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
Why clutter is bad for your brain?
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 disorganisation 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.
Could clutter really make us overweight?
Multiple studies have found a link between clutter and poor eating choices.
Disorganised and messy environments led participants in one study to eat more snacks, eating twice as many cookies than participants in an organised 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.
Do you lose your focus because of clutter?
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.