The Cost of Clutter

There are all kinds of excuses we use to not deal with clutter, but what if clutter has an effect on our physical and mental health? Some don’t realize the toll clutter takes on the mind and body. It’s worth the effort to declutter things you no longer use, and organize the remaining items for your health!

Merriam-Webster’s definition of clutter is: to fill or cover with scattered or disordered things that impede movement or reduce effectiveness. In the definition alone, we see that clutter impedes us and reduces our effectiveness. When our minds have to consistently process excess things in our environment, we are using brain space to process that input which makes us less effective.

Clutter is bad for your physical health.  It has been linked to cortisol production, the stress hormone. Research from a 2009 study out of UCLA’s Center on Everyday Lives of Families (CELF) has shown that women who perceive their homes to be cluttered tend to have unhealthy patterns of cortisol levels. Interestingly, men did not have the same cortisol response with regard to clutter. This could potentially be because women tend to take on more of the household chores even if they are also working full time. Clutter is also linked to lack of self control, resulting in unhealthy eating habits. According to a Cornell University study from 2016, stress triggered by clutter may also trigger coping and avoidance strategies, like eating junk food, oversleeping or binge-watching Netflix.

Physical clutter often leads to mental clutter. When our eyes are being visually overloaded, it takes away from our brain’s ability to focus on and process other tasks at hand. Many people don’t realize that clutter is this distracting to our brains. Other people may have the urge to straighten up a bit before focusing on some work that needs to get done. This is a natural tendency we have because subconsciously we know the clutter distracts us.

In my experience, clutter often leads to procrastination. You might be surprised to learn that I have not always had a handle on keeping our papers organized. Especially when my kids were young, it was a lot to keep up with and even now it is still a struggle. If you need to pay a bill, but in order to pay that bill you must dig through a stack of papers, books, and other miscellaneous items on your desk or table, you are less likely to just get it done. Simple tasks feel overwhelming when dealing with clutter.

Don’t get me wrong, decluttering doesn’t come without its own consequences. Getting rid of items can be equal to physical pain, especially for someone who attaches memories to or overvalues their items. But this pain is well worth the end result. The best way to avoid clutter in your home is to slow the inflow of items that are coming into your home. I have found, for myself, that purging is best done in small doses. Choose one drawer, or one shelf in a cabinet or closet today to begin the road to better health!

No Spend Year, July Reflections

Well, here I am officially more than halfway through my no spend year. July was another month in which I really struggled. Looking back, I think I made excuses and to be completely transparent, I feel like this is the month that I have failed. But, failure equals learning. I am beginning to realize that failing is okay. Not “okay” as in don’t try, but as in failing at something leads you closer to success as it is an opportunity to learn how to do things differently moving forward.

This is the backpack I got for our trip. I did get it off Poshmark with my credits.

Let’s start by talking about a couple of the “rules” which I made that led to the choices from this month, that looking back I might have done differently. The first rule was that I could buy things for special occasions, unless I already had something that worked. This month, my husband and I took our son – who just graduated from high school – on a special trip to Hawaii to celebrate his accomplishments and to spend time with him before he went off to college. Usually when we have a trip like this, I like to purchase things specifically for the trip. I like to have new outfits that work well for whatever location we are going. The first thing I purchased for this trip was a new backpack. I don’t own a backpack. I usually use an over-sized purse for my carry on item, but we would be doing several hikes which I would need a backpack. With this item, I could have used one of my husbands old backpacks, but that wouldn’t have looked cute/feminine 🙂 so I justified that it was necessary to have my own.

I purchased these dresses and sandals for the trip as well.

I also chose to buy a few new dresses, as I did not have any lighter colored/summer specific dresses. Looking back, the dresses were not necessary as we ended up getting take out most nights as we were really tired after the long day doing active things. The two times we went out was to very casual restaurants. I also bought a new pair of shorts, as I only had one pair that fit me comfortably. I had gotten rid of several pairs of shorts that didn’t fit me during a closet clean out. I also purchased a linen shirt that I thought would work well in Hawaii – looks and for the climate. Lastly, I purchased a pair of sandals. This was one item that I didn’t really need, but I was going for a specific look and the sandals I owned did not look right with these outfits/dresses. I say I feel like I failed this month because I know I could have done without these items. I had a specific look in mind for this trip, and I justified it by telling myself that these pictures would last a lifetime. Even as I type this, it seems a bit ridiculous, but it’s where my brain was at when purchasing these items.

I purchased this shirt and these shoes with my Poshmark credits from what I had sold.

Another “rule” I gave myself is that I could use gift cards to purchase things. I do have a gift card to an online clothing boutique, which I still have not used. I have sold several pieces on Poshmark, and had “credits” – which I talked myself into believing was like a gift card. I did use my credit to purchase a shirt and a pair of shoes. The shoes in particular have been something I have had my eye on for a long time now, longer than before this no spend year. The shirt I got to replace a similar long sleeve shirt – which I liked but rarely wore since I don’t wear long sleeves often. If I’m cold in the winter I tend to layer instead. I am happy with these purchases, and I feel they fit well in my wardrobe, however in hindsight I’m not sure I should have used the credits like a gift card. Poshmark has been good and bad for me. It has been great to sell my items and get some money back, and knowing the items will be loved by someone else. It has been amazing to get such good deals on items, and it’s always good to buy clothes second hand. HOWEVER, when I go on the app to manage my items I have to force myself to NOT LOOK at what’s available. Moving forward, I would like to use this app, but only to look for something specific. It’s really hard to pass up these good deals! I haven’t fully decided yet if I should continue to look at the money I make as a gift card or not.

I continue to not really struggle with wanting/being tempted by home decor purchases. If anything, I feel like I have plenty and I don’t want more. I am learning to appreciate items I see in the store, and not have this need to take it home with me. We’ll see how I feel this fall as it’s my favorite season and I love all things pumpkin!!

This month has been eye-opening. I have learned what a slippery slope it is in justifying purchases. I feel like I am STILL – 7 months in – not at a place where I feel restrained in my purchases. I want to get to a place where I am completely intentional with my purchases, and after this month I just don’t feel “there” yet. I am hopeful that in the next five months I will continue to learn and grow.

One other thing I find myself noticing over these last 7 months, is consumerism mentality. When I was in it, I don’t think I noticed how time-consuming and distracting it was to my life. Being an “outsider” I notice people’s behavior when I am out shopping. I’m not sure I’m able to put words to what I’ve seen, but the best way I can describe it is like we’re ruled by things – our time, money, thoughts, energy. I don’t want to live this way anymore. I love beautiful things. I like putting outfits together and making my home beautiful, but I don’t want that to dictate my life. My hope is that after this year, my brain will be re-trained!

No Spend Year, June Reflections

Well, there goes another month in my no spend year! June went by so fast I barely noticed being bothered by the no spend. That’s not to say I did not see things I wanted. I looked back at the journal I’ve been keeping and there were some things scribbled down at the end of May that I was obsessing over. Again, I have really only wanted clothing items. I continue to enjoy the fact that I have not brought in any new household items, and I continue to declutter them!

Some of the items in my Poshmark closet.

This month, I started the process of cleaning out my closet. I did this a little over a year ago, but obviously more things had come in since the last declutter of my closet. As I mentioned in a previous post, I have been selling things on Poshmark. It has been so freeing letting things go, and even better to get some money back!

This is the current state of my closet. I know I still have a lot, but I plan to do another declutter in late fall.

I waited quite a while in the no spend year before tackling a closet declutter. In part because I have noticed clothing is the thing I am struggling most in the no spend. As I have stopped the inflow of clothing, I’m learning what specifically my style is. I have noticed the things I gravitate towards, and the things I tend to not wear. I have also been doing this experiment where I wear items that I know I haven’t worn in a while, and if I don’t feel fabulous in it, it goes! When new clothing items were constantly entering my wardrobe, it was hard to tell what my style was and I would often gravitate towards wearing the new items – because they were new!!


I have been using Pinterest as another reference to see what types of clothes I tend to like. In the past, I used my style board on Pinterest as a place to pin outfits that would work with items I already owned. As I go back and see what I like, I’m able to weed out even more items that I know I don’t wear – usually it’s items I once liked, as I have seen my style change over the last 8-10 years, or it’s items that I thought I would like but ended up wearing them very little or not at all.


I’m still working on my closet clean out as of today. I have been struggling to know how much to keep. I tend to wear a uniform, and I like variety within that uniform, so I’m struggling to let go. I gravitate towards plain shirts – white, grey, and black, but I have a variety of styles of each color of shirt. It’s a work in progress for sure! Even for me – a fairly organized person!

Our bedroom’s new look!


The final thing I wanted to talk about is how I have continued to feel like I have so much more energy and time. I have been working on all kinds of house projects. I painted our bedroom and the trim to freshen it up. I have started to paint the trim in the remainder of our upstairs as well! I was able to get my extra clothes uploaded to Poshmark and organized so it’s easy to package them up to send off. I have actually sold several pieces! Most recently I have been teaching our youngest son to drive as he just got his permit.

No Spend Year, May Reflections

This is exciting… I’m nearing the half -way point in my no spend year! I’m not gonna lie, May was rough. I found myself fighting with the temptation to make excuses to spend. If I were to do this again, I might be more explicit in my rules so that they could not be bent.I don’t know if it was the justification in April for the purse, or if it’s just “the wall” you hit in any long-term endeavor. Have any of you have ever run a long distance race? For those of us who have, you know there is this point in the run that you have to self talk your way to finishing. You hit “the wall.” You have every excuse as to why you should stop and not finish. This is something most long distance runners know about and are prepared for. It is at this point in your commitment to finish the race that your resolve comes from self-talk, like mind-over-matter! This was May for me.

This was the dress I wanted to purchase from Altar’d State.


My story is about a dress. In my “rules” that I laid out prior to starting the no spend year, I said that I will allow myself to buy things for special occasions ONLY IF I had nothing else that woul work. Well, my son’s graduation was approaching and I told myself that I needed a new dress for this occasion. Forget the fact that I own about 12 dresses currently, and barely ever wear dresses! I believed that I needed a different one for this occasion. So, I began the process of shopping for a dress. I was going to be intentional. I was going to wait to purchase a dress after allowing at least 24 hours to marinate and decide if I really loved it. I tried on dresses at a handful of stores, and there was one dress that I really loved at Altar’d State – a store that fits the bill for ethical practices. After thinking about it a couple of days, I decided to go back to buy the dress. When I get to the register, the sales person reminds me that the dresses are buy one, get one 50% off. SIGH. I know this, and I came to the register with one dress because I only need one dress. But, in that moment I again begin to justify and compromise. I decide I will grab that other dress that I saw that would be great for our trip to Hawaii we are taking this summer. Even as I drive home I’m thinking this was all a bad idea. I think about how much time I’ve already wasted driving, trying things on, thinking about THESE DRESSES!

When I get home I try on the dress with the bra and shoe options I thought would work, and suddenly I hate it. I realize in the light of my own full-length mirror that this dress does not look good on my body type. For another two days I think about these dresses. I go back to where I had written down my “rules” and read the words again, “ONLY IF I have nothing else that works.” I know I have several dresses that could be styled in different ways to make something work. So, I TAKE THE DRESSES BACK! Yes, both dresses! I again think about all that energy I spent on this whole process, and I’m reminded of how much time I must have wasted in the past pursuing that perfect item. I want to be intentional moving forward in making decisions about adding pieces to my wardrobe, but I know I will have to learn a new way to make decisions. This whole process didn’t work for me.

In the end, I wore a dress that I had purchased for a wedding a couple years back, a dress that I don’t often wear but I loved. I felt great in it, and I was glad that I decided to stick with a dress I already owned. On a side-note, perhaps I should reevaluate how many dresses I own.


No Spend Year, April Reflections

Here I am again, late at posting my no spend year reflections for last month. Time has passed so quickly this spring. In this no spend year, I have been shocked when another month has completed! Also, as in March, there is not a whole lot new in April with regards to my no spend year. I have gotten into the habit of JUST NOT SPENDING.

I will tell you one story. One of my rules is that I can purchase things needed for big events this year. We take our children on a special trip by themselves after they graduate from high school. Our middle son will be graduating in just a couple of weeks, and he decided he would like to go to Hawaii for his special trip. I will allow myself to purchase items for this trip. A couple weeks ago I went to a friend’s Noonday Collection party. If you aren’t familiar with Noonday, they are a jewelry and accessory company which employs women in impoverished communities to make their items. They have a website, but also sell through their “Ambassadors” who set up in home parties. I have loved Noonday for many years and several of my jewelry pieces came from this business. At the party I of course saw many things that I would like, but in particular I saw a small cross body purse/wallet that would be perfect for travel. I decided not to buy it that day. A few days later, I got an invite for a fundraiser for our high school “Project Graduation” where they put on a huge graduation party so the kids have a safe place to celebrate. The fundraiser was Noonday Collection! I spent a few days thinking about the purse and decided it was for a good cause, supporting a good company, and would be a useful item for me. I could use it for the trip to Hawaii, but also for times when I don’t want to bring my purse, but don’t want to just carry my wallet. It is also a versatile piece that can be used as a crossbody purse, a clutch, or even a fanny pack (those are coming back you know?!)

This experience helped me to realize a couple of things. First, that I want to be more intentional with where I purchase items moving forward after my no spend year. I want to support companies that have ethical practices and make a difference to individuals and not just a large company. I would also like to be intentional with what I purchase. Even though I wanted to purchase that purse when I first saw it, I want to learn to allow myself to “sit” with that desire for a few days before I make a final decision. No more impulse buys. If I want something, I will give myself some time to think about it and see if it’s really something I need.

Another thing I encountered this month was discovering Poshmark. I knew about this app, where you can purchase and sell used clothing, but I had never explored it. I decided that I would be willing to part with more of my clothing and shoes if I could get some money for them. While exploring the app I found so many cute, cheap clothes! It was tempting, however I want to stick to my commitment. Moving forward after the no spend year, I will definitely use this app to purchase new (to me) clothing. It will help me to stay focused as I only look for something specific, and it is better for the environment to purchase used clothing! Win – win!!


Honestly, March and April have just flown by and I have barely noticed my habits changing. I just don’t think about spending anymore. And it feels amazing!

My Minimalist Son

It’s so interesting to me how when you have multiple kids each one is so unique. They are all raised in the same home, and in our case with the same parents, yet they all have different temperaments and characteristics. Our oldest child, and youngest are collectors by nature. They are sentimental and like to hold onto things. But our middle child is completely opposite. He is a minimalist kind of by accident because of how he is innately. I admire him for not putting so much value on material things. I am somewhat the same way, but not to the extent he is. I joke about how moving him into college will be a completely different experience than it was to move our daughter into college. I envision him having one small suitcase to hold his clothes, his computer, and his fancy desk chair.

This is a snapshot of his closet. This is most of his clothes. He does have a dresser which holds shorts, socks, underwear, and a couple of sweatpants.

I believe his simple living has contributed to his success in life. Since he doesn’t have a lot of stuff, there’s not much to take care of. Also, it cuts down on decision making when getting dressed in the morning. He has two “uniforms” (with the exception of the scrubs which he is required to wear on specific days for an internship) – either the clothes he wears to the gym (dry fit shirt and shorts) or the clothes he wears to school (cotton t-shirt with cargo shorts). We do live in a temperate climate, so he can wear shorts year round. His mind isn’t constantly overwhelmed by external distraction because of the lack of clutter leaves space, and he can better focus on his school work.

This is a box of things he has been telling me for a while that he is ready to part with. The more I thought about it, I realized he probably won’t want these participation trophies as an adult.

We recently cleaned out his room. He has told me in the past that I could get rid of all of his childhood trophies – he told me they were just “participation trophies” so they didn’t mean much to him. We were able to pare down his already sparse room by eliminating the trophies, some sports jerseys from said activities, school t-shirts he doesn’t wear, and a pile of shirts that he had outgrown, and a few hats that he no longer wears. It was amazing to me that in spite of his room already being decluttered we found this much stuff to remove!

Anyone who is a parent knows how much you can learn from your kids. At times we forget and think we have so much to teach THEM – because we are older and wiser, but your kids have a lot to teach you too! Each one of my kids has challenged me in different ways to evaluate my life. With my minimalist child, he has caused me to evaluate what I really need in life to survive and feel fulfilled. He is an inspiration to me to simplify my life.

This is his dresser. I chose to add decor to his room, but he doesn’t mind if it’s there or not.
This is the other side of his room. It pretty much stays this clean all the time.


No Spend Year, March Reflections

This month’s post is late because I’m struggling to put together my thoughts about the progress in the month of March. This is partially because there is not a lot new from last month’s post. I still struggle with noticing some things, but I would say that I’m not feeling that “want” as much when I notice.

One of the Goodwill chairs I upcycled! I spray painted the legs and added the fun blush fur covering the seat!

I have been better at time management this month. I have enjoyed writing, reading, working on projects around the house, decluttering, and I’ve started recording and editing some videos in case I get brave and put them on YouTube! We’ll see…However, I wonder if I am more focused on projects because it’s somewhat of a loophole in my “rules” – as I have allowed myself to purchase things needed for projects. I just finished working on upcycling a couple of vintage chairs I got for $2 a piece from Goodwill, and painting a couple of side tables in one of our rooms.

One of the side tables I painted. I used items I had on hand to complete this project!

Perhaps another reason why I am struggling to verbalize how it’s going is because I have had some polarizing feelings. On the one hand, I’m getting used to not being able to buy things. On the other hand, I still feel “pulls” or desires at times. For example, I walked into Target the other day and in the dollar spot (thank you Target for placing that right as I walk in the door), I noticed these white ceramic cupcake stands for $3 a piece. My first thought was, whelp can’t get those. But then I still wanted to rationalize. My thoughts were: I literally have been waiting for my Target to have those cupcake stands in stock for over a year! They were only $3 a piece! But, I stuck to my rules – as I would use those as a decor piece – and didn’t purchase them.

Although I still have those moments where I feel drawn to something, I also see myself getting closer to a place where my habit is to NOT purchase things. I have to admit, last year at this time – when I did a three month no spend challenge for the first three months of the year – I was ready to buy something!! I thought that by this point I would have more of a “craving” than I do. I’m hopeful that as the months progress, I will feel that pull less and less, and by the time January 2020 rolls around and I have completed my “no spend” year, I won’t have the desire to rush out on a shopping spree!