How Holistic Decluttering Can Transform Your Life

picture of a bowl with rocks on it and candles and a lotus flower with another little bowl with small white towel

Holistic decluttering can transform your life because a holistic approach to decluttering provides support that looks at the whole person, not just the person’s mental health needs. The support should also consider their physical, emotional, social, and spiritual well-being.

Studies show us that mental and physical clutter is entwined. By using a holistic approach to decluttering you can get to the core of the issue which is answering the question ‘Why do you have clutter’?

A holistic approach to decluttering offers a deeper understanding and this can mean decluttering once and for all and learning how to maintain your newly decluttered spaces, both mentally and physically in all the key areas of your life.

A holistic emblem of a circle of green leaves


The definition of Holistic is the belief that the parts of something are interconnected and can be explained only by reference to the whole.

It has been well-studied that there is a connection between physical and mental clutter. Many of us, including me, find it difficult to concentrate on the task at hand if everything surrounding us is in a state of chaos. 

Some people can listen to music playing, podcasts, and streaming while at work. For the most part, I need to work in complete silence. I would not be able to think with the noise in the room and some folks can’t focus without the noise.

a lady in a hot pink long sleeve top pulling at her long dark brown hair

Antidote to distraction

You’ve all had days with too many distractions. It feels like every time you turn around there is another fire to put out.

A day filled with too many distractions makes it hard to be productive because it is hard to focus your attention where it belongs, which is on the task at hand.

Even thought there is not enough time I make myself stop everything and go for a brisk walk on these days. When I get back to the task at hand I feel my mind has been reset.

Negative thoughts

Long ago, in what seemed like a different life, my mind felt like a hamster running around a hamster wheel with a continuous loop of negative thoughts going round and round in my head night and day.

hamster wheel with a sweet little fuzzy smiling hamster lolling in the wheel

And my spaces have always been organized and clutter-free! That was an exhausting way to live!

It was when I made the connection between a cluttered head and messy cluttered spaces was I able to help others change their lives.


There are core components to sorting through too much clutter. If you are reading this article my guess is you would like to make a clutter-free and organized home. I encourage you to stop and ask yourself the following questions. ‘Why are you saving this stuff?’ and ‘What do you want’?

Do both the answers to the two questions align?

Sometimes people are loathe to discard items because they think they may never be able to afford to replace them. In the first place, if you want to discard something why are you even thinking about a future replacement?

an old jewel box filled with (sentimental) jewelry from a loved one.

Another obstacle to living in a clutter-free environment is people get hung up when it comes to sentimental items because they feel an emotional attachment to things.  Fond memories should not be a burden.

There are a number of solutions to sorting through mountains of old photos, for example, and saving only the beautiful photos. You can scan the photos and share with members of your family with the touch of a few key strokes.

Doesn’t this make more sense than having boxes and boxes of family photos stored? Every now and again I send a group email to a family member and my siblings with a picture or two from when we were kids. This gives us all a big laugh!

Wanting to hang on to stuff just in case you need it, or it costs too much is known as a scarcity mentality. Maybe you grew up feeling you never got what you wanted, perhaps there was not a lot of money in your household.

People who grew up in the great depression most often had scarcity mindsets.

20/20 rule

There is a rule called the 20/20 rule which states if it costs less than 20 dollars or less than 20 minutes to replace and you are not using it – get rid of it.

By making a few positive changes you notice big gains in your holistic approach to decluttering.

80/20 rule

The 80/20 rule is based on the Pareto principle. The rule states that 80% of us only regularly use 20% of our possessions. This leaves a lot of physical stuff hanging around taking up space which is often viewed as valuable real estate.

a pair of hands writing in a journal that is on a tan color resin table top

How physical clutter can affect our minds?

To answer this we can start by noticing how physical clutter affects our mental state. For example, when your physical environment is cluttered and disorganized, do you feel stressed, and anxious?

If so this mental clutter can further perpetuate the physical clutter, creating a vicious cycle. I feel at odds when I walk into a large department store like Macy’s because there is so much stuff. I interpret this visual explosion as very loud noise and chaos.

The thing about clutter, like Macy’s, is there is too much stuff, too much to cull through to find what I came looking for! This is inefficient.

Some people living in cluttered environments report the same level of dis-ease in their cluttered environments as I feel in Macy’s.

Address both mind and body

To break this cycle, we can approach decluttering holistically by addressing both physical and mental clutter. This means decluttering not just our physical possessions, but also our thoughts and mental habits.

One by one we will approach our physical clutter, our mental clutter, and even our digital clutter.

To begin the holistic practice of decluttering consider the following.


2 buddies side by side in a black and white graphic- high fiving!

More and more people are recognizing the plus to not going it alone. Having an accountability partner is a great tool to use on your decluttering journey. This is why – When you tell an accountability partner your plans you are much less apt to leave unfinished projects.

You have a much better chance of following through with decluttering and developing your organizational systems for storage with a buddy. When you have an accountability partner you will have a better result, and it’s more fun!

Physical Clutter

Physical possessions are the piles of stuff cluttering our homes.

A lot of us suffer from what is known as clutter blindness. This is because we have been living with the same things for so long that we do not even notice them anymore. It should not come as a surprise to realize that 30 years later after raising your family your home is filled with material possessions. 

Many practical ways and step-by-step tutorials show us how to declutter our physical objects. There are many success stories.

Here is a list of 24 things to toss in your kitchen to help you get started.

But…until you find the core of why you repeatedly have to declutter your physical spaces you are doomed to continue repeating the cycle.

Mental clutter

Mental clutter includes decluttering our thoughts, reducing negative self-talk, letting go of limiting self beliefs, and creating a more positive and peaceful mental state.

I have seen firsthand working with others how entwined physical and mental clutter is. It is my suggestion always to explore the mental clutter. Mental clutter almost always includes not knowing what you want.

This is a very deep topic and I am not a medical professional by any stretch. NAMI is a great organization to contact if you need a mental health consultation.

What I do have experience teaching is journaling and the magical outcomes that come from stream-of-consciousness writing.

A pair of hands writing in a journal that is on a tan color resin table top


Journaling has many benefits such as a calming effect. Writing is one of the greatest reflection tools in the mindfulness practices toolbox.

If you are all worked up about a situation writing it out is a good alternative to repeatedly ruminating about it in your head. We tend to think circularly when reliving a disturbing exchange or situation.

Writing seems to take away some of the power of the disturbance. The best part about writing these things out is there is an opportunity to learn what part you played in this exchange.

If you can write in a vigorously honest manner you will get answers and find peace.


Our digital lives can also become cluttered, with too many files and apps on our devices, overflowing inboxes, and constant notifications. Decluttering our digital lives can help reduce mental clutter and create a more focused mindset.

Going paperless is a great way to start decluttering your digital life.

shown are laptop, iPad, phone on a wood desk along with a little green potted succulent plant and a black note book

Fresh Start

Sometimes the urge to declutter isn’t about physical clutter at all. The urge could be you want a change in your routine or a new adventure.

By approaching decluttering as a holistic process, we can create a more balanced and fulfilling daily life. 

I used the tool of writing to map out my journey. This is a process I started in the late nineties and continue to this day. Back then I made a set amount of time to write each morning because I knew if I did not write first thing in the morning it likely would get overlooked. 


I specifically scheduled 20 minutes every morning as my first act of the day, to write 3 pages of stream-of-consciousness writing in my cheap spiral bound notebook. Writing is a great way to rid yourself of negative emotions and get your day off to a great start.

By scheduling in important tasks you will get better at time management. You will learn there really are only 24 hours in a day and some of the unnecessary items in your day that rob you of valuable time will have to be omitted.

laptop, hard copy calendar, alarm clock and pen.

I am a firm believer in daily journaling because I know we all have the answers often buried deep inside of us about what we want in life. 

Maybe I will write a story one day about all the magic that stemmed from the act of my stream-of-consciousness writing. In the meantime, make one little change today to shape the trajectory of your ideal life. Then tomorrow practice this one little change you made yesterday, and continue.


Marj Bates is a life long ridiculously organized declutter-er and artist. Less is more are words Marj lives by in everything she does except collecting dogs. “Dogs are like potato chips! Can’t have just one.” says Marj. Marj wonders if growing up with a fanatically clean Jewish mom means her decluttering and organizational skills are in her blood.

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