Why and how to streamline your life – the psychology of clutter and minimalism.

Have you ever noticed that when you are away on a holiday living out of a suitcase, you feel a calmness from the simplicity of life? Then you come home, and your house seems to have an avalanche effect on you. So much stuff around you, so much to look after, to tidy, sort and clean. Where was that thing? Oh yes, somewhere in the house? 

Simple fact:

When you have fewer possessions, you have a quieter mind. 

Life is simpler when you are not on duty being the caretaker of a lot of ‘stuff’. 

Hot tips to create a more streamline life: 

Buying ‘stuff’ 

1. Beware of the happy buzz of buying stuff. You are soon going to become the caretaker of this possession. Your possessions become the master, you become the worker. Fast forward the purchase buzz and ask yourself – how excited will you feel in a week to own it? 

2. Think about how many hours of your working time are spent to pay for stuff. 

3. Think about what comes of the stuff we buy. In no time at all it is just ‘stuff’, stored, thrown or barely worth selling. We also have to manage how to live with it all around us, we become a storage unit. 

4. It is the simple things like sunsets, a hearty laugh, a good outing, and a good conversation that are far more soul fueling than possessions. An emphasis on things can distract us from the ability to enjoy the simple pleasures that actually matter. Simple 

pleasures give us a release of pressure from societal status, we suddenly don’t feel the obligation to compete, to have the latest toys, to be perfect, to jump through the hoops. We can relax and sit, let go of our control, our grip, our chasing of our tails. 

Streamlining is about avoiding decision fatigue 

When we have a lot of stuff and a lot going on, we have a lot of choice. When we are anxious, making choices becomes very difficult. We struggle to make decisions because we are in sympathetic nervous system mode, we are in threat alert, we therefore are not able to access the decision-making part of our brain with much success. When we are stressed and anxious, we are shockingly bad at making decisions, we are foggy in our thoughts and we can’t focus. Then, the problem continues to snowball out because the process of making decisions makes our anxiety even worse. 

It is definitely a smart life skill to streamline our small decisions and reserve our mental energy. We have so many important decisions to make in our day, we don’t want to use our attention, or time, or our effort on small, silly decisions. We need to streamline the mundane, small stuff. Many have a version of a work uniform, an exercise routine, a healthy food routine, a catch up with family routine. These are small details that we can pare down and ritualize in order to streamline our decision-making effort and attention. We can also then experience the relief of decisions having been made, rather than the fog of indecision. We can then focus on what matters, our loved ones, more enjoyment, areas of growth and creativity. We can avoid decision fatigue. 

Learn from highly effective people 

Highly effective people have routines, they don’t decide what to do in the morning with their breakfast, their exercise routine, their chores, they just follow the pattern that has proved effective for them. With their work clothes, for example they have somewhat of a ‘go to’ uniform, their clear work clothes that they have found what works for them. They save their headwork each day. This is about skipping indecision and vagueness and using your brain power for important decisions. 

Is your home your sanctuary? 

We are enormously affected by our home environment. When we have a home environment that is calm, joyful and radiates positive energy amongst the people that live there, then our home will nourish us, it is our sanctuary from the chaos of the world. If our home is cluttered then it just becomes another stressor in our lives, and we don’t find it to be a calming or inspiring space. This easily depresses us which is a big problem in that we are then less likely to have the energy, morale or motivation to take the lead to streamline our homes. Set yourself up so that you enjoy your home. 

How to streamline our home. Look around and ask yourself do I enjoy my kitchen? If the answer is no, what can you do to reduce your possessions down to what you functionally need. If you moved to a new house, what would you keep and what would you give away. You are not a storage unit. You are more important than that. What is most important is that you enjoy your space. Remember, your kitchen needs to be functional and a sanctuary for you. Now turn your attention and apply this same conversation to your clothes, your laundry, your office, your bedroom, your lounge area, continue through the whole house. Take one area at a time. Make a list of house areas, allocate one area per week. If you are not giving away ‘stuff’ then you are being a storage unit. Get serious about your enjoyment of your home, and your streamlining of your day-to-day life. Enjoy your nest, simple!


Dr Kirsten Hunter

Dr Kirsten Hunter is a Clinical Psychologist of 22 years. She works with children, teenagers, adults and couples.

Kirsten has written 6 DIY psychology books (Signposts for Living) and 4 Child Psychology picture books (SQUISH Series).

Kirsten is the mother to 5 beautiful boys. Alongside her husband Jon, she loves scuba diving and getting lost in nature.

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