Almost every living space could benefit from some form of improvement. Even when there is nothing outwardly wrong with the appearance of a room, there are always steps that can be taken to make better use of its space.
Pursuing a state of harmony between yourself and your home or apartment’s surroundings confers a range of psychological benefits for reasons that are rooted in science.
Whether it means getting rid of half your possessions or — in the case of items with greater sentimental, practical or financial value — moving them elsewhere, the decluttering process will likely result in an improved you.
Studies have identified a direct link between the stress hormone cortisol and clutter — or, as UCLA’s Center for Everyday Lives and Families calls it, “a high density of household objects.”
While there seems to be something of a gender split at play here (with women much more psychologically averse to clutter), the basic takeaway applies to everyone.
Messy spaces mean more cleaning to be done in the future. And as the mess continues to grow, so does the mental weight of knowing that it’s there. Like so many things in life, the resulting stress has a way of building upon itself, becoming a vicious cycle.
This is one reason why many people find it easier to reduce clutter by devoting 15 minutes a day to the task, as recommended by Extra Space Storage — as opposed to setting aside an entire day or weekend and making a marathon out of it. Alternatively: “If 15 minutes seems hard to hold yourself to, start with five. Just getting started is a significant and positive action.”
Cortisol is not just linked to stress. At elevated levels, it also causes depression.
This partly explains why living in an overly messy, cluttered or dirty home can give rise to other negative mental states. Your living space reflects your inner self. A lack of cleanliness and organization suggests a diminished sense of self-worth.
That pile of unwashed dishes, those books stacked on the floor instead of sitting on the shelf – these things chip away at your self-esteem, little by little, day by day.
Perhaps you’ve experienced the guilt or embarrassment that comes from having friends over at a time when your home or apartment appears less than aesthetically appealing.
Chances are, they’re judging you much less harshly than you’re judging yourself — but it is your self-judgment that matters most. However, this also works both ways. As “tidiness guru” Marie Kondo put it, “Tidying is a dialogue with one’s self.”
Sticking with the idea of your home as a reflection of yourself, consider what your clutter says about your patience and attention span.
An unorganized home mirrors an unorganized mind — objects and thoughts strewn here and there, competing for attention while making true focus impossible. In neuroscientific terms, cluttered livings spaces place too many stimuli in your environment.
You will find that your concentration improves if you a cultivate a less demanding living space. You will also find that you are better able to focus on the things that are truly important to you.
According to a study from The American Association for Nurse Anesthetists, people with messy homes are a whopping 77 percent more likely to be overweight or obese.
Peter Walsh’s book Lose the Clutter, Lose the Weight builds a solid case for the connection between having a home full of unnecessary clutter and a kitchen full of unhealthy foods. This leads to a negative interior monologue that assails you as soon as you walk through the door – feelings of exhaustion and thoughts of not knowing where to start.
It’s a line of thinking that suggests a holistic relationship between mental and physical health (or lack thereof) — less depression and anxiety lead to a healthier body, and vice-versa.
The various possessions that lie scattered across your house constantly collect dust particles. This increases the amount of toxins and other contaminants floating through the air around you.
And this in turn leads to coughing, asthma attacks and eye irritation, among other unwanted reactions. Ridding your home of clutter means either discarding these dust-collecting items, cleaning and organizing them or putting them in boxes or other forms of storage — or, most likely, some combination these approaches.
This represents a very real step toward healthier living. You will be (literally) breathing easier not just because you’re less anxious and unfocused, but because the quality of the indoor air itself has improved.
Whether your journey to a clutter-free home is already well underway or has yet to begin, try not to lose sight of your reasons (including those explained above) for embarking upon it in the first place.
Time, self-discipline and positive momentum will make it possible to achieve your goals!