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The Relationship Between Mental Health and Clutter


Negative Impact of Clutter and Mess

Keeping your home clean and engaging in the cleaning process is good for you. In fact, research shows that cleaning—or the lack of cleaning—can have a direct impact on mental health.


Clutter May Contribute to Depression

For instance, a study published in "Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin," found that women who described their living spaces as cluttered or full of unfinished projects were more likely to be fatigued and depressed than women who described their homes as restful and restorative. Researchers also found that the women with messy or cluttered homes had higher levels of cortisol.


Clutter May Lead to Decreased Focus, Confusion, and Tension

Meanwhile, a study by Princeton University researchers discovered that clutter can make it difficult to focus on a particular task. More specifically, they discovered that a person's visual cortex can be overwhelmed by objects not related to a particular task, making it harder to focus and complete projects efficiently.


In some ways, clutter and mess is linked to negative emotions like confusion, tension, and irritability while an organized home tends to produce more positive emotions like calmness and a sense of well-being.


To the brain, clutter represents unfinished business and this lack of completeness can be highly stressful for some people. This fact is especially true when people have significant concerns pressing in on their lives.


Clutter and mess can create more stress and anxiety, but by cleaning, organizing, and reducing the clutter, people are able to take control of their environment and create a more relaxing environment that helps them focus better on the more pressing issues in their lives.


Benefits of Cleaning and Decluttering

Research has found that cleaning can have a number of positive effects on your mental health. For instance, it helps you gain a sense of control over your environment and engage your mind in a repetitive activity that can have a calming effect.


It also has been found to improve a person's mood as well as provide a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. There are a number of reasons why cleaning can help you destress. Here's an overview of some of the benefits of cleaning and decluttering your home or office.


Cleaning Can Benefit Physical Health

A clean home also impacts your physical health. According to a study by NiCole Keith, PhD, a research scientist and professor at Indiana University, people with clean houses tend to be healthier than those with messy or cluttered homes. In fact, cleanliness was even more a predictor of good health than the walkability of a neighborhood.


Gain Control of Your Environment

When people feel like their life is out of control or they are struggling with some uncertainties, cleaning can be a way to assert some control in their life. Cleaning gives people a sense of mastery and control over their environment.


In fact, a study by the University of Connecticut found that in times of high stress, people default to repetitive behaviors like cleaning because it gives them a sense of control during a chaotic time.


What's more, clutter and disorganization can be really distracting and make it hard to focus or complete other projects and you can start to feel stuck in a rut. So, if you're feeling an urge to clean and declutter when you're stressed, your mind and body is probably looking for a way to bring some order to your environment.


Improve Your Mood

Aside from the benefits of having a cleaner home, the relationship between a clean house and mental health can help you reduce your anxiety.


For instance, a study published in the journal, Mindfulness, found that people who were mindful when washing dishes—in other words they took the time to smell the soap and to take in the experience—reported a 27% reduction in nervousness, along with a 25% improvement in "mental inspiration."


What's more, studies have found that having clean sheets and making your bed are associated with a better night's rest. And, when you get more rest, that provides a whole host of mental health benefits including an improved mood.


Additionally, the Anxiety and Depression Association of America indicates that the physical activity of cleaning coupled with the end result of a cleaner home helps reduce stress, feelings of anxiety, and depressive symptoms. Cleaning can also reduce fatigue and improve concentration.


Increase Your Focus

When your home is cluttered, messy, or exceptionally dirty, the chaos that the mess creates can impact your ability to focus. The clutter also limits your brain's ability to process information. In fact, researchers have discovered that people are less irritable, less distracted, more productive, and better able to process information with an uncluttered and organized work area.


If you're having trouble focusing on a project, you may want to try decluttering your workspace first. You might find that devoting just a few minutes to organizing your things and clearing away any mess may make it easier for your to concentrate and get your work completed.


Limiting the number of possessions you own can have the same impact because it reduces the number of things vying for your brain's attention.


By Sherri Gordon



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