Rightsize Your Life

Why Rightsize?

The clutter in our lives is not accumulated suddenly, but rather gathers gradually over time. Clutter can be defined as an overabundant collection of disorderly possessions that collectively causes chaos in your living space. Sometimes this collection of items is so slow that we hardly even notice it is filling our space, drawers and corners. The level surfaces in our homes, such as bench tops, are disappearing with things we are meant to ‘get around to’ but never do! Our 50,000-year-old brain at times can be struggling to process all our possessions as it is not hardwired to keep track of all that we own. All of our smaller items are cluttering up not just our physical spaces, but they are also creating mental clutter in our brains, whereby limiting our capacity to process this extra itemised stimuli. This stress that is occurring in our homes causes us to be less productive and distracted. Our homes should be a sanctuary that give us comfort and protection from all the outside busyness of modern life.

 

The University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA) conducted a study at their ‘Centre On Everyday Lives and Families’ that proves a correlation between clutter and anxiety. This new scientific evidence shows that there is a direct relationship between overly cluttered environments and high levels of stress and anxiety. Women in particular who lived in overly cluttered homes on average have been shown to have higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol. The hormone cortisol is a physiological chemical response that is released through our bodies at times of stress. The impact from living like this begins from the moment we wake up and fills us with a sense that we are never finished. We find it difficult to relax while living in an environment with excess stimuli. This affects our concentration and looking forward in life can be inhibited because of this chaotic background.

 

Living in a cluttered setting and unable to locate items leads to frustration and makes us feel agitated when we cannot find items that are required at the time in which they are needed. Our brains need open spaces for thinking and problem solving, and a lack of this in our homes leads to a deficiency in our creativity. This study also found that our levels of productivity are decreased when our attention and focus is impacted by the excess. We find ourselves in a state of ‘sensory overload’ just to navigate our daily tasks, which affects how we set future goals. All of this indicates feeling emotionally overloaded with guilt and shame connected with the things we need to tidy up. Rightsizing your belongings will increase your wellbeing and help to elevate the negative emotions caused by owning too much. Owning fewer belongings will increase your overall life satisfaction.

 

One of my clients confided in me recently about how she felt a freedom in the spaces she had created in her home once she began the Rightsizing process: ‘Not just in my cupboards and living room but in my head’. This gave her a renewed sense of possibility, as now her home was safe for her granddaughters to visit. Safety is another big reason why Rightsizing your life is important. In overly cluttered homes the survival rate once a fire has started is greatly reduced because of the amount of combustible items both inside and outside the home. Reducing the amount of these items will of course reduce fire hazards. What else is extremely important is the redistribution of your belongings to create unobstructed pathways. Redistribution as recommended by the South Australian Metropolitan Fire Service (SAMFS) will increase your ability to exit your home safely in the event of a fire. Rightsizing will increase our memory space as less memory will be required for dealing with all these excess items around us. The clutter in our lives acts as a distractive force. By gradually dividing and removing our excess objects from our lives, we can dramatically reduce this state of stress and anxiety by making room for what is really important to us, both physical and mentally.

To Consume or Not To Consume

Happiness

Economics plays a large role in what we can afford. We all can agree that we have been raised on the assumption that a consumption-driven acquisition is how we attain success, respect and happiness. We are working harder and longer to sustain this material model. The average home has the following: lounges, beds, tables—occasional, side and dining—rugs, TVs—at least two—laptops, desktops, printers, fridges—kitchen and bar—washer, dryer, blender, coffee machine, audiovisual equipment—sound bars, speakers, etc.—books, magazines, knick-knacks, souvenirs, framed photos, artwork, desks, shelves, cabinets, cushions, mirrors and lamps. This is what we can see. So how about what we may not see, such as our linens, medicines, utensils, appliances, toys, camping gear, hobby items—sewing, scrapbooking—bikes, gym equipment, DVDs, CDs, records—maybe you still have these—clothes—summer/winter/special occasion—make-up, hair products, tools, plant pots, gaming consoles, family treasures and your baby’s first shoes … this list could go on and on. Start to open drawers in your house and the list could fill this book!

 

Subsequently, we all had to work to pay for these fairly standard necessary items BUT statistically we are less happy than previous generations. In our modern age of excess, money cannot buy us love and ‘things’ are not making us happy. Tim Kasser, a psychology professor from Knox college in the US, produced a study indicating that strong materialistic values are in fact undermining our wellbeing, our life satisfaction and causing a reduction in our overall happiness. The physical afflictions associated with these states of being include depression, anxiety, and narcissistic and antisocial behaviours. What is ironic is that these feelings lead us to consuming more things to make us feel better.

 

According to an article in The Telegraph in 2017, Australia ranked the tenth happiest country in the world. A study conducted by the Warwick University found that happiness in the UK and US peaked in 1957. During this year it was recorded that only one in five households had a washing machine, one in twenty owned a refrigerator and only nine percent of households had a black-and-white television. Essentially, life without our modern conveniences, appliances and services of today was tougher … but happier. We have more money and more possessions than we did 60 years ago but we are no happier.

 

A report in 2004 by the Worldwatch Institute’s State of the World  found that once our essential needs are met, having basic material necessities will add value and increase our comfort levels for overall life satisfaction. However, the incremental increase in our happiness declines with the more things we accumulate. The more we have the less happy we are. To afford and maintain all these things in our lives we are working more and thus spending less time with family, friends and social groups. Economics aside, looking at the real cost of ownership bestowed on us once we bring these items into our lives, we are still paying out. Ancient cultures believed that every item has an energy and that this energy fills our homes and our minds with its purpose. If we do not need or no longer want these items then this energy in caring for them may cause an imbalance and take our attention away from what is really important in our lives.The maintenance of all our objects requires us to find, clean and store all these items which all adds to extra demands upon our modern lives.