clutter and mental health

15 Connections Between Clutter and Mental Health

Did you know that there’s a huge connection between clutter and mental health? Oftentimes, clutter affects us more than we realize. Clutter can affect our mood, our thoughts, and even our behaviors.

For me, the effects of clutter on the mind were pretty clear. Even though I struggled with depression for as long as I can remember, I knew that the clutter in my home was making it worse.

I began to declutter my life, from decluttering my mind, to my schedule, and finally to decluttering my home. Decluttering my life positively affected my mental health in so many ways! 

I quickly saw why decluttering is important. Decluttering my home helped ease my constant feelings of frustration, overwhelm and defeat. And, eliminating clutter from my home allowed me to focus, regain some energy, and be more productive.

What is Clutter?

Clutter is piles of things-so much stuff that doesn’t have a home. It’s the extra clothes you can’t fit in your closet. It’s the extra pots and pans that are stacked on each other. It’s all of the trinkets sitting on your bookshelf that look out of place. It’s the junk mail you probably won’t read. It’s the drawer that never gets cleaned out. You’re not quite a hoarder, but in many cases, clutter is the unwanted stuff you don’t want to let go.

It’s easy to accumulate a lot of extra things. We buy food we don’t need and clutter the pantry. We buy clothes because they’re on sale. And we’re given gifts that we don’t want or need.

Clutter is disorganization: desk clutter, a disorganized house, a messy car. It can be a sign of bigger problems. It needs to get under control before accumulating more things and impacting your well-being. It can lead to procrastination and stress. Once you learn to organize your home, reduce clutter, and simplify your life, you’ll probably find yourself happier and more energetic.

15 Ways Clutter and Mental Health are Connected

The more I read about the effects of clutter on mental health, the more I realize I am not alone. I didn’t have a special issue with clutter; clutter is an issue for everyone.

It’s time that we all learn the negative effects of clutter and simply owning too much stuff. When we know how clutter really affects us, it works as a great motivation to begin decluttering.

Here are 15 ways clutter and mental health are connected:

1. Clutter Negatively Affects Your Mood

We all know this already, don’t we?!

Clutter around us absolutely has the ability to make us cranky. Seeing all of the things that are constantly in our way or consistently requiring our attention can leave us feeling frustration.

When we are frustrated by all of the clutter around us, we become irritable. And, when momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.

2. Clutter Causes Higher Stress Levels

Clutter is literally known to increase stress levels. Seeing clutter around us causes us to constantly see an insane amount of stuff that must be dealt with, and soon. 

Our stress levels are important to monitor, because stress can have a huge toll on our body, thoughts, feelings, and even behavior. The effects of stress can lead to larger problems such as anxiety, depression, or high blood pressure. 

3. Clutter Depletes Your Energy

Clutter depletes your energy in more ways than one. Having excess stuff in your home can drain your energy both mentally and physically!

Clutter saps your energy mentally and physically by requiring much of you. Anything that is taking up unnecessary space and isn’t providing enough value is clutter.

When you have a cluttered home, it requires that you spend a lot of time and energy working around these items or caring for them. Clutter also requires that you spend a great deal of time thinking about or even worrying about stuff that doesn’t deserve that much mental capacity!

4. Clutter Makes You Feel Out of Control

When clutter elevates your level of stress, it tends to make you feel completely out of control. There is simply too much stuff in your home, and there are only so many hours of the day.

Letting your home get cluttered, even if slowly over time, shows you that you haven’t been intentional about what comes into your home. Feeling out of control can leave you discouraged and unsure of how to reverse what has already been done.

5. Clutter Can Lead to Negative Feelings

All of these effects of clutter already mentioned can leave you feeling negative about yourself and your home. 

You may feeling defeated when you look around and see the amount of stuff you’ve accumulated. Feeling negative about your ability to do anything about the clutter or to change your habits can leave you feeling utterly hopeless.

Or, maybe you feel overwhelmed by all that has to get done. Negative feelings about your home won’t allow you to enjoy your home. Your home should be a sanctuary for you and your family, but it can quickly become a place that you avoid.

6. Clutter Can Produce Cluttered Thoughts

All of these negative feelings can begin to clutter your mind. You may dwell on the negative, or even begin having untrue thoughts about yourself. 

In addition, just the amount of mental capacity that you give to your clutter can get out of control. Clutter doesn’t deserve a place in your home, so it doesn’t deserve a place in your mind either.

7. Clutter Makes Decision-Making and Recall Difficult

Have you ever experienced decision fatigue? I know I have, and it isn’t fun.

Clutter can make decision fatigue happen so much more frequently. The excess amount of stuff around us makes us overwhelmed, making it difficult for us to make decisions or even to know where to start.

Even more alarming is that mental clutter is a primary suspect in the cause of memory loss related to age. A disorganized mind makes it extremely difficult to remember important information when we need it.

8. Clutter Causes Distraction

Clutter also makes it easy to get distracted, because it’s visually disruptive.

We may be working on something else that’s more important, or simply trying to spend quality time with our family. But, we keep getting distracted by the clutter and the mess.

Clutter keeps mentally pulling us away from what is most important to us!

9. Clutter Makes it Difficult to Focus

Not only that, but clutter makes it really hard to focus. We keep getting pulled this way and that way until nothing gets done well.

A lack of focus makes it nearly impossible to be productive and get things done around the house. Even more, a lack of focus keeps us from fully investing in what (and who) is important to us!

10. Clutter Affects Your Ability to Process

Did you know that clutter actually makes you inefficient at processing visual information? Seeing the clutter all around us literally causes visual overload.

According to Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Ph.D. in her article on Psychology Today, “it’s actually harder to read people’s feelings when your visual surroundings are filled with random stimuli.”

How quickly and accurately we process visual information decreases when we are surrounded by clutter. It makes sense. Too much around us distracts us and keeps us from focusing as much as we need to in order to mentally process well.

11. Clutter Can Lead to Anxiety

It’s no surprise, then, that clutter can actually lead to anxiety. Clutter can leave us overwhelmed, nervous, and anxious. Left unchecked, it can actually increase our heart rate and leave us breathing heavily (both signs of anxiety).

Many of the negative effects of clutter that I’ve mentioned already are actually symptoms of anxiety! A lack of energy, trouble concentrating, excessive worrying, and avoiding places that trigger anxiety, are all symptoms of anxiety, according to the Mayo Clinic.

If you’re thinking, my house gives me anxiety!, it’s time to make some changes so that your home becomes the sanctuary it was meant to be for you.

12. Clutter Can Breed a Lack of Self-Control

Beyond the negative effects of clutter on our feelings and thoughts, it can can ultimately affect our behaviors. Much of the time it’s actually our unhealthy thoughts and feelings that lead to unhealthy behaviors.

Because of this, consistently feeling inadequate or out of control is the perfect breeding ground for a lack of self-control. We may feel that nothing will every change so why even try, leading to more self-destructive behaviors.

13. Clutter Encourages Unhealthy Eating

One behavior that clutter has been known to negatively affect is our eating habits. In fact, clutter is tied to both overeating and undereating. It just depends on our personal response to stress and overwhelm.

Feeling out of control in terms of clutter encourages unhealthy eating. An Australia-US study found that people will eat more in an environment that’s stressful, chaotic, disorganized, or messy.

14. Clutter Can Bring About Lower Self-Worth

Having a cluttered home can leave you feeling embarrassed or even ashamed. You may not want to invite even the people who are close to you over to your house. Or if you do, you find yourself constantly apologizing for the state of it.

Additionally, the feelings of defeat and hopelessness that I mentioned earlier can leave you with a lower sense of self-worth. It can feel like you really messed up and you can never change. Although that ABSOLUTELY isn’t true, it is a common sentiment.

15. Clutter Can Lead to Depression

Because of all of the negative effects of clutter on mood, thoughts and behavior, an excessive amount of stuff in your home can eventually lead to depression.

You won’t necessarily end up here, but as I mentioned with anxiety, many of the symptoms of depression are similar to how clutter affects you. 

Difficulty concentrating, recalling information and making decisions are effects of clutter but are also potential symptoms of depression. Additionally, feeling helpless or hopeless, unhealthy eating habits, and even constant headaches can be signs of depression.

So, does clutter lead to depression or does depression lead to clutter?

I’m not positive, but what I do know is this: eliminating clutter from my home resulted a healthier mental state for me and my family.

The Psychological Benefits of Decluttering

After learning about all of the negative effects of clutter, remember that the opposite is true when you declutter your home and life.

Eliminate clutter from your home to reap these incredible decluttering benefits:

  • Feeling more freedom and joy in your home and life
  • A greater sense of calm and control
  • The removal of unnecessary stress
  • More energy for whatever is important to you
  • Increased ability to focus and process information
  • A clearer mind so you can make better decisions easily
  • Feeling empowered and hopeful 

Isn’t the psychology of decluttering so interesting?

Start Decluttering Your Home Today

Now that you know the key ways clutter and mental health are connected, it’s time to make a decision. Will you begin decluttering your life?

If you’re ready to clear the clutter in your home and begin reaping these amazing benefits, make sure you grab your decluttering checklist by becoming one of my email insiders!

Uncluttering your home has many positive effects on your life beyond just the mental ones. Decluttering (and keeping it that way) also positively affects your space, time, and even money.

Use my decluttering checklist to keep track of your progress as you move from room to room. When we track our progress, it helps us stay motivated by seeing how far we’ve come!

If you want to live a free, simple, and (mostly) stress-free life, you need to declutter your home. Owning too much can keep you from the life you want! ~Practigal Blog | Decluttering Checklist

Steps to Tidying Up and Clearing the Clutter

You can get rid of clutter one extra item at a time. Learn how to organize and stop wasteful spending. Go room-by-room in your home and just get rid of the stuff. Here are a decluttering tips to get started:

  1. Check out a book on declutter like The Life Changing Magic of Tidying by Marie Kondo. The book is life changing and sure to spark joy. She teaches you to let go of any items that you’re not using and don’t bring you joy. She helps you move from a cluttered mind to a happy place with a way to keep things tidy.
  2. Start with your wardrobe. What items can be donated? Consider getting your clothes into a capsule wardrobe. You probably wear the same 20 pieces every month.
  3. Next go through the kitchen and look in your cupboards. What items are extra? What can you let go? It’s easy to accumulate extra appliances but do you need them?
  4. Throw things away that you don’t use, need, want, or spark joy.
  5. Toss extra magazines and donate extra books.
  6. Scan extra paperwork and get rid of paper clutter.

Final Thoughts

Organizing your life and home will help so many aspects of your life.

Decluttering our house helped me stop feeling constantly frustrated, overwhelmed, and defeated. And, I was better able to focus, have more energy, and be more productive. I’ve transitioned to minimalist living (well…functional minimalist living). I have no desire to acquire things I don’t need or want.

If you’re like me and clutter is affecting you more than you realized, use what you know about the connection between clutter and mental health to motivate yourself to start (or finish!) decluttering.

Don’t forget to stick around to check out the next posts in the “Mental Health Awareness Month” series:

5 Mindsets to Declutter (PLUS How to Change Your Mindset!)
Coping Strategies for the Highly Sensitive Person

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  1. How fascinating! I know clutter causes depression and stress, but I didn’t realise it could have so many other far-reaching implications.

    1. Thanks for checking out my post, Dee! I’m glad that you found it insightful. ❤️

  2. I totally agree with this! I’m always more stressed out with a messy and cluttered house. I’m adopting a more minimalist lifestyle which is helping with reducing clutter, too.

  3. as i was reading the article… i was having one of those…’ah ha’ moments. I think about all the times I attempt to work on my blog or do something on my to do list at home….vs when I go out and attempt to do these same things… 9/10 at home I never get what I want done. Versus when i go out like to the library… i’m done in a shorter time frame.

    1. It’s so true! I have to be VERY intentional with minimizing distractions if I want to get anything done at home.

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