Clutter And Your Brain | The Mental Health Connection

blue outline of a face on a black background. The feeling in bright colors is of the stars and the universe

In this article, I will address the mental health connection between clutter and your brain. This is an important and often overlooked topic when addressing clutter. It is important because too much clutter is often associated with poor mental and physical health symptoms.

The Negative impact of clutter on your brain

We all know the usual aspects of having too much clutter around. You trip over stuff and you can’t find things when you desperately need them. How about not having enough space on your cluttered kitchen counters to prepare a meal?

These are frustrating nuisances that can be easily avoided by doing a thorough decluttering job.

Sometimes buying habits contribute to too much clutter. This can be evidenced by overcrowded closets and stuff everywhere with no space to organize anything. Why are you hanging on to the orange and blue paisley mini dress with the price tags still attached bought a lifetime ago?

Although parts of decluttering can be emotional, lots of decluttering is as simple as getting rid of broken and unwanted items. Another easy area of decluttering can be finding all the duplicate objects you have and things with just a teensy bit of stuff left in them like cleaning products.

In a monochromatic color scheme a simple organized clloset space includes a little set of drawers and hanging poles for hanging clothing

By just discarding the above things I mention you will notice a difference.

Save decluttering your sentimental objects for last when you have some decluttering experience under your belt. What I mean by this is decluttering the kitchen will be less emotional than tackling your loved ones’ treasures and the boxes of old photos you haven’t looked at in years.

Cognitive Overload Due to Too Much Clutter

Clutter overwhelms us. The mental health connection between your brain and clutter. Whether you consciously know this or not your senses do. When I am in a roomful of clutter I feel suffocated by the visual overload. 

Some people may feel less bothered than me. All clutter to me feels like really loud elevator music. I cannot concentrate, focus, or make decisions. My brain has to work much harder to tune out this unwanted distraction. This causes mental fatigue and I am less productive

Effects of Stress on your brain

Excessive clutter is often accompanied by negative emotions such as feelings of stress, anxiety, and sometimes shame. A cluttered physical environment can be a constant source of friction and affect your mood and overall well-being. 

High-stress levels have been linked to a variety of health problems, including elevated cortisol levels, heart disease, and respiratory issues.

Cortisol is a Stress Hormone

blue gloved hand hold a test vial for a cortisol test.

Clutter can trigger the release of cortisol, a hormone associated with stress. Chronically elevated cortisol levels are not good for us. I learned this lesson the hard way. Constant high-stress levels from messy environments, clutter-free environments, and a high-stress-filled life contribute to a range of health issues.

The National Library of Medicine claims that stress induces chronic immune activation and altered health outcomes that resemble those seen in chronic inflammatory diseases such as RA.

I am paying the price now of having lived for years in what felt like a pressure cooker. High Cortisol Levels can lead to:

  • lead to heart issues
  •  damage your immune system
  •  weight gain
  •  high blood pressure 
  •  thinning of the bones
  •  high blood pressure
  •  interrupt sleep patterns

There is an interesting website called You and your hormones that speaks about the high levels of cortisol’s effect on our bodies.

Feelings of Frustration cause stress

a picture of a dark haired lady looking like she is pulling her jhair out due to frustration.

When your personal spaces are filled with too much clutter you may feel high levels of anxiety, frustration, and helplessness. This is known as mental clutter. 

Constantly searching for misplaced items is frustrating. It is also a robber of time. Struggling to navigate through cluttered rooms can lead to a sense of overwhelm and dissatisfaction with your living environment. disorganized environment.

Cleaning is Difficult When Cluttered

Maintaining a cluttered space requires more time and effort to clean and organize. The presence of clutter can impede cleaning efforts, making it challenging to maintain a clean and tidy living environment and increasing the risk of respiratory issues and other health problems.

someone holding a spray bottle and a cleaning cloth cleaning an empty counter top

Understanding Hoarding Disorder

If you or someone you know has a hoarding disorder, it’s important to understand what hoarding is and how it can affect daily life.

The International OCD Foundation is a very good resource.

Hoarding disorder is a mental health condition that is characterized by persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions, regardless of their actual value. This leads to the accumulation of clutter that interferes with the use of living spaces.

It is important to distinguish between clutter and hoarding disorder.

Mental Health Benefits of a Clutter-Free Home

On the flip side, the benefits of decluttering your living space can have many mental health benefits, including peace of mind, reduced feelings of frustration and shame, and increased focus and efficiency.

A bathroom with white vanity and tiled shower with glass enclosure

Download my free Bathroom Decluttering Checklist!

Peace of Mind

The mental health connection between clutter and your brain attributes to chaos or peace or somewhere in between.

Can you relax in a cluttered messy environment? I can’t. No wiggle room there. This is why I live in a minimalistic fashion. Minimal in the sense I have only what I need and want to be comfortable. No, I do not live in empty rooms.

My den for example, only contains a comfy sectional sofa, an old wood shipping crate from my Aunt, a doggie crate and plush dog bed, a small corner cupboard, and a hanging TV. There is an area rug on the wood floor and a task lamp.

I have no end table because I don’t need it. I made a little wood arm cover for the arm of the couch. The task light fits on this with room left over for a beverage and remote. The walls are bare except for the TV screen.

I feel like all is right with the world when I am snuggled in my nest with my puppies. I can relax or work in my den without distraction. This is what my definition of minimalism is.

3 rocks light colored creating a cairn on the sand with the sea in the background

Being Organized Eliminates Frustration

A great place to start decluttering is to put all your like items with like items. This is the beginning of any organizational system. Organized spaces are much less inclined to be cluttered spaces. 

By reducing the amount of clutter in your home you will become more efficient. You will eliminate the frustration of searching for misplaced items. 

Feelings of Shame Will Leave You

Decluttering can alleviate feelings of shame or embarrassment associated with a messy living environment and boost your self-esteem. A clutter-free environment promotes better concentration and focus.

Some folks feel too embarrassed to invite guests to visit. This can cause feelings of loneliness. By decluttering you may become more present and engaged and invite friends to your home.

More Efficient

When you are clutter-free you can accomplish tasks more efficiently and effectively. This will free up time for you to do the things you love to do. You work hard and deserve to have free time to be with the people you love doing the activities that fulfill you.

a man saying what looks like 'yppee!' with dollar bills floating around him

Positive Financial Impact

Have you been slammed with late fees because you forgot to pay your bills on time? Forbes reports Americans paid 15 billion in credit card late fees in 2022.

Paying bills can be easy today if you are organized. I realize there is a bit more than organization skills needed to pay bills on time. My point is if the money is in the bank there is no good reason to incur late fees.

Start Small!

Because decluttering can be an emotional task for some one of the best ways to declutter is to start with small steps. Start with the kitchen junk drawer! There is very little emotional attachment to kitchen utensils and old elastics that find their way to this drawer.

Having less clutter offers a better overall quality of life. Taking small steps can lead to long-term easier living. If you declutter well once and spend a few minutes a day maintaining your decluttered home you will feel the positive change in your mental well-being.

pic of author

Marj Bates is a life long ridiculously organized declutter-er and artist. Less is more are words Marj lives by in everything she does except collecting dogs. “Dogs are like potato chips! Can’t have just one.” says Marj. Marj wonders if growing up with a fanatically clean Jewish mom means her decluttering and organizational skills are in her blood.

For more Declutter Buzz & Freebies check out our safe and private Decluttering community on our Facebook page. We are a safe and private space of like minded folks tackling this all encompassing clutter thing once and for all. No shame allowed and always a few laughs!

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