Every now and then, I get the urge to declutter and unplug. The urge must be pretty strong as I run an office and a home — which are both difficult to keep tidy — and I use technology to complete my job as an editor and to communicate with all those involved with caring for my children.
But we’ve all heard that clutter and tech devices have been linked to stress, anxiety and depression. I know I get bothered when I look around the cluttered kitchen, and I feel stress after I’ve spent the early morning playing Yahtzee on my phone instead of getting ready for the day.
Being aware of the situation and taking control is an important step in conquering the clutter and fighting an addiction to technology. I know I’m not the only one who thinks about changing the terrible habits that come with clutter and technology.
Let’s tidy up, focus less on the materialistic and get off our phones. We have offices to run, children to raise and better things to do. Yes, smartphones can do amazing things. Yes, you may later wish that you kept that T-shirt. But we don’t need smartphones or that one T-shirt to survive.
When my husband and I decided to have children, we wanted them to grow up as we did. We played outside. We rode bikes to our friend’s house. We were close with our relatives. We came inside if it was dark — or we played Spotlight — raining or time to eat. We participated in various sports and narrowed down our extracurriculars as we got older.
My husband grew up in northcentral West Virginia and I grew up right here in western Kentucky, yet our values are the same.
My husband was 14 years old when he first starting using a cellphone. He and his younger brother played three sports each, and their mom got them a prepaid phone to communicate their arrivals and departures to and from various games.
I was 16 when I got a cellphone for the same reason. I shared the phone with my mother. She had the phone most of the time and I had the phone on days I had soccer games. I was 18 before I had a phone of my own, and my mom probably only allowed it because I was moving away to college.
We were also taught as children the value of items. We had enough toys and games to play, but we knew to take care of those items. If we didn’t, we’d be punished and we were less likely to receive similar items or any items of monetary worth.
We have decided to try to do the same things for our children; however, we do find it difficult at times. Two of our children have tablets and they use them. We limit the use to 20 minutes on rainy days or to times we must accomplish specific tasks.
And our children have WAY too many toys and the most difficult part is keeping up with all of them.
Children are such young, fresh thinkers. It’s the adults who need to set an example and teach them to live in a clutter-free, unplugged world.
I know I need to work on those things.
A 2016 study done by students at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign showed that mobile device addiction is in fact linked to depression and anxiety. Those who suffer those conditions know that each day is far from a walk in the park. But the study also found that just using the phone because you’re bored isn’t going to make you depressed.
A follow-up study showed that having a cellphone in a stressful situation proved as a benefit to the person experiencing the stress.
Common Sense Media took a survey of parents back in January, and the results showed that “47% of parents worry their child is addicted to their mobile device. By comparison, only 32% of parents say they’re addicted themselves,” according to USA Today’s article on the survey. “Half of parents also say they are at least somewhat concerned about how mobile devices will affect their kids’ mental health.”
Psychology Today addresses the studies linked to clutter and stress.
“University of New Mexico’s Catherine Roster and colleagues (2016) examined how clutter compromises an individual’s perception of home, and ultimately feelings of satisfaction with life,” Susan Krauss Whitbourne writes. “The underlying premise of the study was that because many people identify so closely with their home environments, the extent to which it’s cluttered can interfere with the pleasure they experience when being in that environment.”
I want to enjoy my home and enjoy my office, so if de-cluttering will help with that, I’m down with that. Because clutter is basically too many things in a small amount of space, this will mean that I will have to take a long, hard look at the items around my home and office.
The blog Organizing Moms references a University of California-Los Angeles study that found a “correlation between stress and stuff” for mothers. Yep.
So how do we as adults combat clutter and addiction to technology?
As far as clutter goes, Psychology Today’s Sherrie Bourg Carter suggests putting things you want to save in a box and then write a date on the box. If you haven’t opened it in a year, you can probably throw it out. And what we tell our children to do, we need to do: Put things up right when you’re done with them. Another suggestion is to clean up the spaces before you leave them.
Limiting use of the smartphone seems like a no-brainer, but there are several little tips that help with the end goal.
Gadgets Now suggest turning off as many notifications as you can and to set rules for use. Maybe no use during meals or when you are hanging around others. We can also use watches and alarm clocks instead of relying on our phones for that.
And the Internet is not a doctor or a type of therapy. We should seek help and conversation from our friends and family members. We can do that face-to-face. Use the smartphone to talk or to make plans to meet up.
And not surprisingly, there are apps to help deal with smartphone addiction. I’m not even going to research that because that defeats the purpose of my goal.