In this post, I discuss why your clutter may be a contributing factor to your stress anxiety (and overall mental/emotional health). I discuss the most recent scientific research linking clutter to mental health AND I provide you with my 5 unexpected areas that you need to declutter now: digital clutter, calendar clutter, relationship clutter, financial clutter, and mental clutter. I mention how you can apply my 5×5 Decluttering Method to declutter these important areas. This video is the missing link in the discussion of minimalism or tidying up your home. You won’t want to miss this one…
As a physician and a researcher, my goal is to provide you simple tactics to improve your lifestyle and thus improve your health and well-being. So, if you’re excited to live a more vibrant and vital life, then you’re in the right place.
I can’t even tell you how excited I am about today’s post. Today we take a deeper dive into my favorite topic that not everyone links to health and wellness. I want to talk about clutter and how it impacts your mental health. I am also going to share with you my 5 best tips for improving your mental health as you sort your belongings. This is part two of my previous Thrive Global post called, “Does this junk Drawer Make My Bum Look Big?” where I discussed how clutter can affect your waistline. Also, in this post, I launched my FREE guide to help you navigate any space in your home. If you missed out on this post I will link it for you HERE.
And, by the way, if you are a lifestyle enthusiast and obsessed with all things health, then share this post with your friends on social media and hang on because I get super nerdy when it comes to decluttering.
Have you ever wondered if your clutter is truly affecting your mental health? Have you ever thought that the discussion around a cleared space and your mental health is a bunch of hype? Quite frankly, the reason that I love the topic of mental and emotional health so much is that it is the missing link from the discussion of minimalism or the decluttering process. We all know that a cleared space “feels good” but we aren’t talking about the research that supports the health benefits of a decluttered home and office environment.
Recent studies have demonstrated that clutter can have a deleterious effect on stress, life satisfaction, physical health, and cognition!
- University of New Mexico’s Catherine Roster and her team discovered that there is truly a correlation between the home environment and one’s satisfaction with life. Her findings demonstrated that clutter had a negative impact on self-reported well-being, feelings of security, and safety. People see their homes and their belongings as an extension of themselves and as a comfort. Clutter in the home was linked to negative feelings such as distress and alienation. In essence: a cluttered home impedes the ability to retreat from the outside world.
- The University of South Carolina’s Paul Bliese examined a century of research on stress and well-being and discovered the link between mental health and the state of your office space. While it is true that more recent research points toward the importance of work-space personalization, a cluttered workspace can backfire on productivity.
- Cornell University’s James Cutting and Kacie Armstrong found that the cluttered environments may prevent our ability to interpret emotion on another’s face; therefore, clutter can prevent true connection.
- University of Toronto’s Lynn hasher proposed years ago that mental clutter is one of the prime suspects related to age-related memory loss. The theory is that every piece of visual information can eventually clog up your neural networks thus causing you to slow down your mental processing. This clogging can prevent you from remembering short-term tasks and even long-term exercises such as recalling names of familiar faces.
So to summarize the studies, we have linked cluttered spaces to satisfaction in life, mental health in your work environment, the ability to connect with others, and your memory and mental processing.
5 UNEXPECTED AREAS YOU MUST DECLUTTER NOW:
Now that we know that our clutter can impact our mental health in such negative ways, what are some ways that we can declutter our lives to create more space for peace, productivity, and our passions?
I want to discuss some additional areas of your life—in addition to your belongings, that you should consider sorting in an effort to improve your mental health. In addressing these areas, you will decrease stress, anxiety, and overwhelm from your daily life.
- DIGITAL CLUTTER: We spend so much time in our day reading and responding to e-mails. We have dozens of apps on our phone. We scroll through social media frequently. We amass tons of digital documents on our computer. We spend hours of our day in front of screens and our health is suffering as a result. Here’s the deal, friends: If you don’t have a set schedule for when you check your e-mails each day or have a set time to scroll your phone, then you are allowing other people’s agendas to rule your life. Seriously! An e-mail is nothing more than someone else’s request or agenda. If you are checking e-mail throughout the day multiple times, then you are not getting YOUR priorities taken care of. Likewise, if you are spending time on social media comparing your life to the lives of others, you may be generating feelings of inadequacy, jealousy, disappointment, and envy. And, last time I checked, these are not emotions that will generate joy.
- CALENDAR CLUTTER: I love my google calendar and my schedule blocking methods; but, what I don’t love is a calendar full of obligations, events, and appointments that don’t make me feel more alive, excited, and inspired. Take a look at your calendar and determine what you can let go. What exercise class, volunteer group, meeting, social event, etc. can you drop? Moving forward, how will you say “no” to a request that you don’t really have time for and may feel resentful, if you commit to going? Here is the truth: if you don’t create your own boundaries, other people will create them for you. No one wants to feel burdened with feelings of regret, resentment, and obligation. These are all negative emotions that can clutter your soul. So, clear your calendar of all scheduled clutter and just like a newly refreshed clutter-free home, keep your spaces clear by maintaining your sorting habits. Don’t commit to events and appointments, that will stress you out or cause you anxiety. As we learned in the ’80s, just say “no”. The word “no” doesn’t apply to just drugs…
- RELATIONSHIP CLUTTER: Even easy relationships can seem complicated at times. Fill your social circle with people who challenge you to be a better person; people who are perpetually positive; people who you would trade lives with if you had to; people whose presence makes you feel uplifted, rejuvenated, and inspired. This goes for clients, friends, gym classes, mastermind groups, volunteer groups, significant others, church groups—and of course, family members. If you have people in your life who drain your energy, negative and gossipy, have a chip on their shoulder, unmotivated in life, lack goals, and uninterested in self-care and awareness, then you are on a fast track to the equivalent of the show Hoarders for your soul. You will get bogged down, depressed, or dejected by other people’s soul-sucking habits.
- FINANCIAL CLUTTER: Money can be such a sensitive subject. It is the number one stressor in relationships and a major cause of anxiety in many individuals. The truth is, money is neither good or bad. Money is not the root of all evil as some may say. It is the love of money that can get us into trouble. If we respect money as a tool to do great things in this world, then we can learn to establish some healthy boundaries with our spending. If we don’t have healthy boundaries with money—and we don’t learn to spend wisely, then we limit our ability to bless others with our abundance. After all, what is the point of having money or extra money at the end of every month if you cannot bless others? Do you see where I am going with this? Yes, budgeting is very helpful. However, if you apply the same principles in the 5×5 Decluttering Method to clear your physical clutter, you will find that clearing your home from items that you bought but never use and don’t really love, provides new perspective toward your spending habits. I recommend that if you are struggling with your relationship with money, to read some books from money experts. My favorite resources are the books the Automatic Millionaire by David Bach, Unshakeable by Tony Robins, and You are a Badass at Making Money by Jen Sincero. My recommendation is to read David’s book first and take just one step toward getting your finances under control. Part of the anxiety with money is feeling out of control. Taking just one small step this month will alleviate much of the stress and strain.
- MENTAL CLUTTER: We cannot help our negative thoughts. We think horrible things about ourselves, our capabilities, our circumstances, and about others. This type of negative clutter is by far the most destructive and the easiest to collect. While negative thoughts are sometimes unavoidable, we must learn to recognize them and then redirect them. We must also earn to reprogram our thoughts so that negativity is less automatic. We can do this by learning the secrets of changing our mindset. And wouldn’t you know it, I’ve got some resources for you to help you get started. Check out this Thrive Global post! In this link, I share the best cognitive science to help you get control of your negativity and criticism.
It is true that each of these 5 areas I discussed in this post, really should be 5 separate posts. My goal is to help you become more aware of clutter in your life —not just the physical clutter in your home and work environment; but the mental, emotional, and spiritual clutter that is preventing you from living your best life. The biggest mistake I see people make when it comes to decluttering is not getting started. You need momentum to help you conquer your clutter. So, do me a favor. Download one of my FREE guides. Grab the 5×5 Decluttering Guide. You can use this guide for physical clutter in your home as a template for the 5 areas of mental/emotional clutter we discussed today. Then, choose the one thing that you will do this month as your monthly challenge. If digital clutter is a problem, download my free FREE Digital Decluttering Guide HERE. Once you gain momentum you can tackle the other 4 areas of mental and emotional clutter we discussed today!
Thank you so much for taking the time to read this post. Your support means a lot to me. If you have made it through the video this far, I want to commend you, my friend. I know you can do this. I’m here for you, cheering you on! I would love to hear about your decluttering experiences so please leave a comment below and tell us what one area you are choosing as your challenge this month!
Don’t forget to share it with your friends, and make sure to be on the lookout for more posts like this to help you achieve optimum vibrancy and vitality!
And, as always, strive to supercharge your health by simplifying your lifestyle.
Amer, T., Campbell, K. L., & Hasher, L. (2016). Cognitive control as a double-edged sword. Trends In Cognitive Sciences, 20(12), 905-915. doi:10.1016/j.tics.2016.10.002
Bliese, P. D., Edwards, J. R., & Sonnentag, S. (2017). Stress and well-being at work: A century of empirical trends reflecting theoretical and societal influences. Journal of Applied Psychology, 102(3), 389-402. doi:10.1037/apl0000109
Cutting, J. E., & Armstrong, K. L. (2016). Facial expression, size, and clutter: Inferences from movie structure to emotion judgments and back. Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics, 78(3), 891-901. doi:10.3758/s13414-015-1003-5
Roster, C. A., Ferrari, J. R., & Jurkat, M. P. (2016). The dark side of home: Assessing possession ‘clutter’ on subjective well-being. Journal of Environmental Psychology,4632-41. doi:10.1016/j.jenvp.2016.03.003
Vartanian, L. R., Kernan, K. M., & Wansink, B. (2017). Clutter, chaos, and overconsumption: The role of mind-set in stressful and chaotic food environments. Environment and Behavior, 49(2), 215-223. doi:10.1177/0013916516628178