Clutter is bad, even if you're not a hoarder

pile of shoes
CC BY 2.0 asteegabo

The amount of excess stuff in your house doesn't have to reach sensational reality TV levels before it has negative effects on your wellbeing.

Last week I wrote about "Swedish Death Cleaning" being the hot new decluttering trend. Readers loved the concept, but many took issue with the example of my mother filling her house with too much stuff, to the point of me telling her to get rid of it so I wouldn't have to deal with it when she passes away in the very-distant future.

"You are the only useless piece of clutter in your mother's life!" one person shrieked (via written commentary). My point is, there's a general sense that, unless clutter has reached hoarding level, the problem can't be all that bad.

That's where I beg to differ, along with a host of experts who believe that clutter creates a very real psychological burden on individuals. There are many reasons why one should fight clutter every step of the way, even before it gets bad.

1. Clutter compromises your perception of home.

Your home should be a retreat from the world, a place in which to take pride and to relax. If it's filled with clutter, that makes your home less enjoyable and, ultimately, creates feelings of dissatisfaction with life. As Psychology Today writes:

"Having too many of your things in too small a place will lead you to feel that your home environment is your enemy, not your friend."

2. Clutter makes it harder to accomplish tasks.

When you don't know where things are, you will waste time looking for them amid the mess. If there's no free space in which to do things, such as prepare clothes or fold laundry or put away toys, then those tasks take longer or remain unfinished. Clutter is an impediment to a streamlined, efficient life.

3. Clutter leads to unhealthier eating.

Organizing guru Peter Walsh, author of "Lose the Clutter, Lose the Weight," believes that living in a state of disorganization creates stress, which reduces willpower and leads to overeating. One might also argue that having a disorganized kitchen and full countertops makes one disinclined to prepare healthy meals.

4. Clutter makes you feel tired.

A study from the Princeton University Neuroscience Institute found that people living in cluttered spaces feel stressed, which drains energy and results in exhaustion. Good Housekeeping adds, "Plus, it makes it harder to focus and process information, so you have to try harder and expend more energy to do everyday tasks."

5. Clutter costs you money.

Disorganization comes at a cost, whether it's missing bills and having to pay late fees, replacing key items that you cannot locate, purchasing boxes and filing systems in an attempt to contain the mess, or hiring a professional organizer out of desperation.

So, no, I do not think I'm crazy for wanting my mother to deal with her surplus of belongings. She stands to benefit mentally in the process, with the added bonus of creating less for family members down the road. The decluttering journey should always be ongoing.

Tags: Cleaning | Consumerism | Health | Healthy Home | Less Is More | Minimalism

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