cluttered room

The Mental Cost of Clutter

A late 2018 poll from the American Psychological Association shows that Americans are pretty stressed. 74% of adults say they regularly feel stressed, and 63% say they’re stressed about their health specifically.

It’s no surprise that stress affects our health, but what affects our stress? 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 homeowners.

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 stress is affecting your work life, here are some more tips on how to beat burnout and reduce your stress level. To talk to a primary care doctor about stress. If you’re looking for a doctor, try our Find A Doc tool or call 317-621-2727.