There’s Scientific Evidence That Clutter Causes Anxiety

Dr. Morgan Camp M.D.


If you find yourself feeling embarrassed at the amount of clutter in your house when people visit, you might be experiencing a heightened amount of anxiety on an ongoing basis in everyday life. Here is a little more science behind the anxiety of clutter.

Many of us live in messy homes and/or workplaces where hectic lifestyles make it difficult to keep up with the clutter. However, there is scientific evidence that clutter can lead to feelings of anxiousness, helplessness, and generally feeling overwhelmed. If you find you are having anxiety symptoms without understanding why it could be as simple as looking at your surroundings. Here is why clutter causes anxiety. (1)

How Clutter Causes Anxiety

According to Sherrie Bourg Carter Psy.D., clutter fills our minds with not just visual stimuli but olfactory and tactile stimuli too. As a result, our senses are working constantly even when they aren’t necessary. Clutter causes anxiety due to this stimulation which causes several things to happen: (1)

  • Our attention is drawn away from the things we should be focusing on
  • The clutter interferes with our ability to relax our bodies and minds
  • It sends constant signals to our brain that our workload is never done  
  • That mess has us constantly feeling uncertain if we can ever get to the bottom of the pile
  • Facing clutter every day makes us feel guilty that we lack organization
  • We feel embarrassed when people witness the clutter in our homes and workspaces
  • Our creativity and productivity are curbed as the areas of our mind we use to brainstorm, think, problem-solve, and brainstorm are filled with clutter
  • The mess causes frustration when it keeps us from finding the things we need

Luckily, we can take steps to help destress and reduce clutter-related anxiety. (1)

How To Reduce Clutter And Anxiety

Clutter thankfully is one of the easiest sources of anxiety to manage. It just takes some time to attack the clutter and create a more soothing environment. Here are some clutter-busting tips: (1)

Enlist Help

Chances are if you live with your family that clutter didn’t miraculously appear on its own. Make sure you ask for help with everyone taking charge of their own rooms or messes. You can then tackle shared spaces together, with everyone pitching in to clear and organize a section. If you live alone, choose an area to de-clutter as a starting point, and slowly make your way through your home. You’ll be surprised at how satisfying the process is. Once you get started it becomes easier to complete each area as you feel a sense of accomplishment. Keep the mood light while you work listening to music as it helps the time fly and might even speed up your pace. (1)

Declutter Your Belongings

Use the simple process of sorting items into groups of things you use, and don’t use, need, or want so you can declutter your belongings. This approach to downsizing makes it easier to tackle designating spaces for items as you’ll require less storage. Sort the items you don’t plan to keep into things you can toss, donate, or recycle. Once finished be certain to take the items you no longer need from your home whether it is to the curb in a recycle bin, to a friend’s house, or to a donation bin. You can even consider selling items of value to make some extra money. There will be a few items you don’t use frequently but that still serve a purpose. These items can be stored in an area that is out of reach to free up room for the things you use all the time. (1)

Organize Your Space

Clutter often builds up due to a simple lack of organization. Regardless of your home or office’s layout, look at your rooms and designate spaces to place the items and supplies you need so you always know where everything is. This helps reduce that feeling you’ll never find something, while also creating a more organized environment that is less daunting to face. If possible use closed spaces with doors or drawers so you don’t have to look at the items. When you keep things on open shelves or desktops, even if they are reasonably organized, you still have those visual stimuli in front of you which still causes stress. When you reduce the items your mind has to see, you also reduce stress and anxiety. (1)

Keep Up The Organization

Clutter has a way of creeping up on you. Make sure when you use something you put it back right away. This simple act is a habit worth forming. Continue to make the effort and hopefully it will become easier and easier to maintain. If not, stay committed! (1)

Use Folders For Work   

If you find you are an out of sight out of mind kind of person, make sure you keep on top of things using folders. A pending folder allows you to keep your workspace neater, while also ensuring nothing gets missed. You can review the folder every day, prioritize the items and take out the work you need to tackle. As new projects or tasks come up, you can decide if you can tackle them now, or if you can file them in your pending projects folder. And don’t forget to use the rule when you’re finished with something put it away. Before you leave work for the day, clear your desk so you have a fresh start every morning. (1)

Sort Papers Daily

For both work and home, paper is one of the biggest causes of clutter. Plan to sort papers daily such as mail, flyers, newspapers, etc. so you can toss the things you don’t need in the recycle bin, and put anything else you need in its designated place. Flyers are a perfect example of something that needs its own designated drawer for example. This is a mindful, conscious act that allows you to only keep what you need and reduce the clutter you bring into your space. (1)

Declutter Your Mind

Once your space is decluttered try the same process with your mind. Teach yourself how to remain in the moment, always focusing on the task at hand. As worry and stressful thoughts try to sneak into your mind, you can push them aside and continue focusing intently on your work. Reduce distractions such as cell phones and constantly checking emails, and assign times of the day to refer to your gadgets so you don’t feel stressed you’ll get behind on communication. (1)

While life might still be a little hectic, these tips can help declutter both your environment and your mind. (1)



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About Dr. Morgan Camp M.D.

Dr. Morgan is an expert in Functional and Integrative Medicine with a Strong Emphasis in stress related illnesses like anxiety and insomnia. In addition to his 20 years of work in Functional Medicine, he has expanded his practice to include work on the deeper aspects of our being that point to the root cause of our illnesses working with Mind Body Wellness, Energy Medicine, and Healing with Consciousness.
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