I am a recovering hoarder. I inherited my pack-rat nature from both my parents who saw value in every piece of scrap they came across. I learned to be a “maybe we will need this someday” kind of person, a “be prepared for anything” kind of person, so learning how to let go of things has not been easy.
That all changed after reading a book called Simplicity Parenting by kim John Payne. When I learned that my children would be better behaved just by de-cluttering, I was willing to try it. The theory is that clutter adds to overstimulation which when combined with other factors (being tired, hungry, emotionally out of sorts, etc) a child is more likely to misbehave.
I had a chance to test this theory. We were going off island, so in order to sublet our home; we removed all child-related things and personal items (eliminating a lot of clutter). When we returned, we kept out the few toys my boys had from their suitcases. I also added some rocks and driftwood from the beach to give them something to build with. To my amazement, my children were calmer, more peaceful and happier! There were no longer piles of toys to scatter and step over. Their play became more creative out of sheer necessity. To my surprise, they didn’t complain about having fewer toys. They were actually happier with less! Imagine that! Another huge benefit was that my husband was noticeably happier with less clutter and living with happier kids.
Here’s the science behind why this works. Our bodies produce a stress hormone called cortisol when we are over-stimulated. Clutter reads like chaos/stress to our senses. So when the clutter is removed, our brain and bodies can relax. When surrounded by clutter (or noise or anything continually irritating) there is a constant flow of cortisol in our system. This is like putting your children in PMS mode, so the slightest thing will more easily set them off.
Another “wow” that I got from the book Simplicity Parenting was the idea that space is a precious commodity. Empty space is often worth more than the item taking up that space. Weigh the value of being calmer and happier against the usefulness of that item. Does that change anything for you? It was a huge paradigm shift for me!
Where to start?
Start small. Choose one area such as your children’s toys. Eliminate the obvious; eliminate another time, and then a third time with the idea of space as a commodity and the prospect of happier children.
It’s a New Year’s resolution worth following through on. My family is definitely more peaceful for it.
Wishing You A Peaceful, Joyful New Year!
Image Credit: Cadencia Photography