The Psychology of Clutter: Research-Backed Insights


Clutter is more than just an eyesore–it can have profound effects on your mental health. A study published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin sheds light on this issue.

This groundbreaking study found that women who described their living spaces as cluttered or overrun with unfinished projects were more likely to feel fatigued and depressed. These women with messy or cluttered homes also had higher levels of cortisol, the stress hormone that can wreck your body.

This link between a disorganized home and a weary mind suggests that the state of our surroundings significantly influences our mental state.

Taking this a step further, researchers at Princeton University discovered that clutter can seriously hamper our ability to focus. Their study revealed that when our eyes are bombarded with irrelevant objects, it becomes more difficult to concentrate on specific tasks. This sensory overload leads to feelings of confusion, tension, and irritability.

The implications of these findings are clear: the state of our physical environment can have a direct impact on our mental clarity and emotional balance. By understanding the psychological effects of a messy space, you can begin to appreciate the deeper value of keeping our living spaces clean and organized.

What are the Benefits of Decluttering Your Home?

Conversely, an organized and tidy space can create feelings of calmness, setting a positive foundation for our mental health. This concept is also backed by scientific research, including a study by Nicole Keith, Ph.D., which found a significant correlation between clean houses and healthier individuals. Interestingly, cleanliness was a more reliable predictor of good health than factors like neighborhood walkability!

This relationship between cleaning and well-being isn’t just about physical health. In times of high stress, many people instinctively turn to repetitive behaviors, such as tidying, for mental comfort.

This is because engaging in cleaning as therapy can:

  • Offer a tangible way to exert control over your environment
  • Bring a feeling of order and predictability
  • Allow for a temporary escape from stressors and anxieties
  • Create a meditative state with repetitive actions
  • Lead to a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction
  • Reduce stress, anxiety, fatigue, and depressive symptoms
  • Increase concentration

The benefits of spiffing up your space as a form of therapy are multifaceted. It not only helps in creating a pleasant and healthy living space but also offers a way to improve your mental health, all at your fingertips.

Practical Tips for Therapeutic Cleaning and Decluttering

Incorporating sweeping and dusting into your daily routine can be both rewarding and enjoyable. Here are some practical tips to help you get started:

Start small.

Begin with a small, manageable area. This could be as simple as organizing a desk or tidying a single room. The key is to minimize overwhelm.

Set a timer.

Try working on your space for a fixed amount of time, like 15 or 30 minutes. This makes the task less daunting and more like a focused activity.

Create a routine.

Establish a routine that fits into your daily life. Consistency is key to making it a habit.

Mindful cleaning.

Engage in mindfulness by focusing on the present moment. Notice the scent of the soap or spray you’re using, the feel of the objects you’re handling, and the satisfaction of seeing a clean space emerge.

Listen to music or audiobooks.

Adding your favorite music or an audiobook can make house cleaning more enjoyable and less like a chore.

Celebrate your achievements.

After you finish, take a moment to appreciate your work. This sense of accomplishment is incredibly satisfying.

Make it fun.

Challenge yourself to declutter a certain number of items each day or turn into a game. This makes the process more engaging and less tedious.

By following these tips, cleaning can transform from a mundane task into a rewarding part of your daily life!