The Effects of Clutter
Updated: May 1, 2021
The effects of clutter on a person's well-being have long been discussed. Phrases such as "a cluttered space is a cluttered mind" are common. However, what's the research to back this up? Is clutter really that detrimental to one's well-being? I mean, we all have clutter in our homes - even me. I de-clutter, organize, and before you know it, things are out of order again in certain spaces. Before we delve into how to address this issue, let's understand what "clutter" really means.
What is Clutter?
According to Professor Joseph Ferrari, a professor of Psychology at DePaul University in Chicago, clutter is "an overabundance of possessions, that collectively create chaotic and disorderly living spaces." Researchers believe a cluttered home can be a stressful home.
What are the Affects of Clutter?
- Clutter and Procrastination
A study about the link between clutter and procrastination showed a strong link between the two, with frustration increasing with age.
- Clutter and Women
Another study showed that clutter can negatively affect one's mental well-being, especially women. This is likely because women take on extra chores and housework after the workday is done. In the evening, when cortisol (often known as the "stress hormone") levels should be declining, it remained high particularly in women, as noted in a follow-up study by researchers.
- Clutter and Focus
Clutter doesn't just affect stress levels. Clutter can also affect sleep, anxiety and one's ability to focus. Seeing constant reminders of disorganization impacts focus and increases cognitive overload. You may not even notice it, but your clutter is now allowing you to focus at optimal levels.
- Clutter and Sleep
Sleep can be affected by clutter also. According to Clinical Psychologist and American Sleep Association member, Whitney Roban, PhD, insomnia caused by stress can be triggered by a cluttered bedroom. Trying to sleep in a cluttered room can result in restlessness and disrupted sleep patterns.
- Clutter and Weight
One study showed that messy and disorganized environments led to participants eating more snacks than those in organized kitchen environments. The clutter literally made the participants of the study want to eat more, thus contributing to weight gain.
What are the Benefits of De-Cluttering?
- Peace of Mind
Getting help to de-clutter and organize is something that not only clears out space from the home/office. It also clears out space in the mind. If you can check that off your list, you have the physical and mental space to grow and move forward in other areas of your life.
- Energizing Yourself and the Space
De-cluttering can be energizing for you and for the space itself. By taking steps to address the clutter issue, you might feel fueled to start checking other things off your to-do list. The space itself can also change how you feel about it once it has been de-cluttered. What was once an overloaded and chaotic space can be organized to make you feel calm and optimistic.
- Less Family Stress
Unfortunately, stress mostly comes out on those nearest and dearest to us, be it our spouse/partner, kids, or parents. Constantly not being able to find things or tripping over items that are always in the way can cause stress on the whole family. By removing the clutter and the frustration associated with it, you can bring down the overall stress levels in your home life.
- Let Go of the Past
De-cluttering allows you to remove things that you may have negative associations with. It could be something from a past dysfunctional relationship or something you purchased when you were not in a good place in your life. Letting go of these things will allow you to free yourself of your association with them and that time in your life, allowing you to move forward.
- Other Benefits include:
Where to Start with De-Cluttering?
So, now that we understand what clutter is, and how it can affect our health by impacting our stress hormones, sleep, focus, and even weight, what can we do about it?
- Don't Touch!
According to Dr. Ferrari, a lot of clutter is a result of being "over-attached" to items, making it hard to let go of them. He recommends not touching the item, if you are overwhelmed. Once you touch it, you are less likely to part with it.
There are many other reasons clutter can build up. Some people who don't want to part with items because they paid a lot of money for them many years ago - even though those items are not in use, serve no purpose in their current life, and could probably be useful to someone else. Gifts, especially for children, tend to easily overtake a room and there is often guilt associated with re-gifting or otherwise getting rid of those items. De-cluttering can be seen as wasteful and waste is associated with negative feelings. Once an attachment grows, it's more difficult to break away from it. Having a third party help you walk through the process of letting go can be a cathartic experience.
- Address the Clutter
Whatever the reason for the build-up of clutter, there are solutions available. First and foremost, deal with the problem at hand: de-clutter and organize. Need help? Hire a professional organizer to help you de-clutter and organize your home. Having professional help and support will not only get the job done, but will make your space functional and remove the stress associated of dealing with the project yourself.
Second, be more conscious of buying behavior. In a world where we can pretty much have anything we want delivered to our front door in days, if not hours, it's too easy to buy unnecessary things. Think carefully about what you are putting in your shopping cart and whether the item is truly needed. Being more conscious when you buy will lead to less clutter build-up later.
Let's chat about how I can help you de-clutter your space and organize your home or office. As a professional organizer with a background in project management, I am well-versed in handling large projects and organizing spaces to make them more functional.