Skip to Content

Clutter and Stress: Why Clutter Stresses Us Out

Clutter and Stress: Why Clutter Stresses Us Out

If you feel stressed when your home is cluttered, I think many people feel the same. In this article we look at clutter and stress and some common reasons why clutter stresses us out.

THE CLUTTER AND STRESS COMBINATION

When my home is cluttered I feel more stressed and that’s why I prefer a clutter-free space.

Clearing my stuff and keeping that clutter away is not just to make my home feel calmer and be easier to clean. Whilst these and some of the other benefits of a decluttered home are lovely, it was really my heavy mental load that made me declutter.

I wanted less stress, a less distracted mind, fewer things to do and more free time. A clear, clean and more manageable home was my first step to making that happen.

In this article we look at the relationship between clutter and stress, some of the ways that clutter impacts our physical and mental health and some common reasons why clutter stresses us out.

FOR THOSE WHO STRUGGLE WITH DECLUTTERING

As you read this article, I do just want to point one thing out. I’m certainly not saying that decluttering is easy and the only magical solution to a better home and personal life is to get rid of a few things. Decluttering CAN be very difficult for some of us.

Maybe you have too much stuff and/or not much help. Physical problems, mental health challenges, struggle with motivation and focus generally (hello to my ADHD friends). But, perhaps, you’re struggling with these issues alongside the stress of clutter and they do all get jumbled together.

So, if you’re feeling extra pressure, anxiety and stress because of your clutter, maybe this article could help you identify and understand some of the reasons why. It’s certainly not meant to tell you to declutter and your stress will go, or that you’ve been doing anything wrong. Clutter can get on top of all of us.

I know decluttering can be a long, complicated and emotional journey for many of us – and not solved by reading one blog post!

But understanding WHY and HOW clutter affects us negatively might be a good start. Any change starts with awareness.

WHAT EXACTLY IS CLUTTER?

Let’s start with the basics: what is clutter? Clutter is basically all the stuff that piles up in our homes, workspaces, and even our minds.

It’s the random assortment of items that don’t have a proper place to belong – like paperwork, clothes, toys, and knick-knacks. Clutter takes over every available surface, makes it hard to find anything, sometimes even just a quiet place to sit and relax.

Clutter is also stuff that we don’t really need, use, love or appreciate in some way. There are lots of different types of clutter and what one person defines as clutter, might be someone else’s most used or treasured possession.

Clutter is the excess that, instead of improving our lives in some way, actually is just making them more complicated and overwhelming.

Why clutter stresses us out

WHY DOES CLUTTER STRESS US OUT?

Here are some ways that clutter stresses us out. Take a read and see if you recognise any of them for yourself.

The Cognitive Overload of Clutter

Clutter affects our brain not just our home space.

Visual Distraction

Imagine trying to concentrate on something important with a bunch of stuff scattered all around you. It’s like trying to focus on a movie with someone constantly talking in the background – super distracting! Clutter bombards our brains with too much visual information, making it hard to concentrate and causing stress.

Feeling Overwhelmed

Have you ever walked into a room that’s so cluttered you don’t even know where to begin? Clutter can overwhelm us with all the decisions it forces us to make – do I keep this or throw it away? Where should I put this? It’s like having a hundred tiny to-do lists running through our heads all at once, and that can be really stressful.

Impairs Decision-Making

Research has shown that living in cluttered environments can impair our ability to process information and make decisions, leading to decreased productivity and increased feelings of stress and frustration.

Too much to think about and too many options means it’s not easy to think clearly and leads to decision and decluttering fatigue. So, we get tired of our clutter but also tired of trying to deal with it.

The Emotional Weight of Clutter

Clutter affects how we feel on the inside, not just what our home and life looks like on the outside.

Clutter is Emotional

Clutter isn’t just a mess of stuff – it’s also a mess of emotions. When our spaces are cluttered, it can make us feel like we’re out of control. We might worry about not being able to find things when we need them, or feel guilty about not keeping our spaces tidy, or who will deal with our stuff when we can’t, or what might our guests think when they come over for coffee?

All these negative emotions can build up and make us feel anxious. Decluttering is largely about self-acceptance, not just getting rid of stuff.

Sentimental Attachments

Our possessions are not just objects; they’re wrapped up with memories, emotions, and attachments. Yet, these sentimental ties can become a burden, tying us to the past and making it difficult to move forward. The prospect of parting with cherished items can evoke feelings of guilt, loss, and nostalgia, further complicating the decluttering process.

Identity and Self-Worth

Our possessions often serve as extensions of our identity, reflecting our interests, values, and aspirations. They make us think about our “fantasy self”. What we THINK or IMAGINE we’d like to do, look like, have, be and so on and that we must keep things in case we can find or become the ideal version of us that we have in our minds. Whether we really want to become any of these things might be open for debate. What we THINK we want is often not what we REALLY want (or need)!

Clutter can distort this reflection, making us question our self-identity and even sowing seeds of doubt about our worthiness or value. As clutter builds up, so too does the expectation we put on ourselves about what we think we should, have or must have or be and this can fuel feelings of inadequacy and insecurity.

Control and Anxiety

Clutter can be a sign that we’ve lost control over our surroundings and this awareness can make us feel anxious and distressed. The world is an uncertain place and keeping our personal environments tidy and clear is a way for many of us to reclaim and keep control over our personal space and give us some sense of peace and security.

I’ve a tendency for anxious overthinking. From childhood challenges, as a teenager through to adulthood, I used to crave control and this manifested itself in several ways. From eating disorder to workaholic, I’m a perfectionist that used to worry about everything – even stuff that I couldn’t control. So my environment became very important to me. Add into the mix that I’m an introvert and HSP (Highly Sensitive Person) and it’s a recipe that could often lead me to overdo many things, including trying to get my home 100% perfect.

With age, a few grey hairs (!), numerous ups and downs in life and the wisdom and experience that comes with that, I’m more than aware of the pros and cons of PERFECTIONISM, control and anxiety. But the relationship between CLUTTER, control and anxiety is one that I’m still finding my way through so I feel this example of how clutter causes stress particularly deeply!

Why clutter stresses us out

The Physical Toll of Clutter

But clutter doesn’t just mess with our minds – it can also affect our bodies.

Health Hazards

Cluttered spaces can be breeding grounds for dust, mould, and other allergens. Dust mites love to hang out in cluttered areas, and mould can grow in damp, dark corners. Breathing in all these allergens can make us feel sick and worsen conditions like asthma and allergies. Clear your clutter, spring clean and detox your home for better health.

Safety Risks

Ever tripped over a pile of stuff on the floor or trod on a painful piece of Lego?! Clutter can create safety hazards in our homes and workplaces, increasing the risk of accidents and injuries. From tripping over toys to slipping on papers, clutter can put us in harm’s way. Whilst the younger generation may be able to bounce back pretty quickly, the risk of slips and falls becomes more serious as we get older.

HOW TO BEAT CLUTTER STRESS

Now that we know why clutter stresses us out, how can we overcome these stressors by decluttering our stuff? Even more so without the actual process of decluttering becoming stressful in itself?

Here are some less stressful ways of decluttering:

Start Small

Trying to tackle all the clutter in your home at once can feel overwhelming. Instead, start with one small area, like a drawer or a closet. Breaking the task into smaller chunks makes it feel more manageable.

Declutter Regularly

Make decluttering a regular habit and part of your routine. Set aside some time each week to go through your stuff and get rid of things you don’t need. It’s like giving your space a little spring clean on a regular basis.

Find Homes for Your Stuff

Everything in your home should have a designated spot where it belongs. That way, you always know where to find things and where to put them away when you’re done using them.

Let Go of Perfectionism

It’s important to remember that decluttering is not about achieving perfection. It’s about creating a space that feels comfortable and functional for you. You don’t need to declutter everything, or over-analyse how and what you’re decluttering. Just do what you can so that it’s good enough, and good enough is perfect in itself!

Get Help if You Need It

If clutter feels like too much for you to handle on your own, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Whether it’s from a friend or family member, getting support can make the decluttering process a lot easier and less stressful.

IN CONCLUSION

Clutter may seem like just a nuisance, but it can have a big impact on our stress levels and overall well-being. By understanding why clutter stresses us out and taking steps to declutter our spaces, we can create environments that feel more peaceful and calming. So next time you’re feeling overwhelmed by clutter, remember that you have the power to take control and reclaim your space.

Why clutter stresses us out

SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS

I hope you enjoyed this article on why clutter stresses us out. How do you feel about your home if it’s cluttered? Does more clutter lead you to feel more stress? Have you thought about why your clutter causes you stress and, if so, was it for one of the reasons mentioned here – or something else?

I’d love to hear from you if you have something to add or share so please leave a comment below!

GET YOUR FREE DOWNLOAD

I mentioned above that one of the least stressful ways of decluttering is to start really small. So, if clutter is stressing you out, why not grab your copy of my free checklist with 40 quick decluttering projects that will each take just 5 minutes or less?

Pop your details in the box below so I know where to send it!

DON’T MISS OUT!

I’m Antonia and on this blog I share practical inspiration to simplify your home, time and life. Follow me on InstagramFacebook and Pinterest! You can also subscribe to Balance Through Simplicity and receive regular simplicity tips straight to your inbox for free. Make sure you never miss an article plus you’ll get a copy of my free Declutter Starter Kit as a welcome gift!

Nancy

Sunday 19th of May 2024

Hi Antonia! Thanks for this clarifying article. I feel indentified with the need to have everything under control and the stress it causes as this is not possible when you share your home with other members of your family. Thanks again!

Balance Through Simplicity

Sunday 19th of May 2024

Hi Nancy, I totally agree and this is how I felt too. I'm glad you enjoyed the article! Thank you for reading and for your comment.

Laura

Sunday 12th of May 2024

Hi Antonia, I think you've hit the nail on the head as to why clutter is so stressful. Everything you mentioned resonated with me. Thank you for articulating it so clearly!

Balance Through Simplicity

Sunday 12th of May 2024

Hi Laura, I'm so glad you enjoyed it! Thank you for your comment and for reading!