Spring brings with it a season of hope, renewal, and growth, and its onset has most people decluttering and reorganising their homes. Apart from clearing physical spaces, you also need to declutter your mind to improve mental health as our physical environment significantly influences thoughts, actions, and emotions. The link between physical spaces and our minds points to decluttered physical spaces having positive benefits for mental health.
Why clutter is bad for your brain
Messy and cluttered spaces often point to a lack of time or care for your physical environment. At times, cluttered spaces may mean underlying mental health challenges for some people. Apart from seeing clutter as untidiness or a state of being messy, clutter can also be understood as a state of confusion, which is a mental aspect. Confusion about the state of mind, such as emotional “baggage” may consist of unresolved grief, resentment, unpaid financial debt, failed relationships, etc. This is what can contribute to the inability of thinking clearly, experiencing stress, and even having low levels of energy.
Clutter has been linked to individuals experiencing unhappiness, anxiety, depression, and chronic stress.
Learn to let go
Clutter can be like holding onto the past or fearing the future writes Leo Babauta in his post “Decluttering as Zen Meditation”. Anyone who has held a grudge long enough will know how draining it is emotionally to be constantly angry at someone. You become biased and fail to see any positivity when it comes to that person or any situation that you see as similar. The past is there to remind us of lessons learned and how to navigate the future, not to dwell in it. Monitor your thoughts regularly and try to replace your negative thoughts with positive ones.
Tidy house, happy life
Cluttered home environments negatively influence the perception of our homes, and ultimately our life satisfaction. A home is a place where we unwind after a long day. If you must remove items from the couch before you can sit down, however, that relaxed feeling goes away and can be replaced by irritation or even lack of satisfaction with your life. Think about giving away those unused items in your home, the unwanted gifts or old magazines dating back years.
Limit your consumption of information
The amount of media we consume has a big impact on our mental health. This abundance of information can clog up our brains and cause anxiety and leave us feeling despondent. Limiting the amount of information we consume is necessary to get rid of all that media-related clutter from the mind. You can start by setting a limit on the amount of time you spend on social media and be selective about your media consumption.
Does clutter bother you?
Clutter isn’t necessarily stressful for everyone. Some people function well in messy environments and can even be creative in them. What matters is to keep clutter under control. Avoid buying items you do not need as once you take them home you become attached to them, and it becomes harder to let them go. It may not be surprising that stress resulting from cluttered environments affects more women than men. Women tend to do more housework than men even when they both work outside the home. This means there is sometimes less relaxation for women after a hard day at work. Therefore, the less clutter you have, the easier it is to maintain a fresh and welcoming home environment.
Clutter can be a source of stress and we certainly do not need that in our lives. Identify items that you do not need in your home and workspace, and while you do that you will benefit from getting rid of the musky thoughts and emotions so they do not catch dust in your mental closet.
Silindokuhle is an Industrial/Organisational Psychologist registered with the HPCSA. She holds a Master’s degree from UKZN and runs an independent practice specialising in psychological assessments, training and wellbeing.