Clutter isn’t desirable. Just look at any home and lifestyle magazine, and you’ll see dozens of images of interiors, none of which are afflicted by mess. But mess happens to the majority of us. Why?
It turns out that it has a lot to do with our psychology. People love hanging onto things, whether it’s old plastic bags, trinkets from holidays years ago, or redundant pieces of furniture. The reason people do this is because of an innate desire to preserve resources. Historically, people were poor, and so they hung onto anything that might have value.
Today, though, this helpful instinct no longer applies. We live such productive lives that we can afford to throw out stuff we don’t need anymore. In fact, not doing so may be messing with our brains.
Clutter And The Brain
Researchers are interested in clutter because they want to know how it affects people’s ability to work, process information, and enter into positive mental states. Scientists from Princeton looked at what happened to people’s ability to perform everyday tasks when presented with clutter compared to those working in tidy environments.
The researchers found that people exposed to clutter performed worse on a range of functions compared to those working in an organised setting, despite completing the same task.
Why did this happen? The scientists theorised that clutter might be competing for the attention of the mind. In a cluttered environment, people’s unconscious brains are put into overdrive as they attempt to process all the confused and disorganised information coming through their senses. In an orderly environment, all this processing power is freed up to concentrate on the task in hand.
Stress and Clutter
What about stress? It turns out that clutter in the home is bad for that too. University of California academics found that families who lived in cluttered environments had higher levels of stress across the space of a week than those who didn’t.
Mothers, in particular, experienced an elevation in stress hormones when dealing with tasks that were made more difficult by living in a mess, like cooking and preparing kids for the start of the school day.
There are other knock-on effects too from excess clutter. Clutter appears to have a similar impact on the brain to multitasking, reducing things like creativity and ability to think clearly. Solutions are needed.
If you can’t get over your desire to get rid of the stuff you don’t need (because it might come in handy in the future), you can use self storage. Storing all your stuff in a container means that you get to keep it but remove it from your daily experience, helping to improve all of the psychological factors discussed above.
You can also try having a big clear out. Doing this helps you to overcome the fear you have of throwing stuff out, just in case you need it. Making big tidy-ups a biannual event can keep your home free from clutter over the long term. It helps you prove to yourself that you can live without all your extra stuff.
Time To Declutter
If you’d like more tips for decluttering your home and starting 2019 in the right way, check out our recent blog on 3 ways to declutter your home.
Have you got any tips for addressing clutter issues in the home? Let us know in the comments section below.
Until next time, enjoy decluttering, and destressing 🙂
Helen, Nial and Lewis