Is your clutter making you sick?
I don’t know about you but this world is a BIT overwhelming at times (ok, most of the time). How are you coping with it all?
Some of us cope with exercising, food, shopping, smoking, working and a host of other things, which could be good or bad for us.
Have you ever thought about being “busy” as a coping skill? I have to admit I am definitely guilty of this one. What I have seen with myself, loved ones, and friends is that we use being busy as …
- an excuse to just not deal with hurts in our lives, or things that are overwhelming us, or we use it as an
- attempt to keep up with this ever changing world whether it’s influenced by others around us or who we watch on TV, or who we follow on social media.
BUT…what’s really happening is we are just avoiding the necessary SLOWING DOWN that has to occur in everyone’s life if we want to avoid being overwhelmed. When we don’t slow down we start to experience…lack of sleep, poor eating habits, no time for what really matters, grouchiness, feelings of being overwhelmed, rushed, and out of control. Bottom line, we have no peace.
And when we are rushing from one place to another we start collecting piles of things you will “get to when things slow down”. We allow the chaos to run our lives.
As a nurse turned Professional Organizer, I can’t help but want to know the physical effect of clutter on our bodies. I am super excited to share with you that there really is a health benefit to not letting ourselves get overwhelmed with our things…or allowing them to rule our lives.
(Please realize clutter isn’t just “things”, science also proves that too much digital clutter, like social media notifications, news feeds, games, etc. has the same effect on our brain as physical clutter.)
So today I’d like to look at how clutter affects us physically. I recently read a wonderful article about how the stress of clutter affects the brain and then how that trickles to our emotions, creativity, and outlook on life itself. Here’s a link to the complete article if you are interested.
Let me share some highlights with you.
- Our brains naturally love order. Honestly this is one of the main reasons I LOVE to organize…I feel so much better and less stressed when I have organized and de-cluttered my spaces.
- Clutter can trigger the release of CORTISOL. Cortisol is a stress hormone and helps our bodies in acute situations to flee or fight. Cortisol levels are highest first thing in the morning and gradually decrease as the day goes on, but if you are in a chronically cluttered environment, it stays elevated. These elevated cortisol levels produce anxiety and tension and put you into a low grade perpetual state of fight or flight. Let me show you what elevated cortisol levels do to you physically.
- Blood flow increases to your muscles and decreases from other parts of your body (like the brain, where you make decisions and react logically)
- Your blood pressure goes up
- Your heart rate goes up
- Your blood sugar goes up
- Your body releases fats into your bloodstream
…all of this happens to prepare your body to deal with whatever is stressing you out. But if you never deal with the stress…all of the above changes are bad for you brain and have lasting negative effects including…
- Organ damage
- Your immune system, endocrine system (think hormones), and reproductive system
- Your sleep cycle is disrupted
- Your metabolism is lowered
…bottom line, when your body is trying to cope with stress, you can’t maintain a state of wellness.
- Cornell University study from 2016- showed that clutter could also trigger “coping and avoidance strategies”, like eating junk food, oversleeping, or binge watching Netflix. (https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2711870)
- A 2009 study done out of UCLA’s Center on Everyday Lives of Families (CLEF)-shows that women who perceive their homes to be cluttered tend to have unhealthy cortisol levels. Data was collected over the course of 4 years. Bottom line…more clutter more stress. (https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0146167209352864)
So what can be done about this problem? What has science proven to help decrease cortisol levels for some people?
Princeton University Neuroscience Institute researchers did a study that monitored people performing tasks in a cluttered verses uncluttered environment. The findings were that people were more productive and less irritable and distracted when the area was less cluttered. (see study here https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21228167/)
How does this work? Well researchers have found that the visual cortex in the brain gets over whelmed by too much clutter in our environment. The clutter competes for attention in our brain and decreases our ability to focus and process information. This is why you find yourself tidying up before sitting down to do a task. The brain literally has a limited capacity to process information.
Here’s what it boils down to…de-cluttering our homes of things that do not bring us joy or things that we don’t use allows us to create spaces that help us relax, restore, and rejuvenate.
I believe we could potentially have more control over some of our health issues then we think. But it has to be a conscious choice. We need to step back from societal or unrealistic self-expectations and evaluate our world around us. What are we surrounding ourselves with? How are our surroundings affecting us?
So I repeat the question…is your clutter making you sick?
Only you can determine that…but here are a few thoughts to ponder and I HIGHLY encourage you to sit quietly to do this:
- Evaluate your home or work space with an open mind.
- How does it make you feel when you are in your home, the place where you are to be at peace, joyful, and creative?
- Do you just have too much stuff?
- Do you know where things are?
- Do you have systems that make it easy to process all of the new items that come into your home every day?
- How would you feel if you had less STUFF to wade through?
- Would it help create more time for things you would rather do?
- Would you save money from buying things you know you have but cannot find?
- Would having less stuff decrease the time you spend cleaning?
- Would having less stuff increase your creativity?
If you are surrounded by clutter and you just don’t know where to start, I would tell you to make a list of what you want to accomplish in your home and start with one area that would make a difference to you.
For some people it’s their bedrooms, a sanctuary that if de-cluttered and organized would help them rest better and feel calmer. For others it’s the kitchen, the hub of family life, or maybe tackling all of the papers in your home.
My passion is to help people free themselves from the chaos that occurs when we are overwhelmed by all of our stuff. I am not saying that all of your troubles and health concerns will go away when you get organized…but I really do challenge you to evaluate the actual effects clutter is having on you. If you let go of the chaos how much energy would be freed up to focus on what is most important to you.
If you feel overwhelmed, please reach out for help. Whether that means an online program to follow, a book, or even hiring a Professional Organizer to help. There are many of us who want to help you get to a place in life where your home is a sanctuary from this world that is a BIT overwhelming at times. 😃