How Clutter Impacts Your Mental Health (and What to Do About It)
Imagine a messy room. Maybe there are dishes stacked in the sink or laundry sitting in the hamper on the bed, waiting to be folded? Or maybe it’s the living room where pillows and blankets are thrown askew. Either way, whatever you’re picturing, it’s probably making you cringe and maybe causing some anxiety. And according to recent data, that’s normal! Clutter not only impacts your physical space but also your mental health. Here’s why and how you can counteract it.
What Is Clutter?
Clutter impedes your space physically and mentally. It stops you from moving in your body and your mind. Clutter doesn’t mean someone’s home looks like an episode of Hoarders. Clutter also means accumulating more possessions than there is space. And with less space, means the clutter is more noticeable and more damaging to your mental health.
You can identify clutter in your home by asking yourself a few questions:
- Do you own anything that you don’t use or need?
- Do you have a “junk drawer/space/area” thinking you think you need, but don’t use?
- Do you buy new items to replace the ones you’ve lost in your home?
- Are you physically restricted by the clutter (you can’t open a door or park in the garage)?
- Are you afraid to have guests over because of the state of your home?
If you answered yes to any of those questions, you have some form of clutter in your home.
And clutter doesn’t just extend to physical objects. Clutter can be digital, too. Think about all the downloads and documents on your computer, your email, and the photos on your phone you keep meaning to go through.
Some reasons we keep clutter in our home (and often without realizing it):
- It’s overwhelming to sort through it all so people would rather keep it the same.
- Some objects are used to inspire motivation. It’s the reason many people keep clothes that don’t fit anymore. Instead of buying new clothes that do fit, they’d rather keep the old ones with the hope of fitting into them again.
- Some items have sentimental meaning. Common examples are keeping souvenirs from trips, clothes or items that have been passed down through the family, or items from childhood that bring up fond memories.
- It can be scary to throw things away. When it comes to throwing items away, it’s common to worry about that item being needed in the future, so you should keep it, right?
- Clutter can offer comfort. Having a home filled with objects can bring a sense of safety and security. It’s hard to part with items that provide those feelings.
Why Does Clutter Negatively Impact Your Mental Health?
One study found that clutter may start off harmless as people may want to decorate and personalize their space, but it can quickly turn into clutter. They found that when it’s in excess, “it can threaten to physically and psychologically entrap a person” and it leads to personal distress and feelings of displacement and alienation.
Psychology Today listed five reasons why clutter negatively impacts your life:
- Low subjective well-being
- Unhealthier eating
- Poorer mental health
- Less efficient visual processing
- Less efficient thinking
When you have clutter in your home, you’re more stressed in your home. Your home is supposed to be your sanctuary, but instead, it’s turned into a cortisol-producing space. One study of women found a correlation between the amount of clutter in their home to high levels of the stress hormone, cortisol.
Clutter takes up physical space that can restrict your movements and also distract you. Clutter on your desk or in your work area is causing your brain to focus on multiple things at once. This causes you to work harder to think more clearly and stay productive.
Overall, clutter in your home, physically or digitally, is lowering your quality of life. You’re more stressed and experiencing poorer mental health. It’s also a frustrating use of your time if you’re constantly on the search for items lost in the clutter.
How To Remove Clutter
We mentioned earlier that it can be overwhelming and scary to throw things away. It’s why it’s important to declutter at your own pace since this process can be an emotional one. For some it’s as simple as throwing away old papers and trash, for others, it’s sorting through sentimental items that can bring up a lot of emotions. It’s important to remember you didn’t acquire all the clutter in one day, so it will take more than one day to remove it all.
If you’re ready to remove some clutter from your life, here are a few tips.
Create a To-Do List
Creating a to-do list will not only bring satisfaction after completing each task, but it will also help guide you along the way. To-do lists also help to counteract the overwhelming feelings that clutter commonly brings.
With our planners, you can create a daily, weekly, or monthly list to help keep you motivated. The rule of thumb is to do the hard things first when you have the motivation. Or if you’re needing motivation, do the small easier tasks first so you can cross them off the list. Check out our Notepads & Notebooks!
Schedule in the Time
In order to make a dent in the clutter, you need dedicated time to work on it. This is when your planner comes in handy! Instead of trying to declutter your whole house (again overwhelming!), try scheduling time to work on one room or section at a time. Maybe that’s an hour every day or a deep clean once a week in certain rooms. This can even be fun if you set daily, weekly, or monthly goals of when you want to accomplish it. It can be extra fun if you invite a friend or two to help!
This is also an important step in maintaining a clutter-free home. Something as easy as 10 minutes a day can make such a difference! Whether that’s scheduling that out daily in your planner or once a week, we have the planners to help make decluttering fun!
Reduce Your Items
Using your planner you can create lists to reduce the number of items you have. You should have 4 lists:
- Items you keep
- Items you sell or donate
- Items you throw away
- Items you’re unsure about and will come back to
Lists can help keep you on track and organized. And with the lined sections we have in our planners, we can help keep you on track!
Organize the Items
Once you’ve reduced the number of things you have, it’s time to organize them! The items you use consistently on a daily basis should be kept close at hand. And for everything else, there should be a specific place for it so surfaces are clutter-free. You can organize by using boxes or containers to keep like items in the same space.