The Theory of Decluttering

The Theory of Decluttering

I’m going to get all serious for a minute.

When I talk about decluttering and organising in the general sense, perhaps in social or business networking situations, I tend to keep things fairly light. I smile. Maybe we have a little laugh together about “decluttering and organising” being a bit of a mouthful to say.

“I never knew people actually did this for a living” someone will exclaim. More laughing.

“My Wife/Husband/Daughter could do with that, their wardrobe looks like a jumble sale” someone else will interject. Giggling and hoots of laughter.

Someone else will bring up “The Hoarder next door” television programme. Exaggerated grimaces.

That’s all fine. Good in fact. It gets people talking. Breaks the ice and starts the conversation.

However, there is a serious side to decluttering that needs to be acknowledged. I love Psychology. I have a degree in the subject and I have worked with people for many years in a supportive role.

That’s why I want to use one of the most famous and influential psychological theories of human motivation of all time to demonstrate why decluttering and organising is important for our emotional health. A theory put forward by Abraham Maslow in 1943 which has stood the test of time and remains a popular framework.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

Starting from the basic needs at the base of the triangle:

Physiological – what we need to survive/procreate. Air, food, water, sleep, sex. But let’s look at these basic needs and how we achieve them. Aren’t they so very dependent on our living environment? If our space is cluttered, can we breathe, eat, drink, sleep and have sex comfortably? I think not.

Security/Safety – secondary but if they are taken away, it can be catastrophic for us. Health, employment, shelter, family and social stability. Cluttered surroundings are not healthy. They will affect our efficiency at work. How can we feel property sheltered and cocooned from the outside world in cluttered surroundings? It can affect how others view us and therefore our sense of security within our social settings.

Social Needs/Love/Belonging – vitally important to our happiness. Friendship, family and intimacy. In big ways or small, clutter affects our relationships with others. Usually because it dampens our own happiness. Loved ones may have tried to help but can’t, which creates a cycle of guilt and resentment.

Esteem Needs – so important but many of us lack this. Confidence, having a sense of achievement, being respected. If we are not happy with our environment, we can internalise that and beat ourselves up. “Why can’t I get this under control?” we might lament to ourselves. Or even “am I lazy?” This erodes self esteem and makes it even less likely that we will tackle the issue.

Self Actualisation – this level of need refers to a person’s full potential. The desire to be the best person you can be and accomplish everything you can . Decluttering and organising is about creating an environment in which you feel calm, motivated and inspired. To me, it’s clear that we need to be in this state of mind in order to achieve self actualisation.

All kinds of people use Professional Organisers. Some simply need a few hours of being taught how to declutter and implement systems (the Wife/Husband/Daughter with the wardrobe that looks like a jumble sale) Others need intensive, long term commitment and support (those with Hoarding Disorder)

If you fit anywhere on this scale, I think you can benefit from what decluttering and organising can do for you.

And I think Abraham Maslow would agree with me.

Thanks so much for reading!

A Tidy Mind – Yorkshire.

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