How to avoid the negative effects of clutter

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Do you live with piles of papers, toys, clothes, and other clutter scattered around your home? Ever feel uncomfortable or anxious because of it? If you want to have lasting peace and calm in your life, it’s super important to stop ignoring the negative effects of clutter.

Research about the relationship between clutter and stress shows that a cluttered home is linked to procrastination, increased levels of the stress hormone cortisol, and overeating. Seeing piles of clothes, unopened junk mail, loads of laundry, a messy desk or kitchen table, and other disarray really causes most people to experience the negative effects of clutter–feeling anxious and overwhelmed, sometimes even depressed. It’s hard to achieve a sense of calm when there’s chaos all around, in the form of physical eyesores or the insidious kind that attacks your mind.

That’s why it’s important to corral the clutter in your life and get your family involved! I know in my house, the kids cause more clutter than I do, and the battle is real. And different family members define clutter in different ways, such as deciding that stacks of empty boxes are not clutter because we may need to return something. But, taking steps to get control of the disorder is the start of creating calm. Read on, and I’ll tell you more about that.

The first negative effects of clutter: Stress

Each person’s definition of clutter is different. We all have our comfort level when it comes to the amount of stuff we want to have around us and to enter our lives. However, it’s when you begin to have a negative reaction to all of this input that you see the relationship between clutter and stress. At this individualized and personal point, you’re dealing with the negative effects of clutter. Usually, you arrive at this breaking point because the disarray you’re facing finally affects you. Whether you’re feeling closed in and agitated or you’re physically constrained by the mess, it’s time to address the problem.

Benefits of Clutter Control on Stress Levels

There are loads of good things that come from controlling the clutter in your world. First, cleaning duties lessen because there’s less to clean, less to move, less to maintain. Second, you’ll likely feel an increased sense of energy because you’ll spend less time looking for things you’ve misplaced and will no longer feel the overwhelming negative emotional effects of clutter. Reduce clutter and stress goes down. This can lead to greater productivity and getting more done.

Studies even show that folks begin to make improvements in other areas of their lives such as diet and exercise once they lift the “weight” of excess clutter. If you tend toward emotional eating, reducing clutter may be the key that you’re missing. Taking action in this one aspect of your life can have tremendous impact on other areas. Finally, you’ll be much closer to achieving the calm you seek once you start to pare things down.

Start Eliminating Clutter and Stress

The hardest part of ridding your life of the negative effects of clutter is getting started. This is especially true if you’ve lived in chaos for a long time. The good news is that this problem is relatively easy to tackle once you overcome your initial resistance. The best place to start is the one that is causing you the most stress. For example, if entering your messy living room at the end of the day makes the idea of relaxing impossible, begin to clear things out in that room. Having a place to unwind at the end of the day might just be the catalyst you need to motivate you toward clearing out other cluttered places.

Case Study: The Messy Study Table

Let’s say that your study table–or perhaps kitchen table–is the clutter center that causes you the most stress. Some folks feel that a messy study table can inspire creativity. This may be true, but where’s the line between messy and chaotic? It can be hard to tell. If your table is covered in papers and your file folders are strewn everywhere, there’s a good chance your productivity and creativity are some of the ways you are impacted by the negative effects of clutter. It could be the reason that it’s hard to get your homeschooling organized, hard to find what you or your children were working on, and hard to find materials. All of this can result in more stress and a flustered mindset.

Negatively affects relationships

One of the negative effects of clutter may even be that your relationships suffer. You may be embarrassed to have friends over or host classes because you are afraid of what others may think. Have you invited folks over anyway and endured their silent disapproval? No one wants to feel that way. How does your spouse feel about the messy study table? Sometimes, the mess and clutter causes arguments and strained relationships.

Zaps time and energy

Another one of the negative effects of clutter is that you waste time searching for things you need in order to homeschool or manage your home. This could be hours each week. Along with this lost productivity comes the stress of not being able to find what you need. (Ever lose bills? Important letters?) It can take a toll on your mental state and even affect your creativity and critical thinking. Visual clutter also zaps your energy. You feel overwhelmed simply by being surrounded by the mess on a daily basis. This feeling of being inundated can also take away your motivation, lessening your productivity. Who wants to sort through all that?

The key is figuring out how to corral the clutter so that you can work more efficiently in an environment that energizes you. So, let’s explore some ways to do that.

negative effects of clutter in a very cluttered room
Envisioning the benefits of a clear table…

A clean table or desk allows your eye to flow, making you feel more energized. It will boost productivity when you’re able to find what you need and make fewer mistakes. Increased productivity is a catalyst that leads to getting even more done. This type of success feeds on itself. The more you get done, the more you can look forward to accomplishing long-term goals. Your children are happier, too, because they can find what they need. And, they learn the important life skill of being neat and organized.

How to clean up the messy table

Cleaning up the mess will take a concerted effort. Be brutal by getting rid of everything you don’t need. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve allowed old projects and papers to pile up! Getting some crates with hanging files allowed me to put necessary papers in their place. I decided on a system to help me decide what to keep and what to toss concerning my children’s projects. I got some storage containers to hold supplies. When you clear out, use my suggestions and try to avoid placing items on surrounding furniture such as chairs or cabinets. That’s not truly clearing clutter, right? It’s just moving it around. Then, you won’t have anywhere to sit or you’ll eventually have another place to clean!

And keep it clean!

Once you’ve cleared away the clutter, keep it neat by reducing your paper intake. Use email and other electronic methods such as scanning documents whenever possible. Create new folders on your desktop to keep all those downloads you use for learning. That way, you avoid buying things twice and you don’t forget to use them. Do a sweep under your desk or table every evening, putting things away and clearing surfaces to be sure those negative effects of clutter don’t creep back in. Limit your tendency to create piles in the first place by setting up labeled baskets for important papers and things you need to look through later.  Don’t let a messy desk or table be your undoing. A few simple steps will help keep your workspace tidy and improve your productivity, not to mention improving your mental outlook.

Negative Effects of Clutter Are Physical and Mental

Now that you’ve gotten a feel for what decluttering can look like, let’s dive into the different types of clutter. Clutter can come in many forms. For simplicity’s sake, I’d like to break it down into two main types. These are physical clutter and mental clutter. Each has a heavy impact on your stress levels. They both are likely to play a role in keeping you from having peace in your life. Therefore, I think it’s important to take a look at each type, definite it, and examine ways both can negatively affect you.

Physical Clutter

Physical clutter is easy to understand. This is the kind of mess you can see. It’s the piles of clothing, papers, dishes, and more that are strewn around your home. It’s the overabundance of things you’ve been holding onto for years because they’re sentimental or you might use them one day. Sometimes, we save things because we think we’re being good stewards and maybe in some instances, we are. But, many times, our good intentions only add to our “to do” lists (I should fix that, I could reuse those). And, our frugality can become idolatry when we become preoccupied with it.

Or, another way we can become idolatrous is by keeping things because of their monetary value even though we never use them (keeping old jewelry/albums/dolls). Evaluating our underlying reasons for accumulating physical clutter helps us let go of it and avoid the negative effects of clutter. And, it is the first step toward ridding ourselves of all that ensnares us and keeps us from the peace Jesus offers.

Digital clutter

And don’t forget another form of physical clutter: digital clutter. This comes in the form of the many tabs you keep open in your computer browser or the tons of media you consume each day. It can also be the unorganized way you deal with all those e-books, printables, and other digital media downloaded on your computer. Many people inadvertently purchase the same product twice because they couldn’t find it on their computer.

These are many examples of things can be seen. They consume large amounts of your resources such as time, space, and money.

One of the Worst Negative Effects of Clutter is Mental!

Mental clutter isn’t as simple to define. It involves the overload of information, along with nagging emotional issues, that overwhelm your mind. This type of internal congestion can include your long to-do list, negative thoughts, toxic relationships, unforgiveness, or bad habits. Romans 12:2 tells us, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Identifying the source of our mental clutter helps us toward this end. The source of such mess usually lies in emotions like fear, regret, worry, guilt, or shame. Throughout this challenge we will work on addressing these issues so you can purge yourself of them.

Additional Negative Effects of Clutter in the Mind and Home

Ridding yourself of clutter, both physical and mental, can truly increase your feelings of joy and calm. It can lead to less stress and overall greater well-being. Most importantly, you address the root issues that keep you from enjoying the peace Christ offers.

The negative effects, both spiritually and mentally, of too much clutter are astounding. Decreased mental health is one of the biggest issues that develops from surrounding yourself with all sorts of clutter. Studies show that mental hygiene is improved when physical clutter is kept under control, both in the home and in the workplace. Too much physical clutter impairs visual processing. It can be incredibly distracting to see lots of piles and messes in your surroundings. This can lead you to miss cues regarding people’s emotions and other important information. This only adds to your mental clutter. In addition, excess clutter adversely affects your cognition and clarity of mind. You simply can’t think straight when you’ve got a whirlwind of thoughts and emotions swirling around in your head.

This is merely an overview of the ramifications that come from physical and mental clutter. However, the information above should give you some insight into how important it can be to clean things up in both your physical world and within your mind. Doing so can lead to tremendous benefits in your spiritual walk, in your relationships, and in your overall health.

Ready to get started decluttering? Let’s go!

As we’ve discussed, there are two types of clutter – physical and mental. Removing much of the physical clutter can actually have a big impact on getting rid of the mental kind, leading you to feel more relaxed. It lessens the chaos around you and helps you to feel more in control of your environment. There’s no one right way to declutter. It simply involves providing a less visually and physically obstructed space in which you feel comfortable.

Get ready to say, “aaah!”

When you get rid of the clutter in your home, you make it easier to find things. Thus, you’ll save time. You’ll also save yourself the panic of having lost items in the first place. It also gives you peace of mind and a sense of security to know that things are in their place. You free up physical space when you get rid of the mess, meaning you’ll have more room to move around freely. That open space is visually calming for your brain, as well. Research shows that clutter raises levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, in our bodies.

Tips for decluttering

The biggest suggestion I have when it comes to decluttering is simply to start. Just making a move to get started can often provide the momentum and motivation to keep going. Perhaps clearing just one surface is the step that will help you to feel you’ve made some progress. Something else that often helps a great deal is to begin by getting rid of things that can be thrown away. Removing that type of useless, physical clutter is quite freeing.

If you need some motivation, cleaning by category or type can help. Choose one kind of item such as books to get rid of or, my personal favorite, tackle just one room at a time. I like to start with one room, and go from top to bottom. I choose the least cluttered room first so I gain a sense of accomplishment. This provides the encouragement to keep me going. I also make sure to get the kids and hubby involved. More about that in a moment.

Decluttering your home can have such an impact on your overall mindset. That sense of calm is likely to spill over into other areas of your life. Making just a few small changes spurs on larger ones, so just get started on a small home-decluttering project today to see where it takes you on your journey to peace. Decluttering also makes cleaning chores easier and more fun for everyone.

Enlist helpers!

It’s also a good idea to enlist help in order to make the process more manageable and less overwhelming. Ask your family or spouse to pitch in. One way to do this is to have bins: to keep, to sell/give away, to throw away. Finally, make sure you actually get rid of anything you don’t use and that you have a a specified “home” for what you decide to keep. When you cut down on the amount of stuff and put things in their place, you’ll find life becomes a whole lot less hectic.

These are just a handful of suggestions for minimizing the clutter. I encourage you to take a walk through your home and make an inventory of some of your worst culprits. In my house, for example, it’s empty boxes, papers, clothes, and old grocery bags (yes…). Take that first step and start combatting the negative effects of clutter to save your health! And if you really feel overwhelmed and don’t know where to start, The Decluttering School has got you covered! Head over there and any of Sarah’s coaches can help you take on the clutter step-by-step.

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