How does clutter lead to anxiety and stress?
Living in a world where everybody is striving for perfection, anything messy can challenge your mental and emotional well-being. Whether you have a messy life or a messy room, they all can trigger anxiety and stress. A recent study in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin unveils that women are more prone to having anxiety when inside a messy house. As per the research, when women were put in a disorganised or messy house, they sensed more tension and feelings of sadness in their bodies. Their bodies produce more cortisol, which is the stress hormone. On the flip side, when women lived in tidier houses, they felt less likely to feel sad during the day. It was interesting to note that this didn’t have much effect on men.
Health Shots got in touch with Jaisleen Kaur, Image Consultant, Life Coach and Soft-Skills Trainer, Dehradun, to understand the link between clutter and anxiety.
The link between clutter and anxiety
The connection between messy rooms or houses and anxiety is multifaceted, encompassing various factors that impact our daily lives. These points shed light on the broader implications of clutter on mental well-being, from procrastination and impaired sleep quality to financial stress and emotional attachment. Recognising the significance of our living environment and taking steps to declutter can help alleviate anxiety and improve overall mental health. While it may seem inconsequential, the state of our surroundings can profoundly impact our mental state in below listed ways.
1. Visual overload
“A cluttered environment can bombard our senses with excessive stimuli, leading to sensory overload. This overload can be overwhelming and exhausting, as our brains struggle to filter out irrelevant information. The constant visual chaos can induce stress and anxiety, making it difficult to relax and unwind in our own space. Visual clutter, such as stacks of papers, scattered belongings, or disorganised furniture, can make it challenging for our minds to find a sense of calm,” says the expert.
2. Decision fatigue
The clutter in our living spaces often results in decision fatigue. When faced with a cluttered environment, we are presented with numerous decisions – where to put things, what to clean first, and how to navigate the space. These seemingly trivial decisions can add up and deplete our mental energy, leaving us feeling mentally drained and anxious. The cognitive load of constantly making these decisions can contribute to heightened stress levels.
3. Feeling out of control
The expert says, “A messy room can evoke feelings of being out of control. When we cannot find what we need or our space feels chaotic, it can lead to a sense of helplessness and disarray, contributing to increased anxiety levels. The lack of organisation can create a perception that our lives are similarly disordered, intensifying feelings of unease and worry”.
4. The physical and mental connection
Living in a cluttered environment can lead to increased cortisol levels, a stress hormone. This physical response to clutter can exacerbate anxiety symptoms. The clutter-stress connection is a vicious cycle, with clutter causing stress and stress making it more difficult to tackle the clutter. Elevated cortisol levels are associated with a range of physical and mental health issues, making the impact of clutter on our overall well-being all the more significant.
5. Reduced productivity
“A cluttered space can hinder productivity and focus. When we are constantly surrounded by disorganisation, it can be challenging to concentrate on tasks. The presence of clutter can create a distracting environment, leading to increased stress and anxiety about meeting deadlines and managing responsibilities. This reduced productivity can, in turn, contribute to feelings of inadequacy and heightened stress levels,” adds our expert.
6. Shame, embarrassment and social isolation
A messy environment can also lead to feelings of shame and embarrassment. When friends or family visit, the anxiety of exposing a cluttered space can be overwhelming, causing social anxiety and avoidance behaviours. These emotions can further isolate individuals, exacerbating their anxiety.
7. Procrastination and avoidance
A cluttered environment can lead to procrastination and avoidance behaviours. When faced with a messy space, individuals may find it easier to delay important tasks or avoid cleaning altogether. This avoidance can result in heightened anxiety as deadlines approach, and the clutter continues to accumulate.
8. Impaired sleep quality
The expert narrates, “Psychologists have noted that a cluttered bedroom can impact sleep quality. A disorganised sleeping environment can lead to restlessness and difficulty falling asleep, as our minds struggle to relax in the presence of chaos. Poor sleep, in turn, contributes to increased anxiety and stress levels”.
9. Financial stress
A cluttered environment can result in financial stress. Lost bills or overlooked financial documents in a cluttered space can lead to missed payments, fines, or late fees. This financial burden can contribute to heightened anxiety.
10. Difficulty concentrating on yourself
“A cluttered home can make it difficult for you to follow a proper self-care routine. The constant visual distractions and mental clutter can make it challenging to focus on activities that promote mental well-being, such as meditation, yoga, or simply finding a quiet space to relax,” claims the expert.
11. Emotional attachment to clutter
Emotional attachment people can have to clutter can also be a source of anxiety. Letting go of sentimental items or things that represent past experiences can be emotionally challenging, creating a mental tug-of-war between decluttering and holding onto the past.