Clearing clutter to lift your mood

This time last week, I was frankly pretty ashamed of the state of my home work-space. However it’s looking very different now, and I’m amazed at how much better this has made me feel.

Let me explain.

I tend to divide my working hours between a desk in the library at Stanford University, where I do most of my writing, and another desk in the garage of our home in Redwood City, where I do the majority of my ‘making’. The Moodnudges come to you from Stanford, and our hand-made WellBee cards are produced in the garage.


Although it’s fun and inspiring working from a garage (after all it’s where many successful start-ups were born – Hewlett-Packard, Google, and Amazon for instance), even when it doubles as an office, a garage is still a garage. And this means it tends to also get used for garage-like stuff. For example, until last weekend one corner contained a mound of empty cardboard boxes waiting to be thrown out. What’s more, we still hadn’t put away our Christmas decorations.

The generally untidy environment seemed to spread to my desk, a door supported on two IKEA trestles. One good thing about a desk like this is that it’s cheap. Another is that it’s big.

But the desk’s size is also a bad thing as it means, quite honestly, that it just gives you even more space to stack stuff that really shouldn’t be on your work surface.

Now for one reason and another, and as Alex has mentioned, my mood has been bumping along through a low patch in recent weeks. It’s been one of those times when I’ve been getting though what has to be done, but not feeling particularly great about it. Naturally I hope this is not the kind of thing you experience yourself, but if you do (and I suspect you may) you’ll know how it feels.

Quite what made me do it, I’m not sure, but last Saturday I finally decided to do something about the mess in the garage. Although it wasn’t a small or easy task by any means, I kept at it until the space was looking miraculously tidier.

I have to say, it looked so much better, but what I hadn’t really appreciated was the impact it had on my mood. Having a more ordered, less cluttered environment seemed to make my mind feel the same way.

So here’s my suggestion for today. If you’re feeling in need of a boost, why not think about tidying something around you? It could be as ambitious as a whole room, or it might be as simple as clearing the clutter from your purse, briefcase or backpack.

Even de-junking one drawer in the kitchen or the glove compartment in the car can play a part in lifting a gloomy disposition.

So why not give it a try? Perhaps tidying your environment could clear your head too.

8 thoughts on “Clearing clutter to lift your mood

  1. Great advice. I’ve been doing this space clearing for years – but it’s good to be reminded…thanks! Last week I cleared a SMALL cupboard and took a LARGE bagful of stuff to the charity shop. I came out of that shop feeling pounds lighter 🙂

    (I think having a de-clutter is about regaining some control over my life as well…or the illusion of control anyway!)

  2. I went through the very same things… was feeling a bit overwhelmed, dreading all the things I had to sort out… so gave myself permission to focus on tidying the office. Put on some music and kept at it for two days. Like magic, the sense of being overwhelmed disappeared along with the mess. Life feels a lot more like it’s under control.

  3. I can never decide if I let my home study get in a mess because I feel low or if the mess makes me feel low? Either way, I definitely feel better too after I’ve established some order and find I get some inspiration back too.

    I think the impact of environment on mood is really important to me but have to work harder at maintaining a tidy place!

  4. I get discouraged dealing with the clutter all by myself. I want to move some heavy things around. The “helpers” I have are only interested in getting it done – no input, no fun. Frustration sets in if I change my mind or I take too long sorting or making decisions. This makes me sad and frustrated. I have a small home and workspace and it has taken me some time to get things set up comfortably. But it is coming along. My biggest issue with clutter is that I almost get it under control, and a new wave comes in – currently it’s income tax stuff. Being self-employed, I have a more than just w-2’s. So I stack some here, and some there and continue working around it. It always starts out neat and tidy.

  5. Jon, I’m with you on this one. It works wonders for me and my mood every time. Just can’t seem to function properly otherwise.

  6. This is pretry much the state of my home environment which I can’t help but think contributes to how unsettled I feel in the place. Clearing out and tidying definitely gives me a boost…..It’s the procrastination before it that’s the problem.

  7. Thanks for your inspiring words. The big de-clutter began for me 2 years ago – at home and at work. I’ve filled two skips, put stuff I cannot part with in to storage and I’m definitely living in the now. My anxiety levels have dropped. I’ve just got to tackle my partner who cannot resist a bargain from a charity shop…

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