How clutter can affect your mental health

Reading Time – 10 minutes

My guest blogger is Marianne Simmons a licensed therapist that has been working in her private practice for more than 15 years. In recent years, she has discovered her passion for blogging and educating people about the importance of mental well-being.

A cluttered room.

Have you ever had your home in such a mess that you don’t even know how to begin organizing it? Usually, our brains tend to shut down and convince us to procrastinate in this situation because we don’t want to deal with a task that seems too demanding. Even though we get over this feeling and get on with decluttering, we always seem to end up in the same situation a few months down the line. Although this seems like a somewhat stressful but essentially not harmful process, certain consequences arise if we keep repeating the same cycle. We’re here to discuss how clutter can affect your mental health.

Clutter makes you stressed out

One of the ways clutter can take its toll on your mental health is by causing stress. Stress can lead to many physical and mental diseases, and it would be best to reduce it to a minimum. Even if you’re not consistently spending your time in a cluttered home but have those all too familiar bursts of organizing about once a month, that might be just as harmful. If you leave your items lying around and they pile up, you’ll need to set aside the time that you probably don’t have to be able to deal with it, which may require multitasking. Unfortunately, multitasking leads to stress, so you’ll end up in the same spot as if you were living in a messy house.

A cluttered room that can affect your mental health.

Clutter brings more clutter

Living in messy and cluttered spaces does more than just cause stress. If you’re constantly surrounded by items you don’t have any use for, you’ll start to feel like your thoughts are cluttered as well. Mental clutter is a real thing – you can feel unable to process certain information, sometimes even crucial information. Your mind’s all over the place and your brain is tired. Not being able to focus, complete tasks and reach your goals can lead to mental health problems, depression or anxiety. Lack of concentration may lead to more life-threatening issues (e.g., if you’re not able to concentrate on your way to work, you could hurt yourself in traffic).

Unhealthy life choices

As you have probably heard a million times over, if your desk is clean and tidy, you’ll have a much better chance of doing your work efficiently and vice versa. The same principle applies to the ways clutter can affect your mental health. Many of your life’s aspects will inevitably suffer if you’re in a chaotic environment. Clutter can cause:

Unhealthy eating habits

 If you’re constantly surrounded by clutter, whether it’s in your kitchen or the rest of your home, you’re less likely to choose simple, healthy options. If the clutter affects your organizational skills, you’ll be more likely to order fast food since it’s more convenient, more rapid, and takes less effort. 

Sedentary lifestyle

 Especially if you’re used to working out at home, you won’t want to do that surrounded by many random possessions. Cleaning up will motivate you to get up and do some exercises. There are many mental health benefits of exercise, which is why you want to try to stay active and keep your body moving. You’ll do yourself a great favour by staying active.

Inability to get your chores done

 When it comes to your work and your ordinary chores, such as paying bills, doing the dishes, or getting your child to school, you’ll find it more challenging to get it done on time in a cluttered home. You’re likely to spend hours looking for random items like keys. By developing routines you spend less mental energy worrying about getting chores completed. You’ll have more time for activities that bring meaning to your life. When your life has meaning your mental wellness improves.

Memory

Clutter can affect your mental health long-term by slowly impacting your memory. Of course, this won’t necessarily happen to everyone, but it could. Are you willing to take the risk? Organizing doesn’t sound that bad if it’ll save the future you from this struggle of memory issues.

A room filled with clutter and unnecessary items.

Lower self-image

Just as checking off chores from a list can make you feel organized and fulfilled, not doing it and living in a mess can lower your self-image. If you’re always planning on decluttering and organizing but never get to it, your brain will get a bit more disappointed each time you fail to follow through with the plans. Eventually, you’ll not only have lower self-esteem, but you’ll also be less likely to get up and do the thing you’re putting off. If you’re already in this loop, getting out of it takes a lot of patience. Set realistic and easily achievable chores for yourself and declutter your home a little every day. After a while, you’ll get back on track and make this a habit.  

Effects your social life

If your home’s messy, you’ll not only lack the motivation to go and hang out, you also won’t want to invite your friends over. A great way to deal with too much clutter is to deliberately invite your friends to your home and use that as motivation to clean up.

Clutter heightens the risk of hoarding

If you don’t work on this problem and start to increase the mess in your home, clutter can become an obsession. If you notice that you’re starting to save specific items just for the sake of having more stuff, if you’re forming a sentimental connection with practical everyday objects, if your rooms can no longer be used for their primary purpose, make sure to seek out help.

Brown wooden block on a white table saying: "keep things simple".

The negative effects of hoarding can be:

  • Inability to throw away, recycle or donate belongings
  • Anxiety when parting with items
  • Difficulty organizing possessions
  • Embarrassment about the number of items you own
  • Fear of running out of or losing any of your possessions

Ways to improve your mental health

It’s important to continue taking small steps and improving your mental health, even if you still struggle with clutter. Bit by bit, you’ll be able to deal with this problem as well.

●Part with the items creating clutter

 If you feel comfortable with it and it’s not causing you anxiety, try to part with any clutter that you own. Give it to a charity so other people can use it. Since we purchase many items, seasonal clearing can be done at any time not only spring and fall. Declutter frequently, it makes the task easier.

Physical activity

 Apart from decluttering and organizing your home, it would help if you also tried to stay active. It’ll do much more than keep you fit and be great for your body – it’ll increase the hormone of happiness in your body and significantly affect your mental health. 

Meditate

 Just as much as physical clutter can take its toll on you, mental clutter can as well. Try to find at least five to ten minutes a day to enjoy the silence and clear out your head.

If you know that clutter can affect your mental health, you should take the necessary measures of precaution. Be regular with cleaning, and don’t hesitate to part with anything that no longer serves you. You’ll be surprised to see how much happiness a clutter-free life can bring.

In the comments let me know how clutter affects your life

Julie Stobbe is a Trained Professional Organizer and Lifestyle Organizing Coach who brings happiness to homes and organization to offices, in person and virtually. She has been working with clients since 2006 to provide customized organizing solutions to suit their individual needs and situation. She uses her love of physical activity to reduce clutter, in your home and office. She guides and supports you to manage your time. If you’re in a difficult transition Julie can coach you to break-free of emotional clutter constraining you from living life on your terms. Online courses are available to help instruct, coach and support your organizing projects. Get started by downloading Tips for Reorganizing 9 Rooms.

Contact her at

Click here to learn more about her online course Create an Organized Home.

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6 thoughts on “How clutter can affect your mental health”

  1. I totally agree with your list of how clutter can affect your mental health. Any form of stress can have a direct effect on their home and life. So, managing stress is key to keeping your home less cluttered.

    1. I agree with you. Right now with the going back to “normal” with the Covid pandemic there is a lot of stress. Managing your home can provide a haven away from the stress of change.

  2. This is all such wise advice. The other piece is that if you are struggling with the amount of clutter in your life, you don’t have to continue struggling on your own. Reach out for help from a professional- organizer or mental health professional. Even a trusted friend or family member who is compassionate and nonjudgmental can be helpful.

    1. Yes, and the keyword in your comment is nonjudgmental. Finding that support, a professional organizing, mental health professional, friend or family member is key.

  3. It’s so good that we are talking about the deep impact that our stuff can have on your mental well-being. It really is so much easier to be productive when our spaces are in order. Likewise, when we can’t find a clear space or easily access the supplies we need, that becomes one more “rationale” for procrastination. I am currently working with a client in a disordered office. We’ve been spending a lot of time just trying to capture his tasks, as they are attached to pieces of paper scattered about, covered by a variety of other things. Great advice!

    1. Thank you. I really like how you point out that clutter can become one of the rationales for procrastination. Procrastination can also impact our mental wellness. If we feel like we are not progressing we can begin to have thoughts that prevent us from reaching our goals.

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