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If your closets are bursting or your desk is topped with piles of disorganized papers, you may want to take some steps toward a neater home or workspace. While a bit of chaos might have some upsides -- at least one study suggests that a messy room spurs creativity -- it has many more downsides. It can even be damaging for your physical and mental health
Bursting cupboards and piles of paper stacked around the house may seem harmless enough. But research shows disorganisation and clutter have a cumulative effect on our brains. Our brains like order, and constant visual reminders of disorganization drain our cognitive resources, reducing our ability to focus. The visual distraction of clutter increases cognitive overload and can reduce our working memory.
In 2011, neuroscience researchers using fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) and other physiological measurements found clearing clutter from the home and work environment resulted in a better ability to focus and process information, as well as increased productivity.
Clutter can make us feel stressed, anxious and depressed. Research from the United States in 2009, for instance, found the levels of the stress hormone cortisol were higher in mothers whose home environment was cluttered. A chronically cluttered home environment can lead to a constant low-grade fight or flight response, taxing our resources designed for survival. This response can trigger physical and psychological changes that affect how we fight bugs and digest food, as well as leaving us at greater risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Clutter can have detrimental effects on your brain, affecting your mental well-being and cognitive functioning. Research suggests that clutter can overwhelm and distract adults and children alike, making it harder to relax, maintain a routine, and retrieve important information. The impact of clutter on memory and decision-making is especially notable in older adults, who may have a harder time processing and organizing stimuli in cluttered environments. Chronic stress, higher stress levels, and even insomnia can result from living in cluttered spaces. To combat the negative effects, it's crucial to save yourself from the toll of clutter by decluttering and creating a clutter-free environment. Letting go of unnecessary possessions and unused gadgets can be the first step towards a calmer and more focused mind.
There is growing evidence to suggest that clutter in our surroundings can have unexpected impacts on our health, including weight management. When our living spaces are mentally cluttered, it can affect our ability to make healthy choices and stick to a balanced routine. Studies in the field of psychology have found that living in cluttered environments can lead to scattered thoughts, reduced focus, and increased stress levels. Moreover, the constant visual stimulation from clutter can overwhelm our brains, making it harder to relax and make mindful decisions about food and exercise. Creating an organized and clutter-free environment can help alleviate these challenges and provide a sense of calm that promotes overall well-being and healthier choices. Multiple studies have found a link between clutter and poor eating choices.
Disorganized and messy environments led participants in one study to eat more snacks, eating twice as many cookies than participants in an organized kitchen environment.
Other research has shown that being in a messy room will make you twice as likely to eat a chocolate bar than an apple.
Finally, people with extremely cluttered homes are 77% more likely to be overweight.
Tidy homes have been found to be a predictor of physical health. Participants whose houses were cleaner were more active and had better physical health, according to another study.
If you find yourself struggling to maintain focus and concentration, it might be time to declutter your physical space. Research suggests that living in cluttered environments, whether it's your home, office, or digital space, can have a detrimental impact on your brain's ability to process information and remember things. When surrounded by excessive visual stimuli, such as piles of belongings, scattered items, and overlapping objects like TVs and gadgets, your brain can become overwhelmed and struggle to filter out distractions. Decluttering your space, whether by organizing your belongings, minimizing visual distractions, or creating designated areas for specific tasks, can help create a calmer and more focused environment where you can thrive mentally and accomplish the things you want with greater ease. In a world where we are constantly bombarded with information and stimuli, a cluttered space can exacerbate the problem. It can lead to a sense of mental overwhelm and make it difficult to prioritize tasks or make decisions. Decluttering is not only about creating a visually appealing space but also about creating mental clarity. By sifting through your possessions, organizing them, and letting go of unnecessary items, you create room for new information and experiences. This can improve your ability to focus, think creatively, and enhance your overall well-being. So, don't underestimate the power of decluttering in reclaiming your focus and creating a more harmonious environment for productivity and relaxation.
It's hard to focus on important tasks when several things compete for your attention. Researchers have found that being around disorganization makes it harder for your brain to focus. It can be especially tough for people with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). If you have ADHD, a professional organizer or coach may be the best way to restore some order to your space.
Some people who live in cluttered homes have a poorer "working memory," according to research. Your brain is wired to be able to keep track of only a few details at once for a short period, so it can get overloaded when there’s too much going on.
So now you are probably even more stressed about the clutter in your house or office. But the good news is, for the most part, you can fix it. Just keep in mind that in some cases, the decluttering process can't be solved overnight. Do it in batches, take stock of your stuff, and minimize what you have at home by donating items. Figure out a storage or organizing system that works for you the best.
Say goodbye to disastrous clutter, and hello to delightful space.