Are decluttering and mental health connected?
During a Covid lockdown in July, South Australia’s Public Health Officer, Professor Nicola Spurrier had a novel suggestion. She said it could be a good time to go through your sock drawer.
Some people scoffed at the idea. Folks were out of work, remote-schooling their kids, drinking wine for breakfast and generally feeling pretty disrupted. Such a frivolous notion in a dire situation!
Others followed through with her advice and proudly posted their results online.
As a declutter queen I am in the second camp. I am not for a moment suggesting that rearranging your smalls will solve all of your problems. But decluttering and organising definitely have benefits for mental health. When our surroundings are in order, our mind is in order.
You see, our brains like order and making mental maps of where things are. Therefore there is cumulative mental load on us when our environment is disorganised. All that visual distraction can reduce our working memory and general capacity.
This low-level fight or flight response taxes our mental survival resources.
A study in 2016 revealed that clutter has a negative impact on psychological notions of home and well-being.
Decluttering and Mental Health – Decrease the stress of mess
It’s stressful to be constantly rummaging in drawers looking for things. To not know where your car keys are. To have to dash to the shops to buy pasta even though you KNOW you bought some recently. (but where is it?)
In 2009 it was discovered that levels of the stress hormone cortisol were higher in mothers with cluttered homes. It’s not surprising.
Decluttering and Mental Health – Focus
In 2016 a study found that background clutter impaired the cognition of participants.
In 2011, neuroscience researchers found that reducing clutter improved productivity.
By removing the visual distractions of your clutter, you can focus better on the task at hand. Whether that’s work, yoga or creating an artistic masterpiece, things fall into place when we can centre our attention.
Decluttering and Mental Health – Self Esteem
Being organised is being good at life. Getting control of your environment will make you feel better about yourself.
Decluttering and Mental Health – Flow
Decluttering and organising is quite a meditative experience. It’s like sifting through sand and doing a puzzle all rolled into one. Put on some music or a podcast, or just zen out and enjoy the flow of working through the task at hand.
Decluttering and Mental Health – Relationships
Clutter can create conflict with housemates and family members. Remove the source of conflict by clearing up. You will also be more inclined to invite your family and friends over when the dining table is clear and your living space feels more inviting.
Decluttering and Mental Health – Mastery
Conquering the task of decluttering something is a great mood lifter. Even a sock drawer as Nicola Spurrier suggested, is enough to give you the joy of achievement, and it only takes an hour or so. The pleasure is repeated every time you access that drawer. Imagine the benefits of doing your entire pantry, which you look at several times a day! (Or if you are like me, 100 times a day)
Decluttering and Mental Health – Physical Health
It’s easier to prepare healthy meals in a decluttered kitchen. Also, research has shown that just being in a messy room makes us twice as likely to eat a chocolate bar than an apple. A chaotic environment leads to chaotic choices.
Sleep may be improved in a neat, calming bedroom. With less clutter housework is made easier which means less mould, dust and allergens. And better physical health means better mental health.
Decluttering and Mental Health – Freedom
With fewer intrusive thoughts about your stuff, and less stuff physically in the way, you can achieve what you want. You can have people over for dinner and improve your social connections. You can meditate, travel and rent out your place, or downsize – the options are endless when you are not burdened by mess and belongings.
Ironically sometimes bad mental health and mindset can make it hard to get started. Feelings of overwhelm, low energy and mental exhaustion get in the way. It can be a vicious circle. That’s where we come in. Get in touch if you need help or just a kickstart on your decluttering and mental wellness journey.