Is the decluttering craze really making us happier?

Have you spent any time decluttering lately? Do you feel more efficient and productive in your workplace, or comfortable in your home and joyful in your life, as a result?

Decluttering has become a movement in North America. There has been a spurt of books and articles in the past couple of years on everything from how organizing your desk to becoming a minimalist will change your life for the better.  I can see how organizing or getting rid of your junk and simplifying your space may make you feel more in control of your life, but will it create a better one?

I met with a friend recently who waxed poetic about the merits of minimizing your worldly possessions. She had decided to move and wanted to get rid of more than half her ‘stuff’. She found it to be an extremely freeing experience. Like many baby boomers, she had accumulated a lot of stuff. The average household weighs in at about 10,000 pounds, according to one moving company.

In my coaching practice, many of my clients are considering downsizing as part of their retirement plans, but the mere thought of parting with even some of their things is a little daunting. Maybe that’s why learning how to declutter is all the rage right now.

Next Avenue recently published a special report on one woman’s month-long attempt to master the art of decluttering using tips from some of the best-selling books on the topic:

  • The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo

Big Idea: Surround yourself only with objects that spark joy and get rid of the rest.

  • The Joy of Less: A Minimalist Living Guide to Declutter, Organize, and Simplify by Francine Joy

Big idea: When you get rid of stuff, you get something more valuable: space.

  • Unstuffed: Decluttering Your Home, Mind, & Soul by Ruth Soukup

Big Idea: We don’t need more stuff to be happy. It weighs us down in our home, mind, body and soul.

  • The More of Less: Finding the Life You Want Under Everything You Own by Joshua Becker.

Big Idea: When we free ourselves from the burden of acquiring and managing stuff, we are able to pursue activities we care about

You can read the outcomes of her attempts to employ these ideas and download the resulting checklist that she created, if you’re interested in starting your own decluttering marathon. The author had a series of ups and downs in her quest to simplify her space. It seems like the pressure to ‘be’ less, could potentially create another source of stress, if you are not able to accomplish it.

There is also some research to support that clutter encourages creativity – at least at the office. A 2013 study found that a desk overflowing with magazines, piles of papers, empty coffee mugs, and various objects stimulates creativity, promotes positive emotions, and encourages a problem-solving attitude. In the home, personal possessions carry emotional weight. It’s a way for people, especially in later life, to cherish their memories and life history and that can also have a positive impact on wellbeing.

Whether the act of simplifying your office or home space will make you more productive and efficient, or will bring you joy or the life you want, is debatable. It could be a step in that direction. Decluttering can create some space and energy in your life and clear the way so you can focus on those things. But finding joy and the life we want usually involves a lot more inner work.

What would decluttering your space mean for your life?

To learn more about how you can plan for and live your ideal retirement, visit our website at: or email:

We offer a variety of coaching programs and workshops for individuals, couples and groups to help you assess your readiness to retire and how you can create a smooth transition from the workforce or enhance your current retirement lifestyle.


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