There are two types of people in this world.
The people who seem to thrive in a cluttered environment, and the people who need everything in pristine condition in order to focus.
Which one are you?
Clutter is defined as ‘a collection of things laying around in an untidy mass.’ Whether or not you feel you are surrounded in clutter – papers and objects scattered all over your desk, clothes and things strewn about your room, etc. – there is some recent research that is suggesting how clutter might have a more prominent impact on a person’s mental well-being than expected.
How does clutter impact you?
A study done by researchers at the Princeton University Neuroscience Institute (1) found that living or working in a cluttered environment can inhibit your ability to focus and process information, which can ultimately cause stress and more often than not, anxiety.
According to Sherri Bourg Carter, who writes for Psychology Today (2), being surrounded by clutter overwhelms your mind with too much stimuli, causing your senses to work overtime. Whether you realize it’s happening or not, this sensory overwhelm can draw your focus away from where you want it to be, and ultimately inhibit your creativity or productivity and make you feel as though you aren’t getting enough done. This constant stress (3) on the mind can make it difficult for you to relax or feel satisfied and fulfilled with what you’ve accomplished.
Carter also describes how clutter can trigger feelings of guilt, making you worry about how you want to be more organized and get things cleaned up, but rarely feel like you have the time. It can also cause feelings of frustration, especially when there’s something you need and can’t seem to find amidst the mess of stuff all around you.
The Clutter Effect
Alternatively, there is research that suggests that when you do take the time to declutter or streamline your surroundings, whether it be your work space, living space, etc., it can help clear up your mind. You may find your equally cluttered thoughts trade in for feelings of relief and happiness. Susan Krauss Whitborne, also a writer for Psychology Today (4), goes further and describes how, along with a generally cluttered work space and home, hoarding and holding onto things you don’t want to let go of and stuffing them in whatever space you can find, can leave you victim to the “clutter effect.” The “clutter effect” is when you experience stress, anxiety and overwhelm due to a cluttered environment to the point your quality of life can be threatened and your mental and emotional health can struggle.
What can I do about it?
If you live in a cluttered environment, don’t worry! There are things you can do to clear up your space and also keep it homey enough to fulfill your need for “clutter.” You can do this without stressing out your mentality and emotions to the point of unwarranted anxiety.
- Streamline/declutter – take the time to go through the things you own and get rid of anything that you don’t care about, don’t need, don’t want, etc. You can throw things out, have a yard sale, or even donate things to charities.
- Create designated spaces – Especially for things you use frequently but take up significant space, create designated spots for them so that they are easily accessible and quick to find. For example, keep work supplies on your desk, hair products in your bathroom, cooking supplies in your kitchen, etc.
- Keep your papers organized – Nothing causes more stress than piles and piles of papers that bear importance, but have no sense of structure. Keep your papers like bills, invoices, notes, etc. organized and prioritized so that nothing gets lost or forgotten in the mess.
- Decorate your space – Give your space a splash of you so that it is fun and enjoyable, but doesn’t completely take away your focus. Enhance your organization system with baskets, pencil cups, etc. that are appealing to you and not boring or dull.
- Make cleaning fun – Especially if you have kids, make cleaning and decluttering fun; like a game and not something you need to worry about or dread. The more the merrier, right?
Clearing up the clutter around you can not only help increase your focus and help you feel secure and satisfied, but it can also calm your mind, help improve your mental and emotional health, and help to prevent anxiety.
What tips do you have for decluttering your space? Have you found that clutter has a serious impact on your life? How does an organized space improve your focus? Share your thoughts and experiences with us, we’d love to hear and learn from you!