There’s no debating that a messy home can be frustrating, to say the least. However, according to both psychologists and science, clutter is more than frustrating, it’s downright anxiety-inducing.
We’ve all been there, we have worked all day long, only to leave the office and come home to a disaster area. We look around the room, and clothes are laying in random places, empty and used dishes are on the counter and the trash is overflowing. Suddenly, that feeling of impending doom sets in, and it’s like the weight of the world begins crushing the momentary relief from finishing a day at work.
That may sound a bit dramatic to anyone who has never experienced that feeling, but both psychologists and studies show that simply isn’t the case. I’m not dramatic- clutter truly does trigger anxiety.
In a 2009 study, women who described their homes using words like “cluttered,” or “messy,” were more likely to have high levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) that didn’t decline the way they should. Instead, their cortisol levels remained high, which is associated with poor health outcomes.
In an article written by psychologist and author Sherrie Bourg Carter, she explains that there are 8 reasons for this, which I will summarize below:
1. Clutter provides excessive stimuli, which puts stress on our minds.
2. Clutter is distracting, making it hard to focus on what’s important.
3. Clutter makes it hard for us to relax.
4. Clutter signals us to keep working constantly.
5. Clutter makes us anxious because it’s hard to determine how we will ever get done clearing it.
6. Clutter creates guilt.
7. Clutter inhibits creativity and productivity.
8. Clutter frustrates us because it slows us down.
And while clutter may seem like a small obstacle, it can cause a ripple effect into other areas of our life, making us unhappy overall. Take this 2016 study that surveyed people who lived in clutter. According to this survey, they found that living in disarray caused people to have a negative perception of their home and also lower satisfaction with their life in general.
Gina Delucca, who is a clinical psychologist at Wellspace SF in California told Huff Post the reason for clutter causing anxiety is simple: “Our environment can affect our mood for better or for worse, and different people may respond differently to certain environments — for example, some people may feel annoyed by the crowds of people at a musical festival,” she added. “Your home environment is no different.”
If you are struggling to get your home in order, here are a few simple tips to help.
1. Try tidying at least one room for a space that is a safe place to decompress.
2. Invite help- and ask for what you need specifically.
3. Accept that your home will never be perfect, and that’s okay.
4. Room by room organize each area of your home and designate a job or purpose for that space. Then, remove everything that does not fall under that umbrella. For example, if your living room is a television and reading room, and you have drawers filled with junk and tables filled with junk, throw out what you aren’t using.
While no space is ever going to be perfectly organized, unless you live alone and have those natural tendencies, you can find a middle ground and declutter as much as possible. Even a little bit of clear space can help us to wind down from over stimulation. But, above all, if you find that clutter makes you anxious, you aren’t alone, and there most definitely is validation in how you feel.