Clear the clutter

Want a Quick Boost? Clear Some Clutter!

Ever had a day (or, more likely, a week) when you felt a bit miserable, for no clear reason? Perhaps you were stressed and felt disorganised and over-busy. Maybe it seemed like everything was piling up on you.

When you feel like you have little energy and no motivation, it’s easy to start spiraling down into feeling worse and worse. You might want to make big changes in your life, like losing weight or changing careers, but you just can’t summon up the strength to get going. You feel unhappy but you’re not sure how to fix what’s wrong.

A great place to start, and to give yourself a quick boost, is to start clearing some clutter out of your life.

Why It Works

You’ve probably had the experience of moving to a new apartment, or going on holiday and staying in a hotel, where everything was clutter-free. Surfaces were clear, bookshelves weren’t overstuffed, and there were no boxes full of junk shoved just out of sight.

Even if, like me, you have a distinct aversion to cleaning, you’re probably much happier when you’re in a tidy, clean environment than in a cluttered, grubby one. Clutter tends to drag down our mood and take up valuable attention. For instance:

  • You keep seeing a stack of papers that you mean to file – which makes you feel stressed about your lack of organisation.
  • There’s a project-in-progress covering the kitchen table – which means you either have to eat off a tray, or shove everything into a big pile
  • You often have to spend half an hour searching frantically for your keys (wallet/passport/etc)
  • There are lots of broken items cluttering up your house, which you keep failing to do anything with
  • You’re hanging on to items from short-lived hobbies or brief periods of enthusiasm, and you feel guilty that your’e not using them.
  • You’re stressed out about work before you even put your computer on, because your desk is such a mess.
  • You’ve often wasted money buying something new because you couldn’t find the one you already had.

Any of that sound familiar?

It’s clear, then, that getting rid of some of the clutter is going to reverse these problems. Decluttering doesn’t just restore your physical space, so that you have somewhere relaxing to work and to relax – it also lets you let go of some of the mental clutter which you’re carrying around.

Getting Started

When I’m faced with several cluttered rooms, I feel a lot of resistance about even beginning to clear up. I think how many hours it’ll take to get everything spotless; I worry about decisions that I’ll have to make (should I throw this away, or hang on to it?) and I tell myself that tidying up is a waste of time – surely I should be getting on with something more useful.

Unless you particularly love decluttering, I expect you go through something similar. Sure, you’d love to wake up and find that the house was spontaneously spotless – just like you’d love to wake up having lost 20lbs. But that doesn’t make it easy to put in the effort that’s needed.

Once you make a start, though, resistance rapidly starts diminishing. So what can you do?

Tidy A Single Closet or Tiny Room

If you’ve come across the concept of a “debt snowball” (paying off your smallest debts first, to get some quick wins), then you’ll understand why starting small works. Don’t start with the worst room in the house – pick a single closet, or one tiny room.


Just Do Fifteen Minutes

You don’t need a whole weekend or even a whole afternoon to make a start on decluttering. Fifteen minutes is plenty of time to make real progress. If you can find just fifteen minutes a day to declutter, you will see fast results.

Grab Your MP3 player

Stick your favourite music on your MP3 player or CD player, or listen to an audio book while you’re decluttering. If you go for music, something energetic and fast-paced should help you move faster!

Clearing out clutter can really lift your mood, especially if you’re feeling busy and stressed. Don’t use your workload as an excuse – remind yourself that you’ll be happier and more effective if you’re living in a relaxed, uncluttered environment.


Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books—written by men—barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.

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