It doesn’t take a study to know that just looking at your living room after a toy tornado blows through is enough to drive any parent crazy. However, there is an actual scientific explanation for why that clutter causes anxiety.
Studies have shown that a messy, chaotic surrounding can take a toll on your mental well-being. According to psychologist Sherrie Bourg Carter, clutter can cause anxiety for several specific reasons. On a more obvious level, it makes it challenging to relax and makes people feel anxious and guilty about all the cleaning and organizing needed to be done. However, it can also overwhelm people due to the excessive amount of stimuli your senses are taking in. It is also distracting and can inhibit creativity and the ability to be productive.
Interestingly clutter doesn’t affect everyone the same way. According to research published by anthropologists for UCLA’s Center on Everyday Lives, a cluttered home hurts women more than it does men. The researchers, who were studying what aspects of home life lead to stress, found that managing clutter in many households caused elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol specifically in moms.
Clinical psychologist Scott Bea, PsyD. suggests some simple ways to declutter and minimize that anxiety. First, create a plan and enlist some help in executing it. “Getting some outside assistance to help with the decision-making process is one of the most effective ways to overcome the stress associated with clutter,” says Dr. Bea. It can also help to break down your organization by rooms or areas so that it doesn’t feel so overwhelming. Once you’ve cleared some things out it’s important to create some rules to help avoid the mess from being recreated.
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