Decluttering involves tidying, organising, and removing unnecessary items from your home.
This simple act has a range of psychological benefits.
These benefits could help you refocus your mind on your long-term goals on and off the field.
No matter how neat and tidy you normally are, we’re all guilty of hanging on to things that we no longer need or use. Or hiding all manner of junk in an overflowing drawer. Or simply leaving piles of books, magazines, letters, and other accumulated items all over our homes.
While these things may not seem overly significant, there is research – conducted by the Princeton Neuroscience Institute – that suggests that seeing all of this clutter around our living spaces can lead us to becoming distracted.
And that’s one of the reasons why the simple act of decluttering – whereby you tidy, reorganise and remove unnecessary items from your home – has become so popular in recent years. Here, we ask Dr Alice Boyes – author of The Healthy Mind Toolkit – about some of the psychological benefits you could enjoy thanks to some simple tidying and reorganising…
An entry point to productivity
“You don’t want to expect yourself to be functioning at 100 per cent during this time,” explains Dr Boyes. “But you also don’t want to be expecting yourself to be functioning at zero per cent. You want to have some sort of balance.
“We need more mental downtime because of that, but we also need to be doing something productive. I would say that decluttering is sort of an entry point; it’s something you can do, maybe in the meantime while you figure out what else you want to do to be productive.”
Creating a fresh start
“One of the ways decluttering tends to be very useful is if you need a sense of a fresh start. Sometimes, decisions will feel too overwhelming to make, and one of the times that we find it easiest to make a decision is when we’ve got some sort of sense of a fresh start – like on a Monday, or a New Year, or moving to a new apartment, or moving to a new place, or working with a new coach.
“When you do some decluttering – even if it’s a small amount, even if it’s just cleaning out your fridge – it can make a decision feel clearer because it feels like having a fresh start.”
“Another way that decluttering can be really helpful is if you’re finding yourself just really deactivated. This can be especially true for athletes during off-season or injury, and you may feel really demotivated and de-energised. But decluttering is something that you can do that doesn’t require a lot to get started with.
“You can easily say, ‘Right, I’m going to set my timer for 10 minutes, and I’m going to tidy up around my house.’ Sometimes just doing that can get you energised enough that you can then move on to the next thing that you need to do. It’s a really good way of energising yourself a little bit when you’re feeling really low on energy.”
Creating a sense of achievement
“If you’re procrastinating about a task that’s bigger, sometimes it’s really hard to get started on that big thing. Decluttering can be something you can do that’s not very mentally complex. You can do it a little bit on autopilot, but it also gives you that sense of getting something done, and sometimes you just need that activation.”
Taking back control
“It gives you a bit more of a sense of control over things. When people get really dysregulated, messiness is something that can creep into our lives. Your sleeping gets disrupted, and then your eating gets disrupted, and then your house gets really messy. Decluttering can help break that general cycle of just everything in your life getting really dysregulated.”
“Decluttering is also a little bit physical. It’s not like exercise, but it is actually getting you up and getting your muscles moving, so it gets you into more of an action-taking frame of mind, and out of that sort of dwelling, low-energy state.”
WHEN YOU DO SOME DECLUTTERING – EVEN IF IT’S A SMALL AMOUNT, EVEN IF IT’S JUST CLEANING OUT YOUR FRIDGE – IT CAN MAKE A DECISION FEEL CLEARER BECAUSE IT FEELS LIKE HAVING A FRESH START.
DR ALICE BOYES