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5 Ways Clutter Can Tear Into Your Mental Health

Guest Writer Sophie Arbour is a master storyteller and jumped at an opportunity to help out a fellow writer by contributing to her blog about all things Organizing!

Please check out Sophie's own blog by clicking in the bio at the bottom of this article!


Ah, clutter: tumbling accidents waiting to happen. The term refers to having too many

possessions – documents, knickknacks, furniture – cramped in rooms too small to hold

them. As these belongings accumulate, they become too much to handle and organize.

The result is an out-of-control environment: a bric-a-brac on the table, behind bedroom

doors, and in the closet that doesn’t shut anymore.

Clutter can also be digital. Years ago, I had a colleague – a responsible, capable team

leader – whose inbox I couldn’t believe existed. I ended up asking for confirmation.

“Do you… have 11,000 unread emails?”

“Uh… Yeah. I have 11,000 unread emails. …yes.”

We laughed about it, but clutter shouldn’t be taken lightly. Its effects on mental health can be surprising – and dire.

Here are five ways a cramped and disorganized environment puts a strain on the mind:

1. Distraction

Clutter can make it harder for your brain to focus. That’s because the mess you’re sharing

your space with is, in itself, a (pressing) task at hand that’s hard to ignore.

Clutter acts as a stimulus that’s nagging at you while you try to work – or worse: relax!

We’ve all been there: trying to immerse ourselves in a good book or TV series… in a

messy environment we’re too tired to tidy up.

Not quite the same experience, is it?

2. Embarrassment & Isolation

Have you ever had a relative, neighbour, or friend knock on your door at a time when the

clutter in your home made you embarrassed to answer? Or perhaps the mess is so bad that even preparing the house for a planned visit seems impossible.

If this is you, take heart: you’re not alone in this. But the irony is, being in that position just might make you more alone than you’d like.

Clutter can foster isolation, as the associated shame and embarrassment limit social

interaction, and isolation can, in turn, lead to other issues. In a recent WebMD article,

health writer Barbara Brody touches on the possible connection between a hoarding

disorder – a compulsive habit of accumulating possessions – and other mental health

conditions, such as depression.


3. Impaired Visual & Emotional Abilities

On to a particularly surprising effect: according to recent research, people struggle to

interpret the facial expressions of movie characters when scenes unfold in cluttered


In an article on Psychology Today, health and wellness author Susan Whitbourne

suggests that this effect could carry over to real life, meaning that chaotic surroundings

could stunt our ability to read other people and understand their emotions.

It’s not clear why that is, but it might be connected to the distracting and stressful effects

of clutter.

4. Procrastination

Procrastination and clutter go hand in hand, according to research published in 2017. And

when we begin putting important things off, our self-esteem starts crumbling.

Procrastination is a hot topic. You might have seen recent articles with titles along the

lines of: “You’re not lazy. You’re overwhelmed/burnt out.” Or “Procrastination is not due

to laziness, but to avoidance.”

Making us feel extremely good about ourselves is not their only virtue; these articles

point to the emotional component of work. Once clutter begins setting in, it can take a toll

on our wellbeing and make any task feel dauting.

This leads to more procrastination, which leads to… more work, clutter, and emotional

mountains to climb.

5. Reduced Self-Control & Weight Gain

I have a confession to make. When my kitchen is cluttered – piles of dirty dishes lie on

the counter because I’ve been busy and exhausted – I find it harder to leave my house.

I check everything twice, even three times: the cooker, the other appliances, the lock on the patio door. The mess in my kitchen makes me feel nervous; I have a nagging, persistent fear that I’ll overlook something important.

Ever experienced a similar situation?

This might be due to the fact that, according to research conducted in 2017, clutter is a

factor in certain out-of-control behaviours, such as binge eating. In the US-Australian

study, the participants in a chaotic kitchen ate twice as many cookies as those in an

orderly kitchen!


Decluttering is no small enterprise, but your mental health will benefit greatly from a

tidier home.

With time and dedication, anyone can turn a cluttered home into a harmonious

environment. And just as clutter and discouragement breed more clutter and

discouragement, getting started on organizing your living space will energize you and

leave you wanting to do more.

Tips to get the ball rolling include dedicating a specific amount of time to decluttering

every evening, or, if that’s too much, every week. A professional organizer can also help

you turn your chaos into a serene home.

It’s time to take back control and offer yourself the living environment you deserve!


Ready to get started?

So am I! Check out my Services to find the perfect organizing package/service for you!

Fill out the form here to arrange your complimentary 30-minute phone consult with me, a Certified Professional Organizer, TODAY! 📱

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About the Organizer: Brittany Smith lives in Ottawa, Canada with her husband and feline furbaby Zoey. She is a Certified Professional Organizer, Owner, and Founder of Control the Chaos, a Professional Organizing business that provides personalized in-home, paper and digital organizing services aimed at transforming anyone's chaos into calm.

About the Author: Sophie holds a specialized graduate degree in media, culture and technology from The Université de Montréal. After working as a communications coordinator for a pan-Canadian charity, she went on to become a freelance writer. Her goal is to craft engaging content for non-profits and businesses, writing news releases, blog posts, and nearly anything in between. She now lives near Ottawa. You can contact her on LinkedIn and visit her blog: Nooks and Coves.

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