How clutter affects mental health

Do any of these statements sound familiar?
  • I feel like I’m drowning in stuff. 
  • I dread friends coming over because of the mess in my home.
  • I feel like I’m suffocating in my house, but I don’t know where to start!
  • I’m fed up with nagging my children and arguing with my partner about tidying up.
  • I have so much to do I can’t see straight.
  • I just want to set a match to it and start again!

If any of these statements ring true it’s likely clutter is affecting your mental health.

Woman feeling stressed with her hands on her head, standing in front of a messy, cluttered wardrobe demonstrating that clutter is affecting her mental health.

If you’re used to feeling stressed, overwhelmed, frustrated or anxious about the state of your home, then you’ll know there’s a relationship between clutter, mess and your emotions.  You’re not alone in feeling this. Research studies have confirmed what many of us feel intuitively is true: clutter has a negative impact on our mental health and well-being. 

Here are six ways clutter could be affecting your mental health:

1.      Joy  

If you have so much stuff that you can no longer use your home to its full potential, then it is impacting the quality of life.  Perhaps you have a passion for painting, but the clutter means you have no room in which to paint and can no longer access your supplies.  Maybe you love cooking, but preparing meals in a messy kitchen means you rely on ready meals more often than you’d like.  Or you may yearn to practice yoga but have no room in which to lay out a mat each morning. 

If clutter is restricting movement and functionality in your home and is preventing you from using the space as you want, it is also restricting joy. This can have a negative impact on life satisfaction.  

2.      Time

Clutter consumes more than just physical space; it also consumes time.  How often have you spent time moving things off the dining table to enjoy a family dinner?  How much time have you wasted looking for things that you’ve lost?  Are you wasting time at the shops buying things you know you already owned?  Or are you losing hours of your life cleaning all the extra stuff, moving things to vacuum or dust, trying to create systems and routines to organise everything you own?

Time spent managing clutter detracts from time that could be spent on meaningful activities or with loved ones, ultimately leading to stress, frustration and resentment.

3.      Energy

The presence of clutter can drain your energy in various ways.  Mentally, clutter demands constant decision-making and attention.  Thoughts such as should I have bought it, where do I put it, do I still need it, how do I look after it, should I use this or that are all using brain power.  Emotionally, clutter can evoke strong feelings tied to memories or desires, and this can feel draining, particularly if the emotions are negative ones.  Physically, the maintenance and management of clutter requires energy that could be better used elsewhere. 

When the benefits of using or owning the items are outweighed by the feeling of fatigue simply looking after the volume of what you own, the imbalance can lead to exhaustion.

4.      Productivity

Clutter is a silent productivity thief.  It creates visual and mental noise that distracts us from tasks at hand, leading to decreased focus and efficiency.  It becomes a constant reminder of things to do, finish or even begin.  Have you ever sat down to do something and thought “I’ll just…”?

Clutter is competing for your brain’s resources, causing a lack of focus and this fight for attention causes inefficient thinking, productivity to slow down and weight on your mind.

5.      Self-esteem

When our space feels out of control, so do we.  It becomes easy to focus on what we haven’t achieved rather than what we have, and negative self-talk and shame can set in.  Perhaps you’ve heard yourself whispering labels towards yourself such as: I was born messy, I’m inherently untidy, I’m totally incapable of getting organised.

When you feel incapable or powerless your self-esteem takes a dive, confidence hits the floor and depression can set in.

6.      Relationships

Clutter can cause a lot of strain on personal relationships, particularly with those you love the most. Perhaps your spare room is never guest-ready, so you don’t invite friends and family to stay. Maybe your dining table is never clear, so you don’t connect as a family at mealtimes, and this makes you sad.  Or it’s possible you’re too embarrassed to let your children have their friends over to play and this makes you feel like a bad parent. 

If you argue with family members about their stuff, the state of the house and who’s responsible then resentment will be building instead of love.  You may also fear judgement and interference from others who mean well and want to help.  Even their wanting to help might make you feel defensive and inadequate.

Clutter can cause resentment towards loved ones, strained connections and social isolation.

How decluttering and organising can help

It’s evident that clutter doesn’t just create a physically messy home, it goes much deeper and has a much bigger impact than we sometimes think.  Clutter can have a negative impact on many areas of our lives, which affects our mental health.

In contrast a simplified, tidy and organised home promotes positive emotions like calmness, ease and lightness. A home designed around your goals for how you want to live allows for more meaningful experiences with yourself and others and restores a sense of empowerment and control.  This in turn impacts our mental health in a positive way.

Imagine living in a home that allows you to fully engage in joyful activities with those who matter most.

The good news is that you CAN create this environment through the process of decluttering and organising.  It is totally and utterly possible.

It might not happen overnight, but by making intentional choices on what stays and goes, prioritising those things that matter most and practising organisation you can create a space that positively impacts all areas of your life.

If you’re ready to make the change in your home, take the first step toward a clutter free life by signing up to receive my Tidy Home Planning Guide and Checklist.  Or if you live in South Wales call me to book a Connection Call and find out how I can support you in person to love your home again.

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