Clutter is more than having a little too much “stuff” in your home. It is not about having too little space or not enough time to keep your belongings organized. Being surrounded by clutter usually originates from an inability to throw things away. Over time, if left unchecked, what started as “a few too many things” can grow into compulsive hoarding.
Living surrounded by clutter is very different to being a collector of something. Scientific evidence shows that clutter or hoarding can be a symptom of a specific internal mental disorganization. It is a subtle form of procrastination and usually comes at the expense of a functional living space.
You may think that the messy piles of papers gathering dust on your desk, and your kitchen filled with unused knick-knacks, are worlds apart from hoarders who cannot access rooms in their house due to stacks of newspapers going back to 1972. However, studies indicate that all of these traits derive from the same place.
Because de-cluttering is a cognitive process, hoarders are usually good at justifying why something should be kept. Perhaps it’s by putting additional nostalgic or emotional value upon items, making them harder to part with. Or maybe it’s due to the practical reasons why something may come in useful someday. From mementos, to clothing, to gadgets, hoarders are very good at not throwing anything away.
So, it may be messy, but is there really any harm? Well, yes. Clutter can be very bad for both your physical and mental health.
Firstly, clutter can be a real safety concern. Excessive amounts of clutter can harbor mold, mildew, and accumulate dust, causing respiratory issues. A home filled with flammable stacks of magazines, or cardboard boxes of documents, or old electrical devices, is more of a fire hazard. Narrowing passageways become more difficult to traverse and can cause injury. All of this leads to an unhealthy living space.
An uncluttered environment is not only very important for your physical wellbeing, it can have a drastic impact on your mental state too. Living with clutter has been found to raise levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, leading to heightened anxiety, fatigue, and depression.
Living in a home filled with clutter with inevitably lead to disorganization. Time will be wasted looking for lost things. Frantic searches for keys can become a daily occurrence. In addition, costs can mount up as lost items need to be replaced. If bills are mislaid, late fees on overdue payments can arise. All of this causes more stress unnecessarily.
Clutter can also be distracting. You may not realize it, but constantly being surrounded by excessive clutter can get in the way of your ability to focus. Piles of laundry, stacks of papers, junk drawers crammed to excess, all of this may be over-stimulating your visual cortex causing you to be more distracted.
Donate to a charity shop. Throw out old newspapers. Go through those storage boxes. Not only will your home be a more pleasant place to spend time, your physical and mental health with greatly benefit from removing the clutter from your life.