Decluttering Healthcare

Spring has finally hit here in Toronto, but with another COVID-19 lockdown in place, we can only spend time in our gardens and walking in the neighborhood for exercise. I’m not a gardener, as my brown lawn would attest to, so I’ve decided to spend this spring decluttering my home. We’ve accumulated quite a lot of “stuff” during the pandemic and I think it’s about time to get rid of a few things we no longer use.

Decluttering Benefits

This fantastic article from Psychology Today lists some of the benefits of an uncluttered space:

  • Decluttering creates a sense of confidence and self-efficacy
  • Decluttering is energizing
  • Cleaning and organizing reduces anxiety
  • Decluttering allows mind wandering and (sometimes) involves physical activity
  • Decluttering can reduce relationship and family tension
  • When you declutter, you often find lost treasures

CAMH, has this to say about the impact of clutter:

Clutter can annoy us, distract us or take away much-needed energy. Clutter can be physical (items in the junk drawer), digital (unedited photos scattered across our mobile devices), or even emotional, such as beliefs that hold us back in life and make it difficult for us to function. Clutter can also cause feelings of stress, fatigue and depression. Stress can contribute to poor sleep, poor eating habits and general poor health.

Getting Started

I must admit, I declutter in spurts. My desk accumulates mess and clutter (pens, notes on post it notes, business cards, etc) and when it reaches a point where I can’t stand it anymore I clean it. I take everything off my desk, toss out the stuff I don’t need, dust & wipe everything and put it all back.

During the pandemic, my tolerance level has increased (my desk is very messy as I write this), but as we edge closer to emerging from the COVID cloud, I’m finding myself wanting to get better organized.

Piedmont Healthcare has some excellent tips for practical ways to declutter:

  • Write down your intentions. Put your goals on paper, set a realistic deadline for accomplishing them and define what success will look like.
  • Break down your goals into smaller tasks. This prevents you from being overwhelmed and helps you focus only on the very next step.
  • Track your goals on a calendar.
  • Schedule decluttering sessions. In your calendar, schedule a few short buckets of time each week and then set a timer when you start each task.

Decluttering Hospitals

Clutter in our homes and personal lives can cause stress and other mental health challenges, but clutter in healthcare organizations can be deadly.

Blocked and cluttered hallways are not only fire hazards, but can cause patients to trip and fall. Cluttered hallways are also obstructions that can delay getting a patient to the OR.

Clutter in patient rooms can harbor harmful viruses and bacteria which is why most discourage patients from bringing too many personal items to “decorate” their room. In 2017, St. Michael’s Unity Health here in Toronto published this story about how the Nephrology/Urology teams partnered to keep their floor decluttered. The result was zero hospital acquired cases of C. Difficile – a common hospital bacteria.

Decluttering Healthcare

As I prepare to declutter my desk, I can’t help but think – could we declutter healthcare itself? Are there things that we could remove from the healthcare system that would make things better?

If I was being fanciful and facetious, I would say that removing healthcare payers might make things better for many…but sadly for many US citizens, this is already the case and their healthcare isn’t better. Maybe if we removed the profit motivation in healthcare? But the spectre of “socialist healthcare” scares many people and is a political hot potato.

So if I was to remove one thing from healthcare, I would say that price opacity needs to be removed. We cannot fix what we cannot see and pricing in healthcare is one of the biggest barriers to reducing costs and having a truly consumer-driven system. As a patient, I cannot make a proper healthcare decision for elective procedures if I don’t know that it will cost me $100K at one organization and $40K at another (with similar outcomes).

If I am an administrator, without price transparency, how would I know to even focus attention on bringing down my costs if I don’t know that I’m 5x as expensive as my similar sized peer down the street?

Healthcare needs decluttering.

Join us on Tuesday May 4th at 8:30pm ET (for your local time click here) for the next #hcldr tweetchat.  And because May 4th is Star Wars Day, I had to throw in 1 movie-themed question:

  • T1 What is something you would like to declutter from your home/life to make YOU feel better?
  • T2 What tactics do you use to declutter? Do you do it regularly or once in a while? What works for you?
  • T3 What could be decluttered, or removed from healthcare to make it better?
  • T4 Which character from Star Wars would you want to be your patient advocate?


“Get a fresh start by decluttering your life”, Pidemont Healthcare,, accessed 2 May 2021

Ferguson, Donna MD. “Spark Joy! How decluttering can help your mental health”, CAMH, 5 April 2021,, accessed 2 May 2021

Clark, Matthew. “How decluttering your space could make you healthier and happier”, Mayo Clinic,, accessed 2 May 2021

Manicom, Kate. “Everything in its place”, St Michael’s, 28 December 2017,, accessed 2 May 2021

Boyes, Alice. “6 Benefits of an Uncluttered Space”, Psychology Today, 12 February 2018,, accessed 2 May 2021

Day, Andrea. “Americans declutter during the pandemic”, CNBC, 7 April 2021,, accessed 2 May 2021

Duke, Laura Churchill. “Spend quarantine decluttering? Here’s how to dispose of your stuff”, Saltwire, 6 August 2020,, accessed 2 May 2021

“Keeping your hospital room clean”, APIC,, accessed 2 May 2021

Image Credit

Photo by Volha Flaxeco on Unsplash

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