No one likes to look at a cluttered house, but now we are beginning to understand how clutter causes stress and anxiety and can even contribute to depression in moms.
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If you’re like most people, you probably have too much stuff. It might not be a lot of stuff in the grand scheme of things, but it’s enough to make your home feel cluttered. And that clutter can have a real impact on your mental health. In fact, clutter has been linked to higher levels of stress and anxiety, and in extreme cases, depression.
How Clutter Causes Stress and Anxiety
Our homes are supposed to be our safe havens. They should be the places where we can go to relax and unwind after a long day, but for many women, their homes are a source of stress and anxiety. If your home is cluttered and disorganized, it can have a negative impact on your mental and emotional health. The amount of clutter in the home can make the home a constant source of stress.
What is clutter?
Clutter can be defined as a collection of things lying around in an untidy mess. Clutter can be anything that makes your space feel cramped or disorganized. It can be physical items like clothes, shoes, books, toys, or trinkets. Or it can be less tangible things like bills or unfinished projects. Regardless of what form it takes, clutter can have a real impact on your mental health.
Clutter causes anxiety.
When your homes is cluttered, its as if you are always in a low level of fight or flight because you are always thinking about all the things that need to be done to clean up the clutter. There is the constant worry about a visitor showing up unannounced. When your home is cluttered, it’s uncomfortable to look at and uncomfortable to think about. That discomfort causes your brain to identify your home as something to be avoided because it will cause you pain.
One study found that women with messy homes were more likely to experience symptoms of depression and anxiety. Another study found that people who felt their homes were cluttered were also more likely to score higher on measures of depression, fatigue, and stress.
Clutter is a stressor.
A stressor is something that causes strain or tension. When your house is cluttered, every time you walk in your home you experience tension because every where you look there is a reminder of what you have not done to clear the clutter. When you cannot find things due to clutter, that causes stress.
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Clutter can make you sick.
When your home is cluttered, you feel stress every time you look at it or think about it. Stress has profound physical effects on the body. Stress can suppress your immune system, upset your digestive and reproductive systems, increase the risk of heart attack and stroke, and speed up the aging process. It can even rewire the brain, leaving you more vulnerable to anxiety, depression, and other mental health problems, as mentioned above.
Clutter makes it hard to focus.
Clutter can make it difficult to focus for a couple of reasons. First, the distraction of all the untidy piles of items pulls your focus energy. It is difficult for our brains to make sense of our environment if that environment is cluttered. One study found that physical disorder in an environment leads to mental disorder. In other words, the messier your space is, the harder it is to focus and be productive. The same study found that people with tidy homes were more likely to report higher levels of life satisfaction and happiness.
Clutter makes it hard to sleep.
As I mentioned before, clutter causes stress. High levels of stress impair sleep by prolonging how long it takes to fall asleep and fragmenting sleep. Sleep loss triggers our body’s stress response system, leading to an elevation in stress hormones, namely cortisol, which further disrupts sleep.
Clutter decreases productivity.
Clutter makes us less productive by triggering coping and avoidance strategies such as snacking on junk food when we aren’t hungry and binging on TV shows, both of which can again affect our physical health.
When you’re surrounded by clutter, it can be hard to find anything. This can lead to frustration and increased stress levels. Not being able to find things can also lead to feelings of inadequacy and failure. If your home is in disarray, it can feel like your life is in disarray. This can be especially true for women and mothers who have a lot of responsibility both at work and at home.
If you’re feeling stressed or anxious, take a look around your home. Is it cluttered? If so, that could be the reason why. Decluttering is an excelled form of self care, especially for stay at home moms who spend the majority of their time in their homes. By decluttering your home, you’ll be able to reduce your stress levels and create a more peaceful environment.
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