What Icky Things Physical Clutter Can Do to Your Mind

Acknowledging the fact that physical clutter can do some serious disruption to the mind is step one. I have been preaching the importance of decluttering forever to anyone willing to listen.

I’ve seen firsthand how physical clutter can wreak havoc on the mind. The good news is I have a simple process you can start today to rid yourself of this burden.

My definition of the word clutter is simple – clutter is anything that stands between you and your dreams and goals.

Head clutter was was my obstacle. Troubleshooting and moving beyond head clutter was the thing that lead me to become an expert in this field. This was not easy and it is one of the most rewarding things I have ever achieved.


When people think of clutter they generally think of contents spilling out of overflowing closets and drawers. This is physical.

If you want to achieve freedom from physical clutter there are two ways to do this.

One way is to discard everything you view as clutter. When the clutter builds up again toss it again. Rinse and repeat.

The other way to achieve freedom from physical clutter is to learn why you have too much stuff and learn and practice habits that will change your action of bringing more stuff into your space.

First things first

Let’s talk about how clutter affects your ability to focus. When you’re surrounded by a sea of stuff, it’s hard to stay focused on any one thing. Your brain gets distracted by what I call a ‘visual explosion’.

Before you know it you’re off on a tangent thinking about that pile of papers on your desk, the laundry piling up, bills to be paid, kids need to be picked up etc instead of the task at hand. Worse yet you can’t stand looking at the clutter so you get up and go to the kitchen for a snack!

Clutter causes stress

Plain and simple. When you’re living in a cluttered environment, it’s like your brain is constantly under attack. Clutter causes stress. You’re constantly reminded of all the things you need to do, but can’t seem to get done.

There are the clothes that need to be ironed (do people really still iron!) the stacks of dishes, the overflowing inbox – it’s enough to make anyone’s head spin! Is this the point you pick up the phone to call a friend and cry about how overwhelmed you feel? Or do you go to the kitchen for another snack?

Clutter impacts our mood

But that’s not all. Did you know that physical clutter can also have a negative impact on your mood? Sadly this is true. Studies have shown that people who live in cluttered spaces are more likely to feel anxious and depressed than those who live in tidy environments.

Let’s not forget about frustration. Feeling frustrated is not pleasant. If you constantly can’t find the thing you need how frustrating is that? Some frustration leads to bursts of anger. Not fun for those around us.

The connection between physical and mental clutter

There is a connection between physical clutter and mental clutter. When our physical space is cluttered and disorganized, it can lead to feelings of overwhelm, stress, and anxiety, which in turn can contribute to mental clutter. I would find it impossible to relax surrounded by clutter. When I see piles of clutter I feel like I am listening to really loud bad music.

Visual Explosion or Peace?

As a life long artist I am unconsciously always designing things in my head. Long ago I made the connection some of my best ideas and visuals for designs come to me when I am unplugged and walking by the sea or in the woods. I love this feeling! For me it is the polar opposite of say walking into a crowded department store where I am greeted with a loud visual overload of stuff and awful loud music.

Get Rid of the clutter

So what’s the solution? It’s simple, really. Get rid of the clutter! Do the work now and keep up with it until it becomes habit. And trust me this will become habit. It only takes 2 weeks for an act to become habit. Start small – tackle one object at a time that may be in your way or no longer serves you. Don’t be afraid to let go of the things you don’t need or use anymore. Remember the 20/20 rule! If you can replace the object for under 20$ or remake it in less than 20 minutes get rid of it.

Just do it

I know how overwhelming a long overdue task staring you in the face every day can feel. You may have already figured out what I know to be true. This is that continually thinking about and procrastinating doing the task at hand generally takes much more time than actually doing a, b and c.

Physical and mental clutter are interconnected

We can change this. Physical and mental clutter does not have to own you forever. I find approaching this in a holistic way makes sense. When I use the word holistic I refer to the belief that the parts of something are interconnected and can be explained only by reference to the whole. Does this make sense?

4 things to keep in mind

What do you wish to achieve?

Keep your goal(s) simple. This will set you up for success. Is your goal to get rid of stress? Have more space? Having a clear and concise intention will make your goal doable. Write your goal down.

What does mental clutter look like to you?

Is it constant chatter in your head? Self deprecating thoughts? Overwhelming to-do list? Constant distractions? Write it down.

Be mindful.

Sometimes I just stop and breath. Big long breath in. Big long breath out. On my out breath I visualize breathing out all the yucky stress. On the in breath I visualize peace. Stress is going out. Peace is coming in. This small act energizes and refocuses me.

Be good to yourself!

The clutter did not fill up your space and head overnight. It will take time to sort through this process. Applaud yourself for taking the first step! How to be good to yourself? Set up a reward system, like we give kids sticky gold stars! My go to reward is taking the pups for a walk or down the beach to play! It feels so freeing to have finished the dreaded task and get out in the fresh air with my best buddies. I know physically there is even a bigger bounce in my step!

Check out my free 7 step guide to ease your steps to decluttering!!

By approaching decluttering as a holistic process that addresses both physical and mental clutter, you can create a more peaceful, fulfilling and productive daily life. If I can do this anyone can!

Marj pic

Marj Bates is a life long ridiculously organized declutterer 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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