How Clutter Impacts Your Health
Can we all agree that there is a bit of a decluttering frenzy going on right now? You may have seen more and more posts about how to “declutter your home”, "toss things that don't spark joy" or strategies to organize specific areas. It sounds great but when you’re really busy or struggling to find time for basic tasks (you know like keeping your kids or yourself alive and fed), decluttering doesn’t tend to hit the top of the list of things to do. Many people say decluttering makes them “feel better” afterwards but what does that even mean? You might not be a cleaning nut like me, but the truth is, there are some real reasons why keeping your home in order is a big deal. Clutter can actually significantly impact your health in several ways that you might not have considered.
1. Clutter Increases Stress Levels
Multiple studies, including one done at UCLA’s Center for Everyday Lives and Families have identified a direct link between the stress hormone cortisol and clutter. Women are actually (typically) significantly more impacted by clutter than men but the basic takeaway applies to everyone. I mean, it inherently makes sense right? Messy spaces mean one more thing to add to your to do list in the future and as the mess continues to grow, so too does the mental weight of knowing that it’s there. The truth is, that impending sense of dread when you’re living in a messy space is real and there is a legitimate hormonal reason for it!
Devoting an entire day or weekend to a marathon decluttering session isn’t reasonable for you right now? Me neither. Try to find 10-15 minutes of time each day to tackle small spaces or put things away that are left out. You’ll make great progress and keep the overwhelm at bay!
2. Clutter Can Contribute to an Increased Risk of Depression
Remember that elevation in cortisol? Well, over time, that can also place you at an elevated risk for depression. Again, if you think about it, it inherently makes sense right? Living in an overly messy, cluttered or dirty home can give rise to other negative mental states. The mess can also gradually chip away at your self-esteem over time. Perhaps you’ve even felt guilt or embarrassment from having friends come over when your home or apartment was a mess. To be honest, you’re probably judging yourself much more harshly than they are but it is your own self-judgment that matters most.
3. Clutter Can Impact Your Focus
Considering your surroundings are often a direct reflection of yourself and overall mood, consider how it can impact things like your patience and attention span. An unorganized home mirrors an unorganized mind and will compete for your attention, making true focus impossible. Ever tried to work at a desk piled high with papers and other junk? Its going to be much more difficult than trying to focus in a clean space. From a neuropsychological perspective, cluttered living produces too much external stimuli to allow for intense focus and concentration. Your focus improves in a more tidy environment and that you are actually able to get more done in less time.
4. Clutter Can Lead to Poor Health Choices
Did you know, according to a study done by the American Association for Nurse Anesthetists, people with messy homes are a whopping 77% more likely to be overweight or obese? Other literature supports a solid case for the connection between clutter and health choices like eating and exercise habits. Those with cluttered homes are much more likely to keep a kitchen full of unhealthy foods. You will be less motivated to prepare healthy meals if your kitchen is in shambles with dishes stacked a mile high. Similarly, you are going to be less likely to exercise if you are unable to find your running shoes and exercise clothes under piles of laundry. Stress contributes here too. Higher levels of stress also result in poor eating, sleeping and general health habits. This means too much clutter can have a really direct impact on your health and well-being.
When we think about weight loss or “getting healthy” we tend to focus on the two most obvious factors, diet and exercise. Often we fail to pay attention to the reasons we struggle with those things in the first place. Focusing on daily habits that prevent us from having the time, energy and motivation to remain healthy is equally as critical to making better health choices stick long term.
5. Clutter Reduces Air Quality
The various items scattered across your home collect dust over time and will increase the number of particles and contaminants floating in the air around you. This can lead to coughing, eye irritation and asthma over time, among other unwanted respiratory reactions. Ridding your home of the clutter collecting dust can help combat many of these issues and lead to improved respiratory health. You will literally be breathing easier not just because you’re less anxious and unfocused, but because the air quality in your home is that much better.
Ready to Declutter?
Remember, decluttering doesn’t have to be one big effort or decluttering marathon. Start small. Set a timer for 10-15 minutes and tackle your junk drawer or other small area or just focus on sorting and putting away loose items lingering around your home. While you CAN try to knock it out in one sitting, it is often more sustainable (and reasonable) to try to tackle smaller projects over time. Want a little more guidance in getting started? Check out my post on a simple way to start tackling areas in your home.