The Psychology of Clutter – How Making Space Can Improve Your Mental Health

We all talk about being stressed. It’s common terminology that describes feeling overwhelmed, anxious, irritable or angry. If you ask why someone is stressed, they will likely associate it with work, or a major event such as family illness or organising a house move.

However, other things can trigger feelings of stress, and our environment is one of them. Living or working in a cluttered and messy environment raises the hormone cortisol – and that triggers anxiety and tension.

How does clutter impact on your workday?

If you’ve ever worked in a busy and noisy environment, you’ll know how hard it can be to concentrate. The constant noise and distractions are obvious interruptions to your work.

Clutter is less obvious, but the impact it can have on your ability to work is just as big. A cluttered desk or workplace is full of stimuli, all impacting on your brain and preventing you from getting things done or being creative. A clear, empty desk or a calmer environment will allow you to concentrate more.

Being distracted isn’t the only irritant. Clutter impacts on practical aspects of your job. It will take longer to find things you need or impede your movements around the workplace.

Whether it’s slowing you down physically or impacting on your concentration, clutter is reducing your productivity and preventing you from doing the job to the best of your ability. And, with that leading to backlogs, getting behind on targets or just feeling like you’re not working at your best, it all adds to your stress levels.

Living in a cluttered environment

Living in a cluttered home may cause similar issues. How often do you have to hunt about for your keys, or search cluttered worktops for items you need? Just small moments like this can lead to frustration.

But, when piles of stuff around your home grow too much, they don’t just irritate. Piles of boxes or stacks of magazines, bags of clothes and other clutter start to take up a lot of space. That makes your home feel smaller and restricts your exercise and moving about. If walking about your home becomes a hurdle, you are less likely to do it, reducing your physical movement but also impacting on your enjoyment of your home and your quality of life.

The overstimulation from clutter in your home will be pinging your brain at all times. That prevents you from relaxing and getting a good night’s sleep. Poor sleep quality leads to low mood and depression.

The emotional impact of clutter

Whether it’s your workplace or your home, stress caused by clutter piles up on your emotional wellbeing. Trying to think coherently when your brain is constantly overstimulated is exhausting and leads to mental fatigue.

Sharing a home that is filled with stuff can have negative impacts on your house mates as well. Clutter and lack of space leads to arguments and may cause a  breakdown in friendships and relationships.

People who live in cluttered homes report feelings of guilt and embarrassment, and in extreme cases it can prevent you from inviting people to your home, leaving you isolated. Loneliness can have a serious impact on your mental health.

Taking control of your clutter

While it’s true that some of these scenarios may relate to extreme cases, even small amounts of general clutter negatively impacts on our emotional wellbeing. Stress from work, a lack of enjoyment in your home and a lower quality of life are all going to lead to poor mental health.

And while the solution may seem clear, the act of decluttering can feel like a huge step. We hold on to things for many reasons – sentimentality, the feeling of comfort they bring, the emotional connection to memories or as a promise for the future, such as your piles of travel brochures.

The thought of decluttering is overwhelming, and there is safety in keeping everything the same. But, if you’re already feeling down or depressed as a result of your environment, even a small change may have a big impact.

When getting rid of everything is too much, then a self-storage unit can be a great first step. Start by creating piles, one for items that can go in the bin, one for charity, and one for items that you want to keep. You’ll also have a fourth pile, which is for items that you cannot decide about. Move these items to your self-storage unit. At Boxable we are on hand to help with whatever your storage needs – get in touch with our team today to see how we can help declutter your space.

Once you have more space in your home, you’ll feel better and have the time to choose what you need, and what you really do not miss. Then you can take your time choosing what you need once your home is clearer and your mental well-being has improved.

Further support on mental health and decreasing stress can be found on the Mind Charity website here.