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A Cluttered Home Causes Stress



Design & Interiors


Just how much clutter do you have in your home? A number of Kenyan homes have either overstuffed bedrooms with closets full of clothes or kitchens that have too many utensils, some reserved for visitors who rarely visit, or rooms with old schoolbooks.

Others have boxes stashed of who knows what, living rooms crowded with too many chairs rarely sat on or too many carpets over-decorating already beautiful floors.

We live in a culture of excess, stocking up on the latest styles and gadgets, hoarding them and not discarding those that add no value or spark joy.

However, piles of stuff in homes are one the greatest stress, anxiety and depression triggers, according to a new research. A study published in Current Psychology says a cluttered home may be stressing you more than you think.

But not everyone thinks hundreds of books or clothes are clutter and most hoarders keep procrastinating on when to start de-cluttering.

Larry Kubai who lives in a two-bedroom house in Nairobi hopes to one day clean up his 10-years-old clutter. He has lecture notes from when he was a secondary teacher stashed in his house.

“They are intellectual resource, lecture notes, some old textbooks. I’m waiting to move to a bigger house then I rearrange them. An African man never throws away his things. I last used them 10 years ago but I may want to write a book someday,’’ he says.

Another hoarder, Ellias Ochieng’ had amassed newspapers for 10 years “for visual and intellectual therapy.”

“I could not allow even my children to touch them. I could even smell the mould in the room where I had kept them. I sold them for a song three years ago but I regret it,” he says.

But he is still holding onto love letters, pieces of tiny papers he wrote on when he was in his 20s and written speeches.

“When I look through the notes and speeches, I laugh. They make me happy. I also have my university notes, my Form 1 admission letter dated 1992. I have my report forms for Class Four to Six, I show them to my children,’’ he says.

Is he planning to discard them anytime soon?

“Where will I get the signature of my Class 4 teacher if I throw away the report form? They are not clutter. I want to keep them for my grandchildren. The room is untidy, but it shows that whoever who stays there is not an ordinary man,” he says.

Marie Kondo, a celebrated Japanese professional organiser advises in her book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” that you do not have to discard items that spark joy like well-preserved family history or art.

But when too many books, unopened wedding gifts, cutlery, overflowing clothes or furniture become more than an occasional annoyance, she says it is time to get rid of them. According to her book, which has sold over four million copies and a TV show which just launched on Netflix, life only beings when you put your house in order.

“A home surrounded by unnecessary items is living an undisciplined life while a well-tidied house filled with only the essentials is the ultimate sign of personal fulfilment,” Ms Kondo says.

If you have a clutter problem here is how to start de-cluttering the Marie Kondo way:

Keep only: Most people with cluttered homes have a problem with over-attachment to shoes, beautiful fabrics, towels, gadgets or books. They say, “my stuff makes me happy.”

If you are struggling with what to throw out, start by sorting out things that give you joy. This may be hard but comparing the things you want to keep to others may help you make a quick decision.

Only two skills are necessary to keep your house in order, the ability to keep what sparks joy and the ability to keep what you have neatly in its place.

Tidy by category and not by location. One mistake many people make is tidying from room to room. In most cases, they end up shuffling things from one room to another. Ms Kondo says scattered things around rooms make it hard to know the mess you actually own. Gather all clothes from the entire house in one spot. This will make you see the mess.

Follow the right order. Start with decluttering clothes, then books, papers, miscellaneous and lastly valuable items.

Should you wait until you move to a new house? Tidy before moving, she advises. It is the house that you are living in now that will lead to your next house. If you want to meet a beautiful home, take good care of the one you are living in now.

Don’t tidy as you clean: Most people tidy as they clean, meaning that they randomly throw things that catch their eye. They wipe the floors as they set aside clothes and books to donate. With this approach, Ms Kondo says, you will spend the rest of your life tidying. Tidying is not cleaning. Tidying deals with objects rarely even looked at, cleaning deals with dirt.

Best way to fold your clothes:

Even if your house is not messy, you should try folding your clothes the Kondo way. Fold your clothes as if you are filing. Do not haphazardly lay clothes flat in a drawer. Fold them neatly (watch a video to see the steps) and let the clothes stand upright.