Insight Mind Body Talk

2nd Most Downloaded Episode of Season 2: Cluttered Space, Cluttered Mind with guest Ariyanna Toth

July 02, 2023
2nd Most Downloaded Episode of Season 2: Cluttered Space, Cluttered Mind with guest Ariyanna Toth
Insight Mind Body Talk
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Insight Mind Body Talk
2nd Most Downloaded Episode of Season 2: Cluttered Space, Cluttered Mind with guest Ariyanna Toth
Jul 02, 2023

When the question of what you want to own,  becomes the question of how you want to live your life.

Join Jess and her guest, Ariyanna Toth, M.ED., M.A., and RYT-200, as they talk CLUTTER.  Learn more about the influence clutter has on your thoughts, your emotions, and your physical health. Ariyanna will help you reflect on what is important, become more intentional about what you keep in your space, and share strategies for processing the difficult emotions that may arise on your de-cluttering journey.

Produced by Jessica Warpula Schultz
Music by Jason A. Schultz

Insight Mind Body Talk. Also, check out our e-courses!

Show Notes Transcript

When the question of what you want to own,  becomes the question of how you want to live your life.

Join Jess and her guest, Ariyanna Toth, M.ED., M.A., and RYT-200, as they talk CLUTTER.  Learn more about the influence clutter has on your thoughts, your emotions, and your physical health. Ariyanna will help you reflect on what is important, become more intentional about what you keep in your space, and share strategies for processing the difficult emotions that may arise on your de-cluttering journey.

Produced by Jessica Warpula Schultz
Music by Jason A. Schultz

Insight Mind Body Talk. Also, check out our e-courses!

Welcome to Insight Mind Body Talk, a body-based mental health podcast. We're your hosts, Jessica Warpula Schultz and Jeanne Kolker Whether you've tried everything to feel better and something is still missing or you've already discovered the wisdom of the body. This podcast will encourage and support you in healing old wounds, strengthening relationships, and developing your inner potential all by accessing the mind body connection. Please know while we're excited to share and grow together. This podcast is not intended to be a substitute for mental health treatment. It doesn't replace the one-on-one relationship you have with a qualified healthcare professional and is not considered psychotherapy. 

Thanks Jess. And thank you for listening. Now, let's begin a conversation about what happens when we take an integrative approach to improving our wellbeing. Welcome to Insight Mind, body Talk. My name is Jess. I'm a licensed marriage and family therapist, a trauma informed fitness expert, and your host. . Today's episode is cluttered space, cluttered Mind. When the question of what you want to own becomes the question of how you want to live your life. And our guest is Ariyanna Toth. With a master's degree in education and recently graduating from a clinical mental health counseling program, Ariyanna has worked in the field of mental health, behavior and wellness for over a decade as she embarks on the journey towards becoming a licensed counselor.

She currently provides skill development and mental health support in our local Medicaid funded mental health program. She is passionate about working with adults with ADHD and executive dysfunction, and she focuses most of her time helping clients build organizational and decluttering skills. She loves to work on helping others recognize the connection between clutter and mental health, build the skills needed to let go and create space where they can reconnect to what is important to them.

Ariyanna, welcome. Thank you. I'm glad to be here. I'm glad you're back cuz technically this is not your first time on Site Mind Body Talk. You were here once before discussing the influence gardening has on our mental and our physical health, and I love that you're back. I love how you're going out there thinking about how these other things in our world, I influence our mind and body gardening, decluttering.

I mean, you really do bring a a lot of, you know, good information to the table. So I'm glad you're. Thank you. Yeah, I love this work and I, I like looking at things from outside of just a therapy and meds conversation and what are the other ways that we bring holistic wellness to our. Agreed. Agreed. I mean, truly yes.

Because, well, for example, today's topic, like, I mean, who doesn't relate to the desire to declutter and you know, who hasn't noticed how different they feel once they've cleaned their home or organized their closets or basements? I mean, if. If you slow down and think about it. I, I think that's also why even like home improvement shows are so popular, right?

Like our brains, our bodies, they feel really good when the old is released and the new has space to take form. It's, it's just really cathartic. It really is. And I, I love this in my personal life and the work that I've done with clients, but I will admit that a part of this is selfish because I love that tangible reward of being able to see the change in our space and in our environment.

You teach a decluttering workshop at Insight, and I know someday you plan to write an e-course about this topic, you know, offering your skill set to the masses. So how did you get interested in the impact of decluttering on mental health? Well, it started with my own process of decluttering my own life and my own things.

It was maybe seven or eight years ago where the Marie Kondo method started to come out and become popular. Her book, the Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, really gained traction around that time. And if you're unfamiliar with that process, It's about going by category. So you oftentimes start with clothing.

And so I did that. I grabbed all the clothing I could possibly find, and I put it in one pile in my living room. And I was shocked by the emotional impact of doing that. I had this kind of gut punch reaction of, wow, I didn't realize I had this much, and why do I need this much? And what I realized is that we often.

Accumulate and accumulate, and we add more and we add more, and we're not in the habit of really reflecting on what do we get rid of. And so that process for me was really an emotional process. I was surprised it wasn't just getting rid of stuff or donating stuff. I had to go through a lot of this emotional process of what these items meant to me and my values.

And so from there, every year we go through this process, uh, in my home of decluttering and getting rid of more and more stuff. And I realized that leaked into so many aspects of my life. And now that I'm in the field and working, I was working as a case manager for a while and realizing it's a very overlooked topic.

We don't really think about the impact of our clutter, our apartment, our house, our room on our mental. Mm-hmm. . No, I, I totally agree. Um, you know, in my work, you know, I've done, you know, some work out in the same county Medicaid program that you have and I've been inside people's homes and, you know, that's where I was really first exposed to the idea that, You know, people were talking about how much the clutter was impacting their mental health and it was really exciting to start creating goals around like clearing that clutter and then talking about how our bodies feel different when there's less clutter.

How our minds feel different when there's less clutter. And you know, the research is really starting to like pick up speed in that area. And then of course we have the whole kind of what you're talking about, the minimalism movement. So let's take a moment. And discuss minimalism as a concept. So what is that?

I think this is a really important concept to talk about because. As you said, there's home improvement shows. You can find it on YouTube. There's TV series, um, and minimalism is often represented as more of an aesthetic, and oftentimes we see the extremes. I mean, if you think about the people with. Empty rooms and white walls and nothing in their homes.

Maybe they're living out of a backpack or they have like one almost. Right. Like almost kinda like not homey, not cozy per se. Exactly, yeah. That's the image we get and it's just not realistic in our modern life. So the way that I see it is more of a mindset. Rather than I need to get rid of everything.

It's starting to be become intentional about what do we keep in our space, what do we have in our space, and reflecting on what's important to us. And that means that when we narrow in on what's important to us, we remove distractions and all that extra that we often. Mm-hmm. . I know a few years ago we started, I think I saw like one of the documentaries on Netflix or something about minimalism.

And while I don't try to wear only 10 pieces of clothing, I pretty much only do wear the same like 10 pieces of clothing. , but you know, my closet, it's still full of stuff. So, you know, ever since we saw that, we try purposefully in my home at least to, you know, go through a room every few months and really look at like, what's needed, what's necessary.

But it, it can be emotional. Like even when we moved into our house, I found a card again, I was wearing in high school, and I was like, do I really need, I mean, it was like falling apart in my fingertips, right? And if I was like, oh my gosh, my card again. It was so special to me then, and so I just took a picture wearing it and set it aside.

Right. And so I, it's such an interesting, and yet I think really, you know, helpful process to honor and, and to explore. And you're right, it doesn't have to look like these. Museum like homes are living out of a backpack. It can just be like, all right, let me open my bathroom drawer. Do I really need foundation from like 2019 still?

Right. I'm never going to use it. Or you know, can I get rid of some of these brushes I've collected? Like really thinking about it in that capacity. So digging into how, you know, tell me more about how. You know, what research is out there or your, in your experience, how clutter truly impacts our mental health.

You know what I mean? Like in, in regards to diagnoses or, or mental health concerns or issues. Yeah. The way that I like to see it, in the way that I like to explain it, especially if anyone has listening to this, has worked with me. You've heard me use this metaphor of the phone battery example. This metaphor is, you know, if we have our smartphone and we're on Facebook, let's say, and that's what we're focusing on, there's often 5, 10, 15, 20 apps running in the background that we're not really aware of or we're not using in the moment, and that drains our phone battery.

And the way that I see clutter is the exact same way that even if we're sitting on the couch and watching. The office for the 30th time, not relevant at all, but even if we're doing in there , um, I may be focusing on the TV show, but in the background, my energy is being drained by all the things that maybe I'm not necessarily thinking of, but the dishes are piling up and there's those packages I need to get through and there's dog toys all over the ground, and those things start to drain our battery.

Mm mm-hmm. , I think that's, you know, recently I came home with this basket and. My husband's like, what's that basket for? And I was like, it's a blanket basket. And we both got so excited because I think we have put out a lot of energy to each other and obviously in our minds about, we're always complaining about how many blankets we have and how they have nowhere to go.

And I know it's something really simple, but it feels so. The last few days to look around my home and see that basket full of blankets, like, it's like there's a weight lifted off my shoulder that I didn't even know. Was, you know, there per se, and side note, cats, they love tall baskets of blankets. So I mean, it's making more than just me happy.

It's like improving our everyone's mental health. But yeah, like you don't even realize, I love that analogy, that you don't even realize how much is training your battery until you remove it or work through. Yeah. And we have this tendency to keep adding more and keep up with the Jones's and mm-hmm. , of course we can online shop and we keep adding more.

Yeah. And what that's leading to is this constant to-do list, this really busy lifestyle. And one of the biggest things that I see with the clients that I work with is this really intense sense of overwhelm where there's so much to do, we don't know where to start. , and an interesting statistic is that it's from the book, the Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz, that we experience so much decision fatigue in our day-to-day lives that we make.

I was shocked by this, but over 35,000 different choices a day. Oh my gosh, right. Holy moly. You know, I always give credit to Obama, so maybe it's Barry Shorts who you said instead. . But I once heard Obama talking about how like he will wear the same clothes like this. His wardrobe is very like the same.

And ever since I heard that, you know, people, you know, I'll buy the same. Like I, I actually changed my clothes, y'all, but the same purple tie dye shirt, I have four of them because I just want. To eliminate as many decisions as possible. I mean, it doesn't lead to this like fantastical style and representation a lot of the time, you know, outward expression.

But I tell you, I have a lot more capacity then to like make choice around things that I really do care about and that are important to me. That brings in that mindset right around. Why am I wasting so much time on things I really don't care about? Maybe you do care about your clothes, but it sounds like especially for you, right?

This is something I don't need to make a decision on. Yeah, and when we declutter, what I found, especially with adhd, but all of us, if I have five different shampoos in my shower mm-hmm. . Mm-hmm. that. Is one of those decisions that I have to make, versus if I'm decluttering and I get down to one shampoo, this is my one brush, this is my one thing, then we get less overwhelmed around all of these different decisions.

Mm-hmm. ? Mm-hmm. . So we're starting to talk about emotions and the influence that stuff clutter has on our, you know, emotional wellbeing.

 Yeah, there is a quote that I think about all the time, and I tried to find the source in who it was and I could not find it, but it's, our House has become a museum of all the things we thought would bring us happiness, and I think that is so profound because if we look around, there's a lot of stuff that we may have.

Where we felt like this is gonna be it. Yeah. And the novelty goes away really quickly. Mm-hmm. . And instead we have all of these other emotions that maybe we're not as aware of. They maybe regret anxiety, guilt, feeling stuck, shamed, overwhelmed, for example. The should dos or the piles of tasks. Mm-hmm. , the need todos and those items that we've been putting off, those are often items that give us some sort of anxiety that start to drain again, the energy where there's all this constant to do.

Um, Another one is guilt. I've seen that a lot where the shoulds, but also maybe it's gifts from people who are important to us that we aren't going to use, but we feel guilty for getting rid of. Yeah. The I've, I've, I've, I've totally been there. Yes. Like we care about these people so much, especially in regards to like earlier generations passing down things that maybe were very important to them or just as like, our loved ones age, they don't have as much space, so they wanna share it with their family.

And yet, you know, maybe you don't know what to do with. 14 goblets, you know, and 10 plates, and you know, when you already have this kind of stuff and yet you care about them. So yeah, there's like, well, now what do I do if I, if I, if I get rid of this, am I getting rid of like, their love for me? And, and that just, that feels really icky.

Mm-hmm. . We often tie those two together and they feel like they overlap so much and, and there are a lot of things sentimental that we want to keep or we wanna keep the memory and there's different ways to go about that. But also one of the things that I've really held on to is, The act of giving is to see your reaction.

Right. So that, oh, thank you so much and I, I love this, or Thank you for thinking of me. Mm-hmm. . And so I think of it in that way that the action of that has been fulfilled. Whether or not I use this item, or especially if it's just kind of a random like, Hey, I was thinking about you. Mm-hmm. isn't necessarily maybe what that person is looking for.

Yeah. Yeah. That's a good point. My mother-in-law says that sometimes when like, My grandma in-law gives us some really beautiful things. She's like, you know, just say thank you and accept it, and then whatever you choose to do with it is your own choice. Right. She's really supportive and so she's like, yeah.

Onto that concept of, you know, it's that moment. Right. And that mm-hmm. that honoring of each other in that For sure. Okay. Yeah. . And then the other aspect that I see a lot for guilt especially is the, what I call ideal self items or identity items of these items that we keep because maybe they were a part of our past life or they what we want to be, and there's a lot of emotions tied to those.

So, What I I wanna say around that too, is that minimalism or going on this process, whatever that looks like. I've seen a lot of people where they feel lighter, they feel like they have less things to do, or they're more capable, they are less distracted, and there's less choices to overwhelm them. And so those are the ways that this process can help with some of those more positive emotions or the emotions that we want to.

Mm-hmm. . I love that. Especially you're right when it has to do with our identity and it's, you know, hope and pursuit of new goals or you know, who we wanna become and then maybe that item starts to represent to us, you know, or to that person like that they're still in transition or they didn't quite make it.

And do they wanna give up the item? Cuz what does that say about who they are? But you're right, when. If we can honor that, Hey, I'm allowed to pivot. This was important to me, but it's not anymore. Or I'm pursuing that in a different way. I don't need this item anymore. You know? Yeah, you're right. I bet people, you know, will feel lighter and feel better.

So, alright, you've got me sold. I'm totally gonna go home and use the next weekend to declutter even more. I'm like really excited yet I, in my, you know, talking about clutter. Things of that nature with clients and with my own friends and family. For me, I hear a lot about the barriers too, that people experience, right?

So if someone is passionate, you know, pardon me? I'm gonna re-ask that whole question cuz I, my brain went, my brain forwarded. Okay. Okay. So, In the work you've done with helping people declutter, what have you noticed are the main barriers to the process? Let's say someone's motivated, like, I'm excited, I'm gonna, I'm listening to you right now.

I'm gonna start that closet, that garage, that even that dresser, that box. What are some of the barriers and how do you think they can kind of like work through? This is definitely individual and unique to each person, but some of the things that I've noticed in the work that we've done is, uh, The messages that we've gotten around our stuff.

And so starting to work through some of those, those often come in whether we think, okay, if I get rid of these things, then I'm wasteful, or if I spent money on it, then it has to have some sort of value and I have to keep it. Um, a lot of times there's fear of not having this item if we need it, or, um, not being able to buy it again, if we were needing to repurchase it.

Of course those are all individual and working through whatever that might be. But I think the biggest piece of this is I see so many people feeling unsure where to start and. Seeing the mountain instead of the first steps, and that makes it so overwhelming when we look at all of the stuff we need to do, all of the clutter we have.

Mm-hmm. . And oftentimes our, maybe some perfectionism comes in or some all or nothing kind of thinking where it's like, I don't have the energy to do all of this, so I'm not going to start. Mm-hmm. . I used what's called, what I call the one dish method for that. Um, it's often referred to as the procrastination technique, but the idea of if I have a pile of dishes that is so overwhelming of like I don't have the time or energy to tackle it.

Yeah. Versus I'm gonna give myself permission to do one dish and breaking it down to that very, very, very minimal. Uh, tasks can give us that, that little boost mm-hmm. . And so that way we go in, we do the one dish, and we give ourselves permission to stop there or do I have the time and energy to do the next dish.

And so that's my biggest advice, especially with barriers, is how do I break this down into the equivalent of one dish? Mm mm-hmm. . So when we look at the bicker picture, We're starting to talk about like the process, so looking at starting and then getting to that end result. I love the one dish method, but are there other ways, like how else can people kind of start this up?

Mm-hmm. , I almost always start with identifying values. Like I said, it's a mindset and you can find values, uh, worksheets and cards online. Mm-hmm. , what I usually do is work with people to identify what is it that's important to you, what do you. Not have time for or space for what feels like it's missing from your life.

And I think that that's really important to figure out the why, because it helps us when we're making decisions, if we have that in the back of our mind. Like I want more family time. I want more time to be creative. I want a peaceful place to come home to. , then those decisions get a little easier cuz we can say, what is this costing me?

Versus just looking at an item and saying, do I need this? Mm-hmm. . Mm-hmm. another, oh, go for it. Yeah, no. Another piece to that is the, knowing that this, it's not realistic for this to happen in a. A weekend or a week on TV shows on all of those, right? Like it's this huge group of people and they're doing a weekend and it's all beautiful at the end.

And I think our expectations can be really important too, going into this. Mm-hmm. . Mm-hmm. . Totally. I think that's why. You know, at, at least for me, I've found that I'm more productive in taking this on if, if I break it up, you know, maybe, maybe this doesn't work for everybody, but for me, like throughout the year where it's not like spring cleaning, every ounce in my house needs to be done or, you know, it's, it's time to tackle the garage and we're gonna work from sun up to sun down.

But it's breaking it up into those smaller. Like, oh my gosh, I did two drawers in my bathroom and under the sink today, you know, and, and really resting and then allowing myself to relax and thinking about it as, you know, more of a lifelong pursuit than something I'm supposed to like achieve immediately.

And then it's just done. Yeah, and as someone that I started this process seven years ago, I do this every, maybe six months to a year, cuz we do end up accumulating more. It is easier each time, I will say that, but um, it isn't just a one and done kind of process. I do wanna give some specifics to, like I was mentioning the Marie Kondo.

That is one of the more structured approaches where you go by category. Each approach is gonna have pros and cons, and it's really about figuring out what works for you. What I've noticed about Marie and Condo is that it is really helpful to have that kind of emotional response to your items, and it prevents us from.

Doing the moving one thing from a room to the next, cuz we don't wanna deal with it cuz you're dealing with it all right there. Mm-hmm. . But if we have especially depression or not a lot of time or chronic pain, it's not realistic to say, I'm gonna get all my clothes in one spot and I'm gonna work through it all at once.

So other ways to go about that is maybe, like you were saying, going room by room. Um, maybe that means. Going for a more functional approach. So what is gonna make the biggest impact for you right now? I've had people where it's like, I can't use my kitchen and I need to be able to cook. Yeah. So, okay, we're gonna start there because that's gonna make the biggest impact.

And some more simple ways, especially if this feels really overwhelming, might be a one in one out approach, which I really like. If you're bringing something in, we're gonna be intentional about taking something out. . Or one and two out. Especially if we have a little extra stuff.

And one last one too. Especially I believe this comes out in the new year and this is usually the time people are like, let's take something new on. I've had people do a 90 items in 90 days kind of challenge where it's one item a day or whatever variation of that.

Yeah. No, I love that. I appreciate you giving different strategies because we're all wired a little differently and we all have different motivations and behavioral habits, so that's really helpful.

That's really helpful. Yeah, I think it can be really easy for all of us to like, this is the one way to do something, or this is the how you do something and being able to break away from that, that this is your life, your things. It does not have to look a certain way. Mm-hmm. . Mm-hmm. . So those are behavioral strategies.

Do you have any kind of strategies someone can use to help process the emotions that are gonna be showing up while they're declutter? Yeah, I think, again, this is really individual, so maybe you're working on this with someone and you're talking through these out loud. Maybe you're just talking through them out loud.

As you're doing this, if you like journaling, maybe you're journaling. What comes up as you are going through this? Some of the ways that I. Tend to work through this with in sessions. Um, I break it down into two categories and. One of those categories is the more functional types of questions and evaluations of items.

And the other side is the more emotional types of questions. So some examples of that might be, so for the emotional side, the Marie Kondo method does the, does the spark joy. So am I having an emotional reaction to this? Other questions you may ask is, is this taking. Emotional space or causing an emotion.

Why have I been keeping this item? Is it worth what it's costing me? Is this part of my real self versus my ideal self? Right? So we're really going deeper under the surface, whereas the functional questions might be, One, did I even remember I had this item, and most of the time we didn't. When was the last time I used this?

Will I use this within a certain timeframe? I hate that question because if I walked around my house and asked myself that, I'd have to face. The answer multiple times. Yes. Like when is the last time I used this? Oof. Yeah. That's a good one for me. Yep. There's some, a little bit of Right, that avoidance there that's coming up of like, oh, I know what the answer is gonna be.

Mm-hmm. for sure. For sure. So thank you. I appreciate that. Now, All right. Let's say here we are, we've, we've kind of maybe approached why this is good for, well, we have approached why this is good for our mental wellbeing, our physical wellbeing, what any lasting advice you can give listeners as maybe they embark on this journey of decluttering in an effort to experiment with if it improves their mental health, improves their physical, Yeah, I mean, I'm all about self-compassion and that self-reflection.

So working through this on your own time and being aware of what might come up, uh, like I said, it's a journey and it's not gonna happen overnight, and it oftentimes gets worse before it gets better. We have to unpack the items, just like in therapy, right? We have to unpack the items and then we start to sort through it.

Same thing with our stuff, and. My biggest advice is to keep those bigger picture items in mind throughout the process. Those why that you figure out the values that are important to you, whether it's having more time with your family, you want less time cleaning, like all of those things. Keeping those in mind as you are making decisions about your items.

Mm-hmm. and. Accountability is the next big thing that I would recommend, because this isn't a process that's easy to go with about by yourself, and so having someone sitting with you or joining other groups that might be doing this, and so that way you have some of that support momentum as you're doing this.

Mm-hmm. . Yeah. You know, I, I feel like my partner and I, we kind of take this on together sometimes where he'll go through his closet and then he'll still bring out like more shirts that maybe he wants my support around. Like, do I, what do you think? Do I really, should I keep this shirt? And I'll be like, oh my gosh, you have, you have not worn that in like four years.

I, I think, you know, and so we'll process together and, and kind of like check each other on. We really need to keep that. Or then if we, it does have sentimental value, how can we like honor that? And does that lead us to keeping it longer? Or does that lead us to maybe creating a quilt with all of our favorite T-shirts or something like that where we can repurpose it or pass it on to someone else who maybe needs it a little bit more too.

I agree. I also, I always relate this to, uh, building muscles. And so when I first start working with someone, we have little baby muscles for decluttering, right? Yes. And so we have to work on the easy stuff. So I always say, what is your easiest stuff to get rid of? Because we all have categories that are a lot harder for us.

Mm-hmm. and starting there and building. Ability to look at something, talk through it, figure out if you need it. And I always, always, always tell people, wait until the end to go through sentimental items. Anything that has those really strong memories, cuz we want as big of a muscle as we can to work through that.

If we start with the hard stuff, we're gonna get so easily discouraged or overwhelmed by the process. Yeah. That's a great idea. Thank you. Ariyanna, I have loved having you on here to talk about this. Um, it, it really is such a relevant topic. You know, when we think about holistic health, like you mentioned at the start, I've really seen some strong improvements in how people feel about themself and their outlook and their mindsets when they start on this journey of decluttering. So, I'm just very grateful that you came on the podcast to start talking about it and, and sharing information on how anyone out there can, can start working towards improving their mental wellbeing through decluttering.

So thank you. Yeah, of course. I'm always happy to be here and this is one of those areas that it makes such a big impact and I know it's a hard thing to do, but I am excited that this is getting out there. 

Thank you again for joining us on Insight Mind Body Talk, a body-centered mental health podcast. We hope today's episode was empowering and supported you in strengthening your mind-body connection.

We're your hosts, Jeanne and Jess. Please join us again as we continue to explore integrative approaches to wellbeing. Until then, take care.