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Does this sound like your bedtime routine? Hang a left to avoid the basket of clean clothes you never put away, then jump over the pile of laundry that has nowhere to go because the hamper is full. Hurdle the stacks of unread magazines, rummage through the unreturned books, then push the mound of rejected outfits off the unmade bed. Lastly, wade through the trash on the nightstand to find your ear plugs and lip balm. Then lay in bed and stare at the towers of paperwork along the wall.
If this is your journey to get into bed at night, is it any surprise you’re not sleeping well? Now think about going to a spa. The walls are white. The space is sparse and clutter-free, and you lay on the massage table or sit back in the comfy chair and immediately fall asleep.
The reason organized and sparse spaces are so relaxing is that nothing in your visual field is reminding you of your to-do list, whereas clutter leads to frustration when you can’t find what you need, and that feeling of frustration never leads to good sleep hygiene. Clutter has also been scientifically proven to elevate cortisol levels, which is your body’s alarm system that increases your heart rate, speeds up your breathing, and gets your body ready for fight or flight. Not sleep.
If you are ending your day in a state of overwhelm or defeat about unreturned library books or clothes that no longer flatter or projects you haven’t completed, that doesn’t cue your brain that it’s time to be vulnerable and let go.
For my clients, recurring clutter in the bedroom typically roots back to two of the 7 Emotional Clutter Blocks, which are what I call the emotional obstacles to releasing excess stuff:
- If they are looking at piles of clothes with the tags still on, it could be Clutter Block #4 - My Fantasy Stuff for My Fantasy Life. The client needs to start investing in the here and now, not the imaginary someday
- If it’s unfiled paperwork, it could be Avoiding Grown-Up Decisions, Clutter Block #3. It’s time to pull up their socks, and have the client look at their administrative stuff square in the eye.
5 tips for decluttering the bedroom that will lead to better sleep:
- If your clothes don’t fit in the closet and/or dresser it’s time for a serious purge. We only wear 20% of our clothes 80% of the time. So if you haven’t worn it in over a year, you won’t wear it again. Let it go!
- Paperwork belongs in the office or a designated space in your kitchen or dining area, not the bedroom. If paperwork has migrated to the bedroom because the office area is too full, you have an over-retention problem. Get informed about what paperwork you really need to keep and shred the rest.
- If a magazine is more than six months old, you’re not going to read it. Toss the stacks in the recycle bin and cancel the subscription.
- If you have a giant piece of exercise equipment in the middle of the room that you NEVER use, get honest with yourself that you’re not going to use it, forgive yourself and let it go!!
- Take a look around the bedroom and whatever items have a home somewhere else in the house, take 30 minutes and return everything to its proper place.
Now you’ll be able to cross your bedroom with ease, crawl right into bed, and pick the one book you are reading off the nightstand without toppling over the other six you’re going to get to someday. Amazing, right? Making this effort to declutter will lead to a calm and serene bedroom and a great night’s sleep.
About our expert
Photo courtesy of Tracy McCubbin
Tracy McCubbin is a decluttering expert, founder of dClutterfly, and author of Making Space, Clutter Free: The Last Book on Decluttering You’ll Ever Need, due June 4, 2019. You can read more about the 7 Emotional Clutter Blocks there.