Do you look around your home and wonder how it got so full of knickknacks, or scan your office and ask yourself how it got to be so buried in neglected piles of paper? What about your calendar: is it filled with appointments stretching indefinitely into the future? Is your email box so overflowing that you don’t even feel like wading in to try to address any but the biggest emergencies?
Generally speaking, our external environment can have a strong influence over how we feel internally and how we behave. Our environment can affect our mood for better or for worse, and different people may respond differently to certain environments. Similarly, individuals have different levels of tolerance when it comes to clutter and disorganization.
For some people, clutter is a minor nuisance or something they can easily overlook. They actually like a certain amount of chaos in their environment, as it makes them feel freer and more creative. For others, it can have a significant impact on their mental health. They become overwhelmed by the messiness and consequently become anxious or depressed.
If you fall into the latter camp, then a place that’s in disarray can make you feel mentally overloaded, drained or lacking control. It can interrupt your flow — both your ability to move and your ability to think. It becomes an obstacle to your well-being:
1. Low subjective well-being
Living in clutter impedes your identification with your home, which should be a retreat from the outside world and a place to feel pride.
2. Unhealthier eating
You’ll reach more for the sweets and junk food in a cluttered setting when you’re feeling out of control.
3. Poorer mental health
Certainly, feeling stressed by a cluttered inbox is enough to cause anyone’s mental hygiene to deteriorate.
4. Less efficient visual processing
It’s actually harder to read people’s feelings when your visual surroundings are filled with random stimuli.
5. Less efficient thinking
“Mental clutter” is a state of mind in which you can’t inhibit irrelevant information, whether it’s for short-term memory tasks or longer-range mental exercises.
When you live alone, it may be easier to keep your home up to your personal cleaning or organizational standards. Perhaps you already have your own system in place. But if you don’t, it is recommended that you declutter your space room by room. Or, you can break the process down into even smaller chunks by just focusing on your bedroom closet, for example.
Before you start, create five baskets: one for stuff that needs to be put away, one for items that need to be recycled, one for things that need to be repaired or cleaned, one for trash and one for donations. Then tackle each room part by part, making sure you’ve fully completed one area before moving on to the next.
Once you’ve gotten things organized, it does take some effort to keep them that way. Employ a mantra like “finish the task” whenever you do everyday things like open the mail or change clothes. This helps to ensure that the junk mail actually gets thrown away or recycled and the dirty laundry makes it into the hamper.
However, when you share your home with other people — be it a significant other, roommate, kids or other relatives — it can be more of a challenge to maintain a level of order that doesn’t put your anxiety into overdrive. Below, experts share some advice to help you cope.
Streamlining seems to have its advantages, then, as an essential process for maintaining your happiness in your home environment and at work. So get that trash bag out, whether virtual or physical, and you’ll soon feel better able to enjoy your surroundings while you think more efficiently.