How Decluttering Can Help Restlessness & Anxiety

sail boat on a body of dark color water and gorgeous orangey sunset

For as long as I can remember I have decluttered, organized, and cleaned when I am stressed out and restless sometimes due to a long to-do list or just too much stuff on my plate.

I have reasoned that when I am stressed out and distracted and I clean a small area in my physical space or reorganize something in my home environment or work studio the sense of calm that comes to me is because I accomplished something. 

Additionally, I feel calmer because cleaning a space is in my control when for example the cost of my real estate tax bill doubling is not.


Some symptoms of restlessness can include, and are not limited to, the following:

Irritable and frustrated
difficulty to focus
inability to sit still

poster with words attached like fears, uncertainty, rent and tax

Ruminating thoughts
Voicing the same concerns about the same issue(s)
Inability to think through or find solutions to problems
Thoughts about making life-altering changes like moving or changing jobs

lady in bed during a sleepless period

Sleep habits are interrupted such as poor sleep or too much sleep.
Physical symptoms like head and stomach aches.

When Life Throws You Lemons

bunch of lemons in a straw bowl

Making lemonade is not always an option. A lot of people face serious issues that are out of their control or concerns that are very stressful to deal with. A cluttered space, and a messy environment can be associated with feelings of stress and feelings of unfinished business just like the inability to make decisions is stressful because the job can’t be completed until the decision is made.

How Decluttering Can Help Restlessness & Anxiety

Many people claim to be way too busy these days and clutter can easily accumulate, both in our physical spaces and in our minds. The impact of clutter on mental health is profound, affecting sleep, increasing stress, and contributing to feelings of restlessness and anxiety. 

Here we’ll explore the connection between clutter and mental well-being, and how decluttering can be a powerful tool for regaining a sense of control and tranquility in our lives.

blue outline if head in black starry background with the words ' the mental clarity of clutter

The Mental Toll of Clutter

Sleep Disruptions

One of the side effects of a cluttered environment is disrupted sleep. A cluttered bedroom can make it difficult to relax and unwind, leading to restless nights and a lack of quality sleep. Sleep is crucial for mental and physical well-being, and a clutter-free space can contribute to a more conducive sleep environment.

Stress and Anxiety

It is very difficult to have a good quality of life when stress and anxiety are reeling out of control. I find that nonpersonal events like the atrocities in the world can cause me anxiety in my daily life that can cause feelings of restlessness. I am fortunate, thankfully, to have been born a neat nik so the additional stress of physical clutter isn’t much of an issue for me.

Check out my new free Shift Into Action course I made for all my cluttered friends!

Messy environments can contribute to heightened stress levels. The constant visual stimulation of clutter signals to the brain that there is work to be done, creating a perpetual state of unease. This chronic stress can evolve into anxiety, affecting our ability to focus and exacerbate feelings of restlessness.

Regaining Control Through Decluttering

A tidy, organized environment fosters a sense of order and control, reducing the mental load that comes with chaotic surroundings. This newfound space can lead to a calmer and more centered state of mind.

2 smaller round rocks balanced on a long rock atop a large triangle rock. Locks like a rock see saw- with the sea and sky as background

Emotional Well-being

The act of decluttering is not just about creating a neat space; it’s also about decluttering the mind. The whole process of letting go of things I don’t need proves to be a remover of negative emotions. For some the simple act of cleaning up a messy desk can help release pent-up emotions. 

I know it sounds crazy that something as simple as putting a messy desk in order or tidying a room, can help to relieve mental anguish. I see this regularly.

As a result, decluttering becomes a holistic approach to enhancing emotional well-being.

People I help to declutter seem to not associate the idea physical clutter is linked to mental clutter until after the fact in hindsight.

Integrating Decluttering into Daily Life

round clock in background and and sand clock/hourglass in clear bottle in foreground

Establishing Routines

Incorporating decluttering into daily life can be a game-changer. Small, consistent efforts, such as tidying up before bedtime or dedicating a few minutes each day to organizing, can prevent clutter from accumulating.

No matter how exhausted I may be before bed I clean up the kitchen. The payoff is being greeted in the morning with a sparkling clean space and the beautiful outdoor landscape.

These routines do work and contribute to a more organized and stress-free living space. I equate the feeling of a tidy home with the feeling of getting into a bed with fresh clean sheets.

It can be the most simple things in life that pack the biggest payoffs because these simplicities relax our minds and when our minds are relaxed our overall health gets a boost.

sand colored rock cairn on sand

Don’t underestimate the effects of peace of mind.

Living a life of stress can do some real damage because constant stress raises levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Gregory Fricchione, the associate chief of psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital and a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School states chronic stress can elevate our baseline cortisol levels over time, leading to a cascade of consequences. 

Mindful Consumption

To combat clutter, consider adopting a more mindful approach to consumption. Evaluate whether new possessions add value to your life and bring you joy. Being intentional about what you bring into your space can prevent future clutter and contribute to a more minimalist lifestyle.

When I mention a minimalist lifestyle I am not talking about living without comfort. I feel grateful because I live a very comfortable lifestyle in a minimalist kind of way. I choose to leave a small carbon footprint and am very mindful of what I purchase, how things are made, and how these products will eventually be disposed of. 

a few green buds on a couple sprigs in center of blank background projecting a minimalist design


A good place to start is to take small steps toward small lifestyle changes. I unconsciously started doing this many years ago. When I had my first home and realized keeping the entire home clean is entirely my responsibility I made changes so I didn’t have to spend all my spare time cleaning.

I intuitively knew the less clutter I had the easier it would be to clean the house. 

In time I finally realized if I had fewer articles of clothing I would have fewer choices and getting dressed would take less thought and time. I seem to have adopted a minimalist approach to food choices too. Maybe this is because food has never meant a great deal to me beyond getting proper nutrition.

colorful scene of a single drop of water causing a ripple effect

The Ripple Effect on Mental Health

Improved Focus

A clutter-free environment promotes mental clarity and focus. Without the distraction of disorder, it is easier to direct your energy and attention more effectively. This leads to more productivity and a greater sense of accomplishment.

Enhanced Mood

The link between clutter and negative feelings is undeniable. By decluttering, individuals often report an improvement in their mood and overall outlook on life. A clean, organized space fosters positivity, a greater appreciation for the present moment, and a greater quality of life.

Overcoming Resistance to Decluttering

Facing Attachment

Letting go of possessions can be challenging, especially when there’s an emotional attachment. However, it’s essential to recognize that the emotional weight of clutter often outweighs the sentimental value. Consider the joy and freedom that come with a clutter-free space, and gradually part with items that no longer serve a purpose.

Seeking Support

Decluttering doesn’t have to be a solitary endeavor. Enlist the help of friends or family members to make the process more enjoyable and less overwhelming. Having a support system can provide encouragement and make the journey towards a clutter-free space more achievable.

Sometimes clutter can be too much and before you know it you or a loved one may be faced with a hoarding situation. Hoarding is considered a mental health issue and there are medical professionals available to offer guidance and help.

Hoarding help resources are available at the International OCD Foundation

Sustaining a Clutter-Free Lifestyle

Regular Maintenance 

Maintaining a clutter-free environment requires ongoing effort. Regularly reassess your space, identifying and addressing potential sources of clutter before they accumulate. Embrace the mindset that decluttering is not a one-time task but an ongoing practice that contributes to long-term mental well-being. 

Keep in mind donating gently used items to local a local thrift shop may also give you an extra boost because donating goods is a kind and generous act.  How cool would it be if we went through our storage space and donated, to folks down on their luck, the stuff we are not using?

3 rocks atop one another with a word on each - mind, body and soul- in the foreground of a muted outdoor background

Mind-Body Connection

Recognize the interconnectedness of mental and physical health. A clutter-free space supports a healthier lifestyle, encouraging better habits such as regular exercise and nutritious eating. The positive impact of a tidy environment extends beyond mental well-being, influencing various aspects of your overall health.

Personal Stories of Transformation

Finding Freedom

Many individuals who have embarked on a decluttering journey report a sense of freedom and liberation. Shedding the weight of unnecessary possessions and mental clutter allows folks to focus on what truly matters, leading to a more fulfilling and purposeful life. People report feelings of anxiety lessen and feeling lighter and freer.

long and windy road in a desolate setting

Embracing the Journey

Celebrating Progress

Celebrate small victories along the way. Whether it’s clearing out a single drawer or organizing a room, acknowledge and appreciate the progress you make. This positive reinforcement can motivate continued efforts toward maintaining a clutter-free and mentally enriching environment.

Embracing Imperfection

Perfection is not the goal; we all know there is no such thing as perfect. Living a clutter-free lifestyle is about creating a space that promotes well-being.

Embrace imperfections and recognize that the journey towards a clutter-free life is unique for everyone. A great starting point is taking small steps to make positive changes a little bit at a time. Find a balance that works best for you and your lifestyle.

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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! We will have a few laughs too!

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