Clutter can cause stress.

The mental cost of clutter

According to a 2015 survey, from the American Psychological Association, average stress levels in the U.S. rose from 4.9 in 2014 to 5.1 on a 10-point scale. According to UCLA’s Center on Everyday Lives and Families (CELF), cluttered and unorganized spaces play a role in how we feel about our homes, our workplaces and ourselves. Thus, clutter has profound effect on our mood, self-esteem and stress levels.

How mess leads to stress

In short, clutter is over stimulation. Piles of papers, stacks of books or toys strewn across the floor, force your senses to process stimuli that just aren’t important. That extra work for your senses makes it difficult to relax, mentally or physically.

Clutter can also make you feel guilty—prompting thoughts such as, “I should be more organized. How long will it take me to deal with this? Why don’t I clean more?” The pressure to be more or do more is very stressful.

In the end, our stress level might come down to the amount of stuff we have. Studies show that the more items we own, the more stressed we become. For instance, CELF found a link between high levels of a stress hormone and a high number of household objects when talking to female home owners.

Cut out clutter

Stress has many factors, but one of the easiest life stressors to handle is clutter. Cut out clutter, and you just might see a change in your attitude.

Here are some ways you can declutter:

  • Designated spaces—create boxes or shelves for frequently used items. Make sure they are easy to access because that makes them easier to put away when you’re done with them.
  • Pick up parties—Get the entire family to help pick up. Gather in one room, turn on some music and see how many items everyone can pick up during one song. Make it a friendly competition.
  • Pending folders—at work and at home, papers pile up. Get a folder to store all pending items or bills. Recycle them or file them once the work is done.

If your stress is a chronic problem, learn the difference between stress and anxiety. Call Community Behavioral Health services at 317-621-5719 or visit