Decluttering for stress relief | Book review & practical tips

Not long ago I bought this book which became famous recently. The life changing magic of tidying up. Ambitious title to live up to, I was telling myself.

To be honest I was quite hesitant to look into this book and didn’t really want to buy it. I mean… Teaching how to clean up and keep your house tidy…  I thought this is something everyone knows.

I am also not the type of person who is really into recent trends and popular things. Always a bit reluctant to jump on the bandwagon 🙂

But I thought, hey, lot of people are positive about, I am interested in stress management, so let’s give it a try.

It was a great idea.

Are you keeping your home clutter free?

I have to say, that I always thought about myself as a person who likes hygiene (OK, at times I can be quite a hygiene freak) and I considered myself to be someone who keeps his place neat and clean.

I clean the apartment often enough, like organising my stuff so I know where things are. My books are nicely aligned, my clothes are usually nicely folded. (Or so I thought.)

So all-in-all I like keeping my environment as neat as possible. 🙂

We don’t have many stuff at home because we don’t like hoarding with my girlfriend. We like to keep just as many things as are important.

My parents are major hoarders. When I was younger and still living home, our apartment was filled with furniture and stuff. My dad even put up some thick wooden beams, a bed and a big plank on our living room wall, through the width of the room to have an extra bed for guests to sleep on and some extra space to pack our stuff to.

Mind, that our living room was only 2,2 meters high…Yes, he technically put a gallery in a 2,2 meter high room, taking 1/3 of the space.

NOBODY, EVER used that bed to sleep on 🙂

So when I moved separate, I promised myself that I will never collect useless stuff myself. I was pretty good in keeping to this promise in recent years I believed.

How is ‘The life changing magic of tidying’ as a book?

I have to say, qua book, it’s quite a weird one. In a positive way.

Not sure if it’s a story book or a guide or both. It has a unique writing style, seemingly incoherent flow and the writer, Marie is rather quirky. She is funny, but quirky 🙂

When you start reading the book, you need to get used to the style of writing, to get into the flow.

However once you are used to it, the book gets fun to read, with small story bits, little childhood memories, all type of tips and examples from other people.

I ended up liking the way how she teaches you her way of tidying and de-cluttering.

At first she tells you all the way she tried keeping her apartment clean and didn’t work, some of them you might recognise yourself. (Dumping unused stuff on other people is definitely something I do, it was funny to read that others do the same).

Slowly, bits by bits, like a little unraveling story, you get to know her philosophy of cleaning and the actual steps you need to take to create a clean home and keep it so. I can really see how it can help you to improve your life.

Since the book is kind of unstructured, I thought I will make a summary here of the steps and add my own thoughts to it, to help you clean up your place, after you read her book.

I say after you read her book, because it’s an absolute must.  You can get the book here.

You really need to understand her philosophy on how to keep your house in order and tidy. I have to say it’s really refreshing, simple and yet, not many people get to this point.

So after you read the book, as a refresher, this is the order to go by:

Marie’s order of de-cluttering your home

  1. Wardrobe – Clothes – shoes – underwear / socks
    • In wardrobe: Start with big and warm items and move on to smaller and summer items
  2. Bookshelf, papers etc.
    • I do would like to divert your attention to the fact that even though the book says that you can throw away old tax paper and other stuff, you might want to check what are your requirements for keeping those papers. In the Netherlands for example we need to keep tax related papers for 7 years. So you might want to keep those even though they are piling up 🙂
  3. Accessories, like electronics, household equipments, gifts, free stuff, extra furnitures etc.

The whole process is actually quite heavy in an emotional and mental way.

You get a trip down on memory lane and get confronted with some of the basic ways how you handle your everyday life.

Tidying up in pictures

Marie describes a two step process to be used for every category of items in your home.

The first step is to eliminate.

And this is super important as I got to understand from the book and for a good reason. I am not going to spoil it for you how do you have to make this step, but it’s heavy.

For that you will need to read the book. 😉

I thought I would show you a few examples how well it worked out for me.

To illustrate how my wardrobe looked, I made a picture of you. I thought I was pretty neat, but in reality, looking back it was quite messy. this is how it looked:

relieve stress morning ritual

At the first few pieces of clothing, I found the elimination part extremely hard. However thanks to the way the book explained the meaning behind this step, after a few sweaters and jackets, I got the hang of it.

And oh my, that was bad news for my wardrobe… well, more precisely for the clothes in it. It turned out to be a clothing massacre.

To use the ‘measure’ of Maria, I ended up with 4 full 60 litre trash bags of clothing. Wow…

decluttering for stress relief

My wardrobe was all of a sudden empty as a ghost town. See for yourself in the picture below.

cleaning to relieve stress

“You can’t reach for anything new if your hands are still full of yesterdays junk” – Louise Smith

Sudden relief of stress from de-cluttering

After finishing up the cleaning of my wardrobe, I immediately realised what a nice thing I have just done. Looking at my relatively empty wardrobe, it felt really nice. It felt somewhat liberating.

I thrown out clothes which I haven’t worn in literally years. I’ve also thrown stuff out that I got from other people but didn’t really like. It included pieces I didn’t even know I had.

Looking at the clean wardrobe, simply makes you feel more relaxed.

In the coming days I realised the other great benefit of tidying up your closet. It feels so nice and simple to choose what to wear in the morning. It sounds silly but this simple thing makes my mornings easier.

I just open the wardrobe, and whatever I pick, it’s fine. To understand this why, again, you will need to read the book.

Before I cleaned up the closet, I was standing literally minutes there, trying to find some pieces and thinking on what to wear.

Now I just open the wardrobe, take the first thing I get my eyes on and get on with my day. Also, I don’t have to search for clothes anymore, because whatever I need, I can get it in a blink of an eye.

Cleaning the rest of you home

After the clothes I moved on to other parts of the apartment. The next stop were the shows and books.

After the books and papers the accessories and everything else came. The kitchen was relatively easy to do, we thrown out lot of dishes we didn’t use anymore, plates etc. (OK, most of them we gave to our parents, like 90% of them).

One of the interesting things we cleaned up was this little storage room we have in the place. This is how it looked before:

declutter your home

Aaand after throwing out the stuff we do not use it became a bit nicer:

clean house for stress relief

So at the moment we are this far in decluttering. We are not completely done with the process yet, because it takes time.

I have a tiny bit more stuff than I thought :).

In the coming days / weeks I will update this post and show you the progress.

“Clutter is nothing more than postponed decisions” – Barbara Hemphill Click To Tweet

Bottom line, does decluttering for stress relief really work?

The short answer would be yes.

The long answer would be that I don’t think it helps to reduce stress directly. However, having a clean, clutter-free home, with only stuff that you love in an orderly fashion, does make you feel more at ease.

Interestingly a research found that clutter can make it harder for you to concentrate and wear you down.

Your mind feel more relaxed and funnily enough, less cluttered. It seems if the space where you live is clean, your head feels clearer as well. Researcher at UCLA found that cluttered home can cause change in cortisol levels and mood swings for example.

The day-to-day activities at home become easier, faster, simpler and smoother. You no longer have to spend time on choosing what to wear, search for cleaning materials, stuff accessories in cabinets, search for unused items for hours etc. Everything easier to see through and use at your home.

Once you make your house clutter free, you avoid those small moments of frustration, time-consuming search, visual reminders of tasks and all these small stress moments, which can annoy you at your home.

Instead your home becomes a little island of relaxation.

Closing words

So as you might guess, I thought in the end that the book was pretty amazing.

It really takes time to get used to the style, but once you do, you will get a lot out of it. I would highly recommend reading it, it’s quite a short read, with big letters 🙂

For the question for this post I am curious:

  • Do you also experience clutter in your home? How does it make you feel? Have you read Marie’s book maybe already?

Let me know your answers in the comments 😉


Relax and be well,


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