The Psychological Benefits of Tidying Up

By: Jen McWaters, Psy.D. | April 12, 2019

Is joy lurking in your closet? Is satisfaction hiding under your stuff?

While browsing Netflix I found a new show entitled “Tidying up with Marie Kondo.” Intrigued, I watched an episode of Marie Kondo’s world of tidying and organizing. Known as her KonMari Method, it includes, for example, new ways to fold clothes efficiently and compactly to create more closet space. Most importantly were Kondo’s methods for assessing items and letting go of things that no longer serve us….in Kondo’s words, identifying what “sparks joy.”

Boost Mood and Self-Esteem

Since watching the show, I’ve noticed Kondo’s name pop up everywhere, noticing also the commentaries about how tidying can reap benefits far beyond being organized or having a peaceful home. For example, CNN posted a piece about the emotional benefits of her process, entitled “Marie Kondo’s tidying isn’t just about appearances. There’s a psychological and spiritual upside, too” (Ravitz, 2019). The article points to widely accepted and research-based ideas, such as how accomplishment-oriented tasks help boost mood and self-esteem. This means it can feel good to master the skill of organizing and see the fruits of your hard work.

Let Environment Affect How We Feel

Have you ever sat down to do something productive but got distracted or overwhelmed by the clutter on your desk? Have you found it hard to relax when your laundry is strewn all over the room? Arguably, having a tidy, serene environment can have a calming psychological effect as well as providing the mental space necessary to conquer difficulties more confidently. After finally organizing that cluttered closet, we feel more hopeful that things can change, that we can move toward what’s meaningful to us. That we can take action.

Can Tidying Up Spark Courage?

Today, do a mental and visual assessment to consider a task that you want to tackle but have avoided. Start with what seems most manageable. Ensure that you have enough time to complete the task from start to finish. As you tidy up and organize, focus on paring down items that no longer bring you joy. A very encouraging and freeing feeling can occur when you let go and know that you can still live well without attachment to so many possessions. Check out for more information, guidelines, and inspiration on Marie Kondo’s KonMari Method.

Still Struggling with Stuff?

If you still struggle with stuff or whether it’s with motivation, accountability, or anxiety about letting things go, I encourage you to speak with a qualified professional to help you along your journey. A therapist can coach you through the process, understand where you are getting stuck, and provide accountability. In more difficult cases, therapists who specialize in hoarding behavior can provide targeted interventions for those struggling with letting go.

Remember, you have more power in determining your environment and feelings than you may think!


Image: Scott Schwartz on flickr and reproduced under Creative Commons 2.0

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