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More Than Decluttering

more than decluttering: jennifer owen, 2021

Welcome to this beautifully presented, readable, inspiring and humbling research report. It relates the impact of a project where trained volunteers assisted older people in tackling their clutter. The results are hopeful and encouraging - here’s to more Attic Projects all over the world.

I’ve been privileged to meet one of the volunteers who took part in the Attic Project recently. Her whole face lights up when she talks of her experience.
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Home is a platform for wellbeing

home and the extended-self: exploring associations between clutter and wellbeing: rogers & hart, 2021

We can be assured that making time and spending money to create home is just as important as getting a good night’s sleep and taking exercise.

I believe that home – how we create and experience home – is underestimated and overlooked when it comes to wellbeing. As a Professional Organiser I see just as many, if not more, positive outcomes in my clients than I do in their homes: I see their shoulders relax. They report feeling better. They talk about leading richer, more meaningful lives with more ease.

I came to my MSc in Applied Positive Psychology and Coaching Psychology determined to research the wellbeing effects of being on top of clutter. I wanted to find out if the positive outcomes I see in Professional Organising clients are universal.
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Books on clutter and organising

what kind of clutter research is included here?

I've deliberately chosen to focus these research pages on the topics of clutter, decluttering, possessions and home. I've chosen not to include research on the topic of coaching and positive psychology.

It’s not that the coaching and positive psychology literature isn’t interesting – it is. However, I want to create emphasis here on the importance of clutter as a research topic. In conducting my own research into the relationship between clutter and wellbeing I’ve trawled through hundreds of academic journals, often thinking how interested my professional organising clients would be in what I’ve been reading. I’ve picked a few papers here that resonated strongly or felt useful. I hope you enjoy them.

And if you’d prefer to steer away from the academic stuff, the books in this image here all come with my recommendation.
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Dr Francis Quinn clutter researcher

home environment, stress and wellbeing study: dr francis quinn, happening now

Want to be part of extending knowledge about home, clutter, stress and wellbeing?

Got ten minutes?

Do consider taking part in this study run by one of our lovely clutter research group members, Dr Francis Quinn, pictured here.

You'll need to click into this article to link to the survey

Or copy and past this link -
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clutter and wellbeing

home and the extended-self: exploring associations between clutter and wellbeing: rogers & hart, under review

When I was writing up my research on the association between clutter and wellbeing, I paced it around minor rewards like walking or popping to the local shop. Each shop visit had the delightful lure of a nice chat with its owner, Rita, pictured here with her permission.

When Rita discovered that I was wading through data and statistical analysis to unearth the association between clutter and wellbeing she shrugged her shoulders and said “Well I could have told you that! Everyone knows that decluttering makes you feel better!”

And that’s why I wanted to do this research.
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Kasey Lloyd researcher

towards a theory of minimalism and wellbeing: lloyd & pennington, 2020

Is minimalism for you? And if it is, then what impact might your minimalism have on your wellbeing? My lovely MSc colleague, Kasey Lloyd, pictured here wanted to investigate just that and has recently published her research in the International Journal of Applied Positive Psychology.

A bit of an itinerant, Kasey’s spent many years travelling and studying with very few possessions. She was interested by the fact that it didn’t bother her; if anything, it made her life easier. Looking at existing research she discovered that the connection between wellbeing and minimalism hadn’t been investigated, so she used a methodology of grounded theory. She interviewed ten people, all of whom identify as minimalists. Here’s a quote from one of them:

“I think the process of minimalism and decluttering…brings me closer to my authentic self because it gives me that confidence of knowing what I want and what I don’t want...I’ve got so much more of an idea of what I want for myself and what is going to make me happy.”

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Ghandi's possessions

on meaning and possessions: caroline rogers, 2018

“Possessions are defined as “item(s) of property, something belonging to one” (Simpson & Weiner, 1989). It is hard to argue that anyone is without possessions – even Gandhi had some.”

I wrote this essay on the meaning of possessions as a module paper for my MSc. The module was called ‘the search for something higher’. For me, the reading, lectures and discussions in that module on topics like meaning in life, flow, passion and spirituality, reinforced that my work as a professional organiser is connected with those topics – but how? This essay was an exploration of that.

Since writing it, I have always asked my clients what's important and meaningful in their lives - and we've used that to help them make those sometimes difficult decisions about what to keep, and what to let go.
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… women’s reflections on the meaning of their cherished possessions: martin, 2017.

This study reported and considerednine reflective conversations with women about their relationship with their possessions. The first time I read it, it confirmed to me that asking someone to tell you about one of their possessions is a great way to have a meaningful conversation. Try it next time you're at a bus stop!

As the women speak about particular treasures, we learn what's important to them, what gives their lives meaning, stories of their achievements, heartaches, relationships. It's beautiful.

The women talk how their possessions nurture them, connect them with others, affirm their personal experiences, support them through change and help them cultivate a sense of self.

Reading it helps us understand why this process of decluttering, going through our possessions; deciding what to keep and how can be such an emotive experience.
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the dark side of home: assessing possession ‘clutter’ on subjective wellbeing: roster et al, 2016

When I stumbled on this paper in 2016 it was like striking gold. Finally, some robust research on the topic of clutter.

Immediately I wondered if this might be something I could replicate, build on, examine from a positive psychology perspective.

I’ll always be grateful to Catherine Roster and Joseph Ferrari for the attention they and their colleagues have paid to clutter, for the academic kindness they’ve both shown me – and for introducing me to the concept of Psychological Home.
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no place like home: home tours correlate with daily patterns of mood and cortisol: saxbe & repetti, 2010.

What kind of language might you use if you took someone on a tour around your home? Adjectives like disorganised, restful, calming - cluttered? What other sorts of words? (Hopefully you wouldn't use that word "should").

This American study took a hard look at words used by thirty working parents, all heterosexual, describing their homes in video tours. At the same time, the researchers measured the couples’ cortisol levels. (Hence my accountability partner always refers to this paper as ‘the spit one’).

They revealed some interesting results that, in my opinion, are often mis-quoted and misunderstood; this is not an academic paper concluding that clutter causes depression.
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