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The holidays can be a stressful time for many. Nearly a quarter of American’s have reported feeling “extreme stress” during the holidays, with 69% feeling stressed by the lack of time and money, and over 50% feeling burdened by the pressure to give and receive gifts. What’s unfortunate is that these feelings of stress are on top of what is already considered to be dangerously high stress levels, with a recent Gallup poll finding that Americans are among the most stressed people in the world.

Though reasons for stress can vary, researchers have found a correlation between stress and clutter. One study indicated that “…clutter can negatively impact mental well-being… inducing a physiological response, including increased levels of cortisol, a stress hormone.” Since the holidays cause both clutter and stress, it is important for individuals to remain proactive by decluttering before the holiday season arrives.

When we speak with families about the challenges they face when it comes to clearing out their homes, one of the recurring themes we hear is the feeling of being overwhelmed. People become almost paralyzed by the amount of items they have, and aren’t sure where to begin. If you are ready to make a change this winter, these 3 simple tips can help. Here’s how you can alleviate clutter and stress this holiday season:

1.) Do a quick daily run through, with a 15 minute “focus-session” based on specific zones.

List out the things you need to do each day – such as tending to the kitchen, vacuuming, and wiping down the bathrooms. Continue to do those, alongside an additional zone for just 15 minutes a day. It can be anything from a dresser drawer to a closet, or an entire room. When sorting through items, ask yourself if you have used it recently, or if you have a genuine purpose for it in the future. If not, donate it to a local non-profit, or throw it away – and don’t look back. You will be amazed at how quickly your home will shine!

2.) Keep larger items off-site to maximize space for items you need each day.

Sometimes larger items, such as sports equipment, camping gear, or seasonal décor, simply won’t fit within the space you have. Renting a local self storage unit can provide you additional space for items you need regular access to. Best, of all, if there is an item you are considering getting rid of, but aren’t too sure about it, you can place it on “hold” within your storage unit, and reassess in 3 months. If you haven’t needed it during that time, you know you’re making the right decision by getting letting it go!

3.) Decide to do the holidays differently this year.

If the holidays and the clutter the holidays bring are stress inducing, why not change up the usual routine? Instead of exchanging gifts, you can ask your guests if they would consider making a charitable donation in your name, and you in theirs. If gifts are something everyone would still like to do, maybe a white elephant or specific exchange is best so that there are less items (and costs) to manage.

With a zone-focused cleaning approach, the use of nearby self-storage, and a change in your holiday plans, the anxiety you feel come winter time is sure to be a thing of the past. In the words of American author Allen Klein, “Your attitude is like a box of crayons that color your world. Constantly color your picture gray, and your picture will always be bleak. Try adding some bright colors to the picture by including humor, and your picture begins to lighten up.”

To a bright holiday season ahead!