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Clutter & Stress: The Connection and Why It’s Important

Posted By: Leena Mahtani

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We all know the feeling. You sit down in the evening to finally enjoy a bit of peace and quiet. But, instead of taking a deep breath and feeling the sense of calm that you were hoping for, your eyes start to scan the living room. Noticing piles of unorganized mail, toys scattered about, pet hair covering the carpet, the half-empty water cups need to find their way back into the kitchen. Ugh! The list goes on, and it feels stressful. Is it possible to fully relax when chores and clutter surround us? Unfortunately, we live in a time of excess, and most of us own a bit more than what we truly need in our homes. The problem is that a chronically cluttered home environment can lead to a consistent low-grade fight or flight response, which takes its toll on our mental health and our bodies as well. So what can we do to help solve it?

I think we can all agree that clutter can make us feel stressed, anxious, and even depressed. Research from the United States in 2009, for instance, found the levels of the stress hormone cortisol were higher in mothers whose home environment was cluttered. It's so easy to leave excess laying around to deal with "later" or not to get rid of things that we haven't used in years because we still might use it "someday.”

Fortunately, unlike other more commonly recognized sources of stress (for example our jobs, or relationships), clutter is one of the most manageable life stressors to fix. A few tips might help you along your path to living a clutter-free (and less stressed!) life. If you're tackling your clutter on your own, start with one area at a time and finish that area before moving on to another. This will give you a sense of accomplishment as you see your successes little by little. Another tip: When you take something out of its designated space to use it, put it back immediately after you're finished with it. It sounds simple, but it takes practice and commitment. And one more to keep in mind, don't let papers pile up. Random papers strewn everywhere can be Public Enemy #1 when it comes to stressful clutter. We're inundated with mail, flyers, menus, memos, newspapers, etc. The key is to be conscious of what you bring and what others bring into your spaces. Go through these papers as soon as you can, tossing what you don't need and storing what is necessary in its proper place.

So, in addition to improving our mood and focus, decluttering often acts as a catalyst to taking better care of other aspects of our life. "By purging unneeded items from our homes, it is like deleting files to create disk space on your computer. Suddenly, the whole operating system is more efficient… this decreases stress and increases your effectiveness personally and professionally," says Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor Joyce Marter. It can seem like a daunting task initially, but getting your home clean and organized will help all aspects of your life, including feeling calmer & more at peace daily.

 

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