‘Does It Spark Joy?’ Exploring the Health Benefits of Decluttering

At this point, you’ve probably read, watched, or heard something about the KonMari tidying method by Japanese minimalist cleaning and organizing extraordinaire Marie Kondo. This cleaning craze seems to be sweeping the nation, and many people are taking out bags of unwanted items that no longer “spark joy” and, in return, donation centers are piling up with an abundance of stuff.

The driving philosophy behind Kondo’s methods is to keep only the items that spark joy within you—the ones that resonate with you in the deepest sense—and give away or toss those that don’t.

If spring cleaning is on your to-do list for the new season, you, too, may feel swept up by a strong desire to declutter. We do recommend you check out the tidying up trend—not because it’s a trend, per se, but because it’s a perspective, and even a complete lifestyle change, that resonates for good reason.

When going through your space this spring to clean and cleanse, it may help to remember that it’s not only about having a clean house for the surface-level benefits, but also for gaining those deeper, health-forward benefits as well.

Cleaning and organizing can help your space look better, transforming it from one that’s defined by clutter and stuff to one that’s full of open space. But there’s more to the tidying up process than just making things look nice. It’s also about how the feeling of a decluttered, aesthetically pleasing space can positively affect you and your mental health. In fact, many have found that tidying up not only leads to a better-looking home, but a cleaner mind and healthier-feeling body. Here are a few reasons why that can happen:

Our possessions and surroundings have meaning to us—even if we don’t realize it.

In her best-selling book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, Kondo explores the notion of something, perhaps very simple, that we often don’t think about: She explains that the things we hold on to and fill our spaces with have definite meaning to us. In their podcast Still Processing, culture writers Jenna Wortham and Wesley Morris of the New York Times observe how Kondo’s methodologies compare to a form of Shintoism (the Japanese religion Kondo found her roots in), which holds the belief that “inanimate objects do contain a type of essence that contributes to your relationship to yourself and to your home.”

If that’s hard to envision, think of it this way: How do you feel when walking into a room filled with stuff everywhere, versus entering a clean space with very little clutter? You might have felt your body relax when you envisioned the latter–in fact, studies even show a definite connection between our stress levels and our mess.

“Most of us are operating in a state of constant stress; we’re always on,” states David W. Ballard, Psy.D., the assistant executive director for the American Psychological Association’s Center for Organizational Excellence. He notes how adopting a sense of tidiness can help people be “able to really stay focused and stay organized to do things to manage their stress effectively.” In other words, when you declutter your space, it can help declutter your mind.

“After all, what is the point in tidying? If it’s not so that our space and the things in it can bring us happiness, then I think there is no point at all,” Kondo writes in her book. She continues by saying, “To truly cherish the things that are important to you, you must first discard those that have outlived their purpose.”

When we hold on to things—things that can become burdensome or even forgotten about, as evidenced by their being stuffed into the back of closets or drawers—we may not notice their impact at first glance, but they weigh on us psychologically. Freeing yourself from the things you don’t truly cherish can allow you to focus on and respect the things you do.

The tidying process helps with healthy self-examination

When you go through the decluttering process and ask yourself what brings you joy, you cannot help but look inward. You may not be consciously aware of this happening while in the midst of it, but it’s a process that’s doing good for your mental and emotional health. In essence, you’re willfully choosing to create positive change by facing the meaning of your belongings—all the while clearing out unwanted stuff and making for a more useful, more livable space.

When decluttering clothing with the KonMari method, for example, Kondo emphasizes the importance of putting all of your clothing items in a giant pile where you can see everything, as opposed to taking items out one by one or going drawer by drawer. The “shock” of this, as she states on her show, “helps you confront how much you truly have.” In contrast, packing clothes away in unseen drawers or closets? That’s “a tactic we can use to run away from our things and ourselves.

Author Jessica Lahey, who has joined the many who have reported having a more clear-minded and liberated feeling since tidying, says, “Stripping away everything that detracts and distracts us from ourselves and our family is an incredibly freeing and exhilarating experience.”

Letting go and feeling stronger in yourself

“When you put your house in order, you put your past and your affairs in order, too,” writes Kondo, adding that, “as a result, you can see quite clearly what you need in life and what you don’t, and what you should and shouldn’t do.”

In other words? Clearing out and putting order in our spaces sheds the weight of clutter, while also helping you to shed some emotional weight, too.

The entire process of decluttering can be a hefty one, but after it’s over, you can feel a renewed and powerful sense of self. Michael Tompkins, licensed psychologist and co-director of the San Francisco Bay Area Center for Cognitive Therapy, notes how our moods can be boosted by “mastery activities” like completing a monumental task. This great sense of accomplishment in your space can not only help your home, but also help move you forward and build confidence in your life.

What Does Your Joy Look Like?

Have you already cleared out your space in a spring cleaning/decluttering marathon? Did you find a sense of clarity or renewed purpose? What else happened or occurred to you on your journey, and what do you envision for yourself moving forward? Be sure to let us know over on Facebook, where we love to keep the conversation going on all things health and wellness. Feel free to maybe share a “before and after” spring cleaning or tidying photo or two!

And if you’re looking for the right health insurance plan to suit your active lifestyle, the Enrollment Specialists have you covered there, too. Drop us a line today to start decluttering the confusion about all things health and life insurance with Matt Peebles, your personal health and life insurance superhero.


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