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The Secret to a Tidy House and Tidy Mind

Eva Lewis shares her thoughts on the “Tidy House, Tidy Mind” theory:

Albert Einstein penned the phrase, “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?” Mr Einstein would likely agree that a cluttered desk is a sign of genius. Busy mums, on the other hand, would probably shun this idea, instead, acknowledging that clutter and anxiety, stress and feeling overwhelmed, go hand in hand.

A study found that there certainly is a general decrease in satisfaction with life when clutter is involved. The study adds to a growing number of findings stating that clutter can negatively impact mental health, especially amongst women.

Clutter can be so detrimental to our health because it encourages a physiological response. Reactions like increased levels of the stress hormone cortisol, increased stress, anxiety and depression are brought on by clutter. It’s no surprise that researchers found the levels of the stress hormone cortisol were higher in mothers who lived in a cluttered home environment with toys strewn everywhere, dishes piling up and the ever-growing pile of washing.

Throw even more fuel into the fire and research also confirms that a cluttered home influences how we perceive our homes which then goes on to impact our satisfaction of life.

Tidy home

Clutter and depression

One of the most interesting findings about the effects of clutter comes from a study published in 2010 by Psychiatry Research. Not only did they find a strong link between clutter and depression, they also found higher levels of depression in participants with a hoarding problem than in participants with obsessive-compulsive disorder.

So why does clutter have such a significant effect on our mental health? Why can’t we simply ignore it and move on with our day? Here’s why.

Why clutter can’t be ignored

  1. Clutter leads to sensory overload, there are so many things to look at and process unnecessarily, and that’s exhausting.
  2. Clutter makes it more challenging to focus on the task at hand because there are so many other things to look at and think about.
  3. Having clutter means any chance of relaxing in a calming space can be thrown out the window.
  4. Clutter always makes you feel like you have still got work to do.
  5. Looking at a pile of clothes or toys and wondering how on earth you’re going to sort through them can leave you with ‘messy room depression.’
  6. Clutter causes anxiety and a lot of guilt, particularly in women. Because women feel they should be better at organising the house and creating a happy home, they judge themselves heavily. This is possibly a big reason why men and women feel differently about clutter. Sound familiar?
  7. Clutter breaks into spaces that would otherwise be thinking, relaxing or problem-solving areas.
  8. Clutter can lead to frustration because we can’t find something when we need it. It’s not a great start to the day when you’re trying to find a pair of shoes or keys.

Steps to a tidy house and a happy mind

Luckily, being stressed, anxious and overwhelmed by mental clutter is a relatively easy fix, but remember, start small.

Here are some blog posts I’ve put together that are great starting points when it comes to a clean space and clean mind.

Try the four-box method

Still not quite sure where to start? All it takes is four boxes. Get your kids involved too. Split the boxes into Keep, Sell/Donate, Bin, Store.  It’s here that you need to tighten the reigns and set strict rules for your sorting. Do the ‘keep’ items spark joy? Will someone else benefits from sell/donate items? When deciding on what to put in the bin, be ruthless. These are the things you don’t want or need, and neither does anyone else. Store your seasonal items or things you use occasionally.

Lastly, just because you feel as though the house is your domain and responsibility, doesn’t mean it’s up to you to do the decluttering. Remember, studies have also found that when men and children don’t feel that keeping the house tidy applies to them, they are less likely to see the clutter.  As part of the ongoing decluttering and organisation process, free up your mind and delegate responsibilities to your family so that clutter doesn’t always fall on your shoulders.

Tidy house, tidy mind?

What do you think about the clean house clean mind theory – does clutter overwhelm you sometimes too and do you feel the effects on your mental health?

Does a clean house make you happier?

I would love to hear what you think, so comment below.

Read more from Eva at The Multitasking Woman.

Want to do things the Marie Kondo way?

Buy the book here in Australia, here in the US and here in the UK.

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Tidy house, tidy mind? Decluttering and Marie Kondo aren’t just fads, there’s a reason clutter is bad for you. Find out why and how to get rid of it. #lovefrommim #decluttering #mariekondo #mentalhealth #clutter #clutteredhome #clutterfree #konmari

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I acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the land I work and live on, the Awabakal peoples, and pay my respects to Elders past and present.
I thank them wholeheartedly and express my love and gratitude for the privilege to live and work in such a beautiful part of the world and for the opportunity for my family to be part of this vibrant and supportive community.