Have you stood in front of clothing piles designated “keep” or “toss” while starring at a T-shirt you haven’t worn in a year? Do you struggle with paperwork piles on your work desk? How is your shoe collection looking?
Netflix show Tidying Up host Marie Kondo recommends asking, “does it spark joy?” when deciding if something will be kept or tossed in the trash (or donation pile). The 2019 show gained tons of attention and kickstarted a new wave of organization addicts across the world.
Tidy-home-enthusiasts are here to stay, and companies continue to pop up who specialize in organizing and purging your home (see: Neat Method and Clutter Busters). In fact, there are Instagram accounts with thousands of followers sharing their tidy-home hacks (see: The Tidy Home Nashville).
So, why is this such a popular and relatable topic? Two reasons.
One: Studies continue to show American’s are overwhelmed with clutter and don’t know what to do with it. One study reports 54% of American’s have this problem.
Two: A tidy home can benefit mental health. This claim is also heavily evidence-based.
When we feel stressed or overwhelmed our space starts to reflect that. From the mounds of mail that hasn’t been sorted, a messy counter space, or an overflowing laundry basket. While it is a common symptom of stress and a busy schedule, it's also a fact of life that things stack up and cleaning goes on the back burner. Even so, it can really benefit you to catch it early and focus on de-cluttering.
With that said, you may be a part of the majority who have some cluttered areas in your home. Now what?
Clutter isn’t just an eyesore- It’s affecting your mental health in more ways than you can imagine. A 2017 analysis by the University of South Carolina showed many studies pointed to a comfortable environment is essential to mental hygiene.
Similar to the term “personal hygiene” which the U.S. Department of Health preaches in terms of bathing, brushing teeth and other personal cleaning habits, mental hygiene includes all measures taken to promote and to preserve mental health.
To achieve the best mental health, there are things you can be doing to practice mental hygiene. One pillar to mental hygiene is the environment you are in, and cleanliness or organization of the space.
Studies show your home and workplace have an effect on your mental health and behaviors which in turn affect your mental health as well. This includes your diet, ability to understand and communicate with others, and overall mood.
We know your diet plays a role in mental health and eating delicious healthy foods is an awesome way to practice self-care. Studies show a hectic and unorganized environment can directly correlate to choosing junk food over nutritious foods. A 2017 study showed participants chose cookies and snacks over healthier foods in a cluttered environment.
Feel stressed when there’s a strain on a relationship or you’re unable to successfully communicate with someone? Difficulty in understanding and communicating with others can cause stress and impact mental health.
Interestingly enough, your cluttered space might be impacting your ability to see eye to eye with someone. In a study by Cornell University in 2016, researchers examined the link between a highly cluttered background in a movie scene and the ability of viewers to interpret emotional expressions of characters. This isn’t a far jump to adapt this to our daily lives with people we live or work with. This is all to say, a cluttered space can be too much to process and can make it difficult to fully understand what someone is saying to you.
Our brain does best in an organized, straight forward environment. The more clutter, the more difficult it is to focus, understand, and interpret.
Studies continue to show the effect of clutter on the brain in terms of efficient thinking and memory. One study found the more clutter, the more competition the brain has to work effectively. Additionally, another study proved your working memory will suffer in cluttered environments as well.
In short, a cluttered environment (home or work) will affect the quickness and efficiency of the brain as well as impacts your behaviors that can also affect your mental health.
It’s pretty clear you’ll be doing your brain a favor if you dedicate some time to declutter. Depending on how your space is, you might feel overwhelmed by this idea. No problem, we have some helpful tips to declutter!
You don’t have to do a complete overhaul of your home today. That is unrealistic and sounds stressful in itself. Start small with one space or room at a time.
Grab a trash bag and take a walk around the house or a room you want to start in. Chances are you’ll get rid of some stuff right off the bat.
It might help you to keep in mind your things can be donated and enjoyed by others. De-cluttering doesn’t have to mean ditching all of your once-loved belongings in the garbage.
Staring at that old shirt from high school or pants that are a few sizes too small can be difficult to part with, but using this tactic can help you make those tough decisions. Another way to help with the decision is to go by expiration date and if a style is still "in" or not.
Ask yourself, "does it spark joy?"
Your brain is almost magic in the things it can do. At Mooditude, we strive to give you the tools to elevate your mood and achieve the best mental health you can. Mental cleanliness is the goal and you get there by practicing mental hygiene each day. We love to talk about self-care, meditation, mindfulness, and sleep-- But what about the environment you’re in where all of this goes down?
As you read, experts consistently link a cluttered home or workspace to stress and poor mental health, so you may want to make decluttering a priority in your mental health journey.