A woman in a messy room with her hands on her head for post entitled Clutter and Depression - The Surprising Link Between the Two

The Surprising Link Between Clutter and Depression

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Clutter and depression. It’s been proven that a cluttered home can equal a cluttered mind. Dishes in the sink, piles of laundry strewn about, STUFF on every surface. It’s no wonder that we can feel down and depressed.

The Link Between Clutter and Depression

Researchers at UCLA’s Center on Everyday Lives and Families (CELF) discovered when they explored in real time the relationship between 32 California families and the thousands of objects in their homes found a startling correlation between clutter and mood. The resulting book, “Life at Home in The Twenty-First Century,” is a rare look at how middle-class Americans use the space in their homes and interact with the things they accumulate over a lifetime.

A woman looking at a messy room with her hands on her head and text overlay that says Clutter and Depression and the Surprising Link Between the Two

It turns out that there is a clear link between clutter and depression as well as our mood and self-esteem. CELF’s anthropologists, social scientists, and archaeologists found:

A link between high cortisol (stress hormone) levels in female home owners and a high density of household objects. – The more stuff, the more stress women feel. Men, on the other hand, don’t seem bothered by mess, which accounts for tensions between tidy wives and their clutter bug hubbies.

Women associate a tidy home with a happy and successful family – The more dishes that pile up in the sink, the more anxious women feel.

Even families that want to reduce clutter often are emotionally paralyzed when it comes to sorting and pitching objects – They either can’t break sentimental attachments to objects or believe their things have hidden monetary value.

Although U.S. consumers bear only 3% of the world’s children, we buy 40% of the world’s toys – And these toys live in every room, fighting for display space with kids’ trophies, artwork, and snapshots of their last soccer game.

It turns out that there is a clear link between clutter and depression as well as our mood and self-esteem. Click To Tweet

The Real Impact of Clutter on Mood and Emotions

Sue’s Story

Since I was a teenager (Sue), I have suffered with depression and anxiety.

For me, if my home or any room in my home is messy, it greatly affects my mood. Over time, I found that organizing (and the resulting effects of organizing) helps to keep the depression at bay.

I believe (and research on clutter and depression have validated that belief) that when I am organized or in the process of organizing, I feel more in control of my life and surroundings.

You can read more about Sue’s story on her post Christians and Depression.

Diane’s Story

Unlike Sue, I did not begin to suffer with anxiety until my early 30’s. In fact, I didn’t care one bit if my house wasn’t tidy. I was a messy teen and a messy young adult.

But as time went on, I started to experience anxiety and then later depression. It was at THAT time that clutter of ANY kind (physical or digital) would cause a very real emotional response in me. If my kitchen counter was cluttered, I got stressed out.

My house now has to be clean or else I can neither focus nor relax.

Now I have kids and a 70 lb. bulldog and budgies so I am not going to pretend my house is a museum because it is not and I don’t try to keep it that way. I would do nothing BUT clean if I did. But once it crosses the line between looking “lived in” and looking like a plain old mess, that is where I begin to see a physiological reaction.

So we live in our house but I try my best to not let it cross the line between that and unnecessarily messy.

There is no need to let unnecessary clutter build up and begin affecting your mood. You can get organized and minimize as well and learn to live with less.

I am not saying it is easy! Dealing with your clutter is difficult. You need to make decisions that might mean parting with things you might have formed an emotional attachment to but haven’t even looked at in 3 years.

But the overall impact of dealing with this clutter will mean improved overall mental health and better moods overall.

So You See a Link in Your Own Life Between Your Clutter and Depression?

Are you feeling depressed or anxious? Is your home (or office) cluttered? There may very well be a correlation.

If your entire home is cluttered, just the thought of purging or organizing may be paralyzing. Start by reading these previous posts on Minimalism For Beginners – Living With Less and How to Get Started With Digital Decluttering. In it we share tools to help you decide where to start and the basics of decluttering.

We also have a couple of courses that can help you get your home decluttered and organized; One Cupboard at a Time and/or the mini-course One Drawer at a Time. You can even get the bundle and have both of them for a lower price!

And be sure to sign up for our 30 Day Clean Home Decluttering Challenge Workbook below!

Once you begin the process, you’ll will feel a sense of accomplishment which may motivate you to continue.

Let me know how you make out and if indeed, reducing the clutter, reduces your feelings of depression or anxiety.

If you need more resources, I’ve found these to be good ones to help reduce clutter:

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2 Comments

    1. I’m glad that it was helpful to you! I took a study course and sat for the exam. There are several reputable ones out there 🙂 Thanks for stopping by!

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