If you’ve ever been caught in the clutter-anxiety cycle, you are like most people who find themselves stressed because their messy belongings often pair with a cluttered life. It can be difficult to know where to start when both ends seem so tied up in one another, so it’s no wonder why Marie Kondo’s simple decluttering methods, made popular by Netflix’s “Tidying Up With Marie Kondo,” have become all the rage.
Kondo has become famous for her discerning ability to sort through belongings based on what sparks joy and what can alternatively be thrown out. Her website says to “keep only those things that speak to the heart and discard items that no longer spark joy. Thank them for their service — then let them go.” It’s clear that Kondo’s method understands the inextricable link between our personal items and our personal lives, and that’s why it has become so useful.
How clutter causes stress and anxiety
There’s a lot of evidence to show that your mind and overall well-being echoes the state of the space around you. For one, clutter creates a sense of failed responsibility or shame about not maintaining your space. This could manifest if you choose to invite people over and feel you need to spend a day to prepare accordingly. In fact, when using your space for any activities it becomes difficult or impossible without taking significant time to clear the space. A cluttered home becomes a stressor rather than a haven from stress.
According to Sherrie Bourg Carter, an author on books about stress, cluttering bombards our minds with excessive stimuli (visual, smell-related, tactile) and causes our senses to work overtime on stimuli that aren’t necessary. As a result, clutter makes it more difficult to relax both mentally and physically. We maintain a feeling of dread and anxiety because we never have a sense of completion from work since we’re always wondering what it will take to get through the pile of mess.
The Huffington Post reports that clutter raises levels of the stress hormone cortisol, and in the workplace, excess clutter can result in decreased productivity and unprofessional behavior. Clutter also inhibits creativity by invading the open spaces that allow most people to think, brainstorm, and problem solve. We are also less productive because clutter prevents us from finding what we need in the mess.
Tackling the clutter
You don’t necessarily need Marie Kondo to expertly manage your mess at home or at work. What you do need is to implement some basic daily routines and actions that will result in a better-kept space. Start by organizing your closet or by cleaning out your fridge when you’ve got an hour to spare. You can focus on organizing the space rather than your anxiety, since this stimulates the part of the brain that decreases anxiety, settles the mind, and it builds confidence.
If there are multiple people sharing the cluttered space, it’s vital that each person helps in decluttering it so that each individual is less likely to fall into the habit of throwing things all over the floor and leaving a mess. While it’s easy to keep adding to a mess, the opposite is also true in that you’ll want to maintain the cleanliness of your space when it’s finally managed.