Clear Your Stuff – Free Your Mind: How Clutter Impacts Mental Health

Here’s a story about Jan:

Jan comes home from work, exhausted. She was late to a meeting today and misplaced her report. She forgot to pick up dinner and resigns herself to eating cereal (the kids will love it).

When she opens the front door she’s greeted with a tangle of clutter. There are stacks of unopened mail, bags of shopping she hasn’t had time to put away, dishes in the sink, kids’ toys everywhere. On the shelves are collections of knick-knacks that she doesn’t even remember buying. Jan’s pantry is like an explosion of color and packaging, with no sense of order. She grabs the cereal and feels herself on the verge of tears.

Jan, like many of us, has reached a breaking point in the battle with clutter. She’s overwhelmed. She doesn’t know it, but living in a chaotic environment has affected her mental functioning. The clutter in her home, car, and schedule has resulted in higher levels of stress and lower capacity to tolerate that stress. I think we can all relate to that feeling at some point in our lives.

The impact of disorganization:

A cluttered environment impacts your mental and physical health. The following are all common side-effects of disorganization:

  • Higher levels of stress
  • Lower frustration tolerance
  • Lowered executive functioning
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Poor food choices
  • Excessive shopping
  • Embarrassment
  • Lost things
  • Limited concentration
  • Situational depression

      Your brain is a machine that processes a massive amount of information every day. When you look at a physical stimulus – like a stack of mail – your brain goes to work, analyzing, thinking, judging and deciding.

      The more visual stimulus you have around you, the more processing your brain has to do. Looking at many different objects all competing for your brain’s attention can be exhausting.

      Think about how different your stress level is when you look at a cluttered room vs. a wide-open beachscape. Which one makes you feel calmer?

    • What prevents you from getting organized?

      If you have ever felt overwhelmed by your stuff, you aren’t alone. Most people would prefer to live in a more organized home, but they don’t know where to start.

      Once you make the connection between stress level and organization, it’s easy to feel defeated. Well, that’s just perfect. Now if I don’t clean this place up I will be even more stressed. You may feel unmotivated because of one of the following reasons:

      • You’ve never really been organized before. Not knowing how an organization feels makes it hard to imagine the benefits outweigh the effort. (Take a leap of faith and hire a Professional Organizer to walk you through the process. Ask an organized friend for help. Look at pictures of organized spaces and envision yourself living there.)
      • You feel you have too much stuff. It will be impossible to get through. (No home is impossible to organize. We see all levels of cluttered homes and have never said the situation was hopeless.)
      • Organizing takes too much time. I am too busy to get organized. (While it does take time to get through. The benefits are worth the effort. If you still don’t want to take the time to get organized on your own, ask for help – we take MOST of the work out of it!)
      • Benefits of Organization:

      • Organization reduces stress and depression

        Knowing where everything is allows you to relax and take ownership of your space. Your brain gets to take a break when you come home because, in this environment, you know what to expect and don’t have to process all the clutter.

        • It will boost your productivity and motivation

            With stress levels lowered, your brain has more capacity to focus on the task at hand.

            • Improves time management

                Less stuff to manage means less time spent managing it. The more mental and physical space you clear up, the more flexibility in your daily schedule.

                • Helps your relationships

                    No more arguments about the lost car keys or what to have for dinner. There is more space for quality time with your friends and family and no embarrassment at having company over.

                    • Builds self-awareness

                        An important part of this process is learning who you are today. By assessing your possessions you may be surprised to learn that you have changed since you bought that item. Identifying what is important to you TODAY will help you to make better choices and stay organized in the future.

                      • Where to start:

                        Organization expert Marie Kondo says, “Only two skills are necessary to successfully put your house in order.”

                        1. The ability to keep what sparks joy (makes you happy) and to toss the rest.
                        2. The ability to decide where to store the things you keep and to put them back there every time.

                        Here are some basic guidelines for organization:

                        1. Sort similar items together (like with like).
                        2. As Marie Kondo says – Assign homes and put things back!​
                        3. Give areas, rooms, or shelves a purpose/theme.​
                        4. Establish a housework routine/schedule. ​Reward yourself for keeping it up.
                        5. If it takes less than 5 minutes: do it now!​ Many things take less time than you think.
                        6. Be gentle on yourself – no one is perfect!

                        For more information, tips and guides to organize specific spaces check out our blog.

                        “When we throw out the physical clutter, we clear our minds. When we throw out the mental clutter, we clear our souls.” – Gail Blanke

                        Anyone can get organized. You just need the desire and the decision to do it. Living an organized life frees you up for what is most important. Making an investment in yourself and your mental health is a gift that will continue to reward you. It doesn’t have to take a lot of time or effort. You can get a great head start by working with Professional Organizers.

                        There will never be a “right time” to get organized. It will never become a priority until YOU make it one. NOW is the time. Your sense of peace is waiting.

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