8 Concerning Ways Clutter Is Affecting Your Life
We all need ‘stuff’; clothes to wear, books to read, beauty products for our daily routine, food to eat etc. You get the point!
It’s when the said ‘stuff’ begins to become too much and cluttered, it can become a problem. If you begin to feel weighed-down and stressed by the physical presence of clutter in your home or office, then it’s time to do something about it. Clutter can build up over time, and so can the effects.
Before we investigate the effects clutter can have on your life, it’s important to understand why we have clutter in the first place.
Why Do We Accumulate Clutter?
Here are some of the common reasons why; sentimental attachment, guilt, consumer impulses fuelled by relentless advertisement and hope for future change.
Decluttering can be a difficult and painful process. We are emotional beings and can develop attachments to our belongings.
For instance, I have a T-shirt of my father’s given to me by my grandmother to wear as a child growing up on the farm. I now live in London, and whilst even the edgiest trends are in style, I don’t think that my torn, faded, much too small T-shirt will make the cut. Though it is only on rare occasions that I take it out to wear, mainly for bed, I still can’t bring myself to throw it away.
For me, it’s unlikely that I will ever get rid of that old T-shirt, but that’s OK. The key is to make room for the items that form a part of us. Clear the clutter and keep the things that matter.
How Is Clutter Affecting Your Life?
1. It Increases Stress
Researchers have found a link between levels of cortisol, a stress hormone and clutter. Clutter causes your senses to work overtime which can make it difficult fully to relax. The existence of clutter causes signals to our brains that our work is never done, which can result in stress and anxiety.
2. It Wastes Your Time and Money
Think about the time you have wasted looking for something; you’ve forgotten where you’ve put it, it’s not where it should be, someone’s moved it. These are scenarios occurring every day in homes or offices across the world. Clutter and disorganisation contribute to the time lost looking for an item, and money spent on replacing it.
3. It Reduces Your Focus
Clutter can overload your senses and can hamper the brain's ability to process information because the visual distraction of clutter which can reduce our working memory. Researchers at Princeton University concluded that clearing clutter can improve a person’s ability to process information and focus their attention.
4. It Makes You Fat
According to expert organiser Peter Walsh, who works with families in the US to overcome clutter in their homes, there is a link between the overconsumption of stuff and the overconsumption of food. The link between stress caused by clutter could be a factor leading you to overeat.
5. It Increases Procrastination
Clutter is very closely linked to procrastination. We would regularly opt to store things away out of sight than to sort and get rid of items that we do not need or want anymore. If you can thoroughly clear the clutter from your desk or home, you will find that you will be able to make decisions faster and easier.
6. It Causes Feelings of Shame or Inadequacy
An organised and tidy home can be an indication of having one’s life in order, particularly for women. Therefore, cluttered spaces can lead to feelings of shame and low self-esteem. There are studies that link cluttered homes to higher rates of depression.
7. It Affects Your Relationships
A 2016 study found that background clutter impacts on the participants ability to correctly interpret the emotional expressions on the faces of movie characters. This means that clutter could be implicating our relationships with the people we live with.
8. It Stops You Sleeping
People who have cluttered rooms are more likely to have sleep problems. Your bedroom is the last thing you see at night and the first thing you wake up to in the morning, and if it is cluttered and untidy this could be affecting your stress levels. Your bedroom should be a relaxing environment, so that you can finish and begin your day in the best possible way.
To sum up, if you are beginning to feel overwhelmed by clutter in your life, it is time to act and declutter your home and office.
However, whilst clutter could be negatively affecting you, it is important to remember that what you treasure is not clutter. In fact, this is one of the greatest things about decluttering; the process of recognising what is truly treasured and to let go of what is not.
If you would like to find out how to tackle clutter in your life, we would be happy to have a chat with you to see if we can help.
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 “Facial expression, size, and clutter: Inferences from movie structure to emotion judgments and back”. By James E. Cutting and Kacie L. Armstrong. Atten Percept Psychophys. 2016; 78: 891–901. Published online 2016 Jan 4.