Clutter and mental health are intrinsically linked. There have been many studies to learn exactly how our brains react to clutter and it’s not good. If we know the consequences of clutter and its impact on our mental health, why are our homes still disorganized?
Time. It all comes down to time. We live busy lives and finding time to clear the clutter from our home isn’t a top priority. We have jobs, family to care for, and shows to binge-watch. But when we continue to ignore the building clutter, we’re only adding to the negative effects it has on us.
It’s important to learn all we can about clutter and mental health. If we don’t take time to make our surroundings conducive to our well-being, we run the risk of further hurting ourselves.
There are many ways clutter can hurt us. A messy room can cause sleepless nights. A cluttered kitchen can lead to poor eating habits. Those examples scrape the surface. When it comes to clutter and mental health, here are the top offenders:
How long do you spend looking for your keys each morning? How about your wallet? When you don’t have a dedicated spot for everything, you waste time looking for the item in question. That time adds up.
If you knew where every single thing in your home was, you’d be on your way out the door faster and feel less stressed. The time it takes you to locate that one item shifts your mindset into a negative one. You already feel the day slipping out of your control and it hasn’t even started.
Save yourself time by having a dedicated spot for everything in your home. Then make sure it gets put back there at the end of each day.
I want you to think about a place where you feel most relaxed. The most at peace? Where was it? A spa? The waiting room of a doctor’s office? The bathroom? I’m certain the place you pictured is uncluttered and quiet.
Studies have revealed that when we’re in a cluttered environment, our stress levels rise. Why? Because our attention is divided amongst the thousands of things around us. Have you ever had a pile of papers on your desk at work? Was it within eyesight of your computer? Did you find yourself constantly looking at it?
Clutter demands our attention. You know how people slow down to look at accidents on the highway? Clutter has the same allure. We can’t help but look at it. But by constantly looking at it we’re increasing our stress levels. And unless we do something about it, that won’t change.
It should go without saying that clutter gives us less space. This is because when we run out of room in one area or on a surface, we find somewhere else to store things. Next thing you know you’re buying more storage and that storage takes up more space.
And because people think they need more storage, they spend money on things they don’t need. Do you have books piled on the floor? Don’t buy another bookcase. Declutter the books you own and keep enough to fill the ones you have.
Instead of buying more dressers, declutter your clothes. I’m sure there are pieces you haven’t worn in years. It’s so easy for people to buy new storage for the clutter they have instead of dealing with the clutter itself. But this is only a temporary solution and it costs money you don’t need to be spending.
I’m certain you heard the saying “cluttered space, cluttered mind.” This is where clutter and mental health really expose their link. When you’re surrounded by clutter, you’re incapable of focusing. Yes, you can still get work done and be productive, but in the back of your mind, you’re thinking about all that clutter.
It’ll be hard to focus when you have a workspace covered with papers. A parent can’t help their child with homework if unfolded laundry is staring them in the face.
Even clutter that isn’t directly in your line of sight is still thought about. When your focus is divided, your work performance decreases and you’re less present.
Do you feel it’s hard to declutter when you think about all the money you put into things you are about to donate? This is a common roadblock to some of my clients and I always invite them change perspective. Clutter is the physical manifestation of money spent – proof that there is no way to get it back.
Believe it or not, you can stay ahead of clutter. Those above-mentioned impacts can be dealt with so long as you’re willing to put in a little effort. All it takes is a few routines to put in place.
Always have an empty sink
One of the biggest sources of clutter is right there in your kitchen. No one likes seeing dishes pile up in the sink. Rather than add to the horde, spend 5-10 minutes cleaning it up. Fill the dishwasher. Wash, dry, and put away what isn’t dishwasher safe. By keeping your sink empty, you’ll feel way less stress every time you enter the kitchen.
Put everything away when you’re done with it
I mentioned earlier how it’s important to have a home for everything. That’s only half the battle. The second half is making sure you put the item away in that same place when you’re done with it. This habit helps you spend less time searching for items.
Create and stick to a cleaning schedule
Whether you use a cleaning service or not, it’s important to have a cleaning schedule. Schedule time to do a quick tidy at least once a week. Don’t leave everything for the last minute and don’t do everything at once. Break chores up into daily, weekly, and monthly tasks. This way you won’t ever feel overwhelmed and your home will remain clean and tidy.
Focus on high traffic areas
Always make sure the high-traffic areas of your home get the most attention. This could be a mudroom, living room, or kitchen. If no one spends a lot of time in the den, plan to tidy it up every few months. For those high-trafficked areas, you should do a little tidying each day. Nothing crazy. Simply keep the floors and surfaces clear.
Tidy before bed
I know how it feels to want to relax on the couch after a long day. Social media or Netflix is calling. But resist the call for another 10 minutes. Use that time to do a quick walk-through of your home and clear any cluttered spots. Pick up things off the floor. Clean surfaces. When you make this a habit you’ll find less and less to clean each night. This means more time to relax.
Clutter and mental health may be linked, but their pairing doesn’t always have to be bad. Regular cleaning habits will not only improve the state of your home but the state of your mind as well.
Don’t let clutter uproot your mental health. Part of my job is educating my clients not just on the power of organization, but on the mental effects of clutter. Together, we’ll build a blueprint that will bring you long-lasting changes. Clutter and mental health don’t have to go hand-in-hand. Contact me today and let’s make a plan.
Photo: Ashley Betz
July 27, 2021