If stress has been a major issue lately, you may want to take a quick look around you. According to Dr. Sherry Bourg Carter of Psychology Today, one of the most overlooked stressors could be hiding in plain sight: clutter. That’s right, too much 'stuff' in your home or workspace could be contributing directly to your frazzled state of mind.
If you think that describes you, then you’re not alone. One of the biggest hit shows of 2019 is called Tidying Up With Marie Kondo. The premise is simple: it features a Japanese woman and her quest to help people de-clutter their homes. In its short run, the show has already resonated with millions of Americans. NPR reported this week that thrift stores have been inundated with donations after the show was released on Netflix. Apparently Tidying Up was the nudge people needed to finally simplify and clean house.
Getting rid of your mess is more than just a good idea, however. The health benefits, some experts say, could be significant. According to Mayo Clinic Psychologist Craig Sawchuk, we become more relaxed when our environment is clearer. In a recent CNN article, Dr. Sawchuk went on to say that an orderly environment helps us process information differently because ‘there’s less noise to the brain.’
If you find yourself waging the battle against clutter, then this article is definitely for you. We deconstruct 4 major reasons why clutter stresses us out, followed by 4 practical suggestions to help you eliminate it forever. If you’re seeking freedom from your messy or chaotic environment, read on and apply these principles.
4 Effects of Clutter on Mental Health
1. Clutter Overstimulates Us — Consider for a moment the definition of overstimulation: when an individual is swamped with more experiences, sensations, noise or activity than they can cope with. Even if we’re not consciously perceiving it, clutter makes a withdrawal from our mental account by creating too much disorder. Just living in a messy environment can drain energy and focus.
2. Clutter Makes Us Feel Like Our Work Is Never Done — By having things out of order, laying around, or piled up, we have a lingering anxiety that we haven’t finished our work. This becomes mentally draining and makes it difficult to relax in our own environment.
3. Clutter Creates Embarrassment or Guilt — If our environment is messy, then we are hesitant to invite other people inside, whether it be a house or a car. It can create a sense of shame or embarrassment that we’re not on top of things or even lazy.
4. Clutter Can Limit Creativity — Our environment can affect our sense of imagination, and messy surroundings can limit inspiration. Think for a moment about the last time you were in a very clean, orderly environment. Did you feel lighter and more able to think? Most of the time our outer surroundings can have an impact on our ability to access new ideas.
4 Surefire Ways to Get Rid of Clutter
Now that we’ve sold you on why clutter needs to go, let’s look at practical steps you can take to get rid of your mess forever!
1. Use It Or Lose It — If you’ve been living in your house for a while, you would be amazed at the amount of stuff you have that you will never, ever use again. The key is just proactively looking around. This weekend give it a shot. As you peruse your environment ask yourself--will I ever use this again? If not, then toss it.
2. Have a Plan For Paper — This is a biggie. We all get papers every day--papers that we didn’t ask for: bills, junk mail, flyers, and so on. When you’re tired and come home from work, it’s easy to just throw them down on the table and forget about it. If you do this, then consider making a plan for what to do with your excess papers. Maybe you need an easy folder system or a ritual for looking through them once a week. Just thinking ahead can mean the difference between a clean environment and a pile of clutter.
3. Create A Short, Daily Cleaning Ritual — People that maintain a clutter-free environment don’t let junk build up for the entire week before cleaning. Most people who keep a clean house have a ritual every day where they straighten their house. Here’s a key: keep it short. It’s tough to have a marathon cleaning session regularly. However, cleaning just 10-15 minutes a day can make the difference in how clutter-free you feel.
4. Vow To Keep Stuff Off The Floor — This is so obvious, but so many people don’t do it. If you can promise yourself that you won’t store things on the floor, then your space will feel much, much more open and free. It’s easy to pile things up, especially when they don’t readily store in a shelf, closet or dresser. However, finding a plan for your odds and ends will be a huge mental relief as you get them off the floor.
One Step Closer to Inner Freedom
If too much stuff is stressing you out, then creating a plan to tackle clutter could be a great step. Although many stressors in life are beyond our control, keeping a clean home costs only our time—and it is a wise investment.