While chronic disorganization and excessive clutter can lead to physical health issues, including slips & falls and weight gain, it can also cause your mental health to suffer. These hidden clutter costs can take a toll on your inner well-being affecting many different negative feelings, with anxiety being the most common.
In short, people have anxiety when they are not in control. You could argue that that is the definition of anxiety. In our lives outside the home, there is so much we can’t control. There are too many examples to count from traffic, the boss, weather, and often our kids.
Our home should be a sanctuary, a place to be able to relax and get away from the outside world. However, being disorganized in our personal space makes it extremely difficult to actually unwind and shake off the noise of hectic modern life. Clutter means you are not in control of your space, leaving you feeling anxious, stressed, or even depressed.
1. Stress and Then More Stress
A 2019 New York Times article discusses studies showing that Cortisol (the stress hormone) levels are higher in people who experience excessive clutter.
If your space is cluttered all the time, then every day, your brain is living in a daily state of stress, which, of course, leads to more stress. This stress doesn’t just affect our minds, as our body eventually experiences the negative effects as well.
Just as it is impossible to relax when someone tells you to “relax,” constantly staring at clutter creates overwhelming thoughts of being buried and trapped.
2. A Lonely Place
Perfect is the enemy of done. And for many homeowners, the desire to make things perfect can actually hurt them. The search for a specific look or design in your space often has the opposite effect leaving items in disarray. So-called analysis paralysis sets in, and then the clutter really builds up. One outcome of excessive clutter is that you stop welcoming people into your home. This self-imposed exile causes feelings of isolation and can sometimes turn into depression. When children live in a cluttered home and can’t or won’t have friends, isolation spreads.
Being organized isn’t just about being able to find what you are looking for, finished systems, or homes for everything; it is also about being more productive. A recent ABC News article shared that “Princeton researchers published an article in the Journal of Neuroscience in 2011 that found in a cluttered visual environment, multiple objects compete for your attention, leading to poor focus. Clutter is distracting, and a person’s ability to be productive suffers.” Working from home is now very common, but it comes with its fair share of distractions. Clutter prevents us from reaching our full potential.
Sleep experts warn about not keeping a TV in the bedroom. The light, noise, and content from the Flatscreen show the opposite effect on what we are trying to accomplish on our journey to a good night’s rest. If the TV makes it difficult to fall asleep, what happens when you add clutter to the mix? The bedroom should be the one place in our home to finally relax and drift off after a long day.
How can we get good sleep when the bedroom has excessive clutter and turned into the dumping ground for everything that didn’t have a home in our space? The negative effects of sleep deprivation are well documented. Laying in bed forces us to be alone with our thoughts, and in addition to stress-induced anxiety, guilt can also creep in. A cluttered space can make us question ourselves, and these feelings of guilt just add to negative feelings.
The Self-Care Solution
You don’t cut your hair. Don’t beat yourself up for not being organized. Most homeowners quickly discover that organizing isn’t about stuff; it is about time.
Creating properly organized systems in your space requires setting aside dedicated time to not just throw things in the attic or buy a bunch of bins but to review items properly to determine the best place for them and the best storage solutions. Just as physical exercise can help our feelings get back on track, decluttering, and taking back control of our space has many benefits for mental health.
Focus on small areas and spending a specific short amount of focused time. Take before and after pictures to remind yourself of your progress. Store items you are not going to use often, like keepsakes or holiday decorations, more remotely.
Set up systems that allow for items to not only go in easily but come out just easily. Happiness is contagious, and once your space is organized, your mood will change as you become more productive.