Clutter & The Brain

Did you know there is scientific research out there that supports the theory that living with Clutter and chaos can actually affect the brain in some powerfully negative ways? Symptoms can include stress, anxiety, depression, and a diminished energy. We now know that living in a cluttered environment is not simply the shame or guilt we associate with our living or working conditions but far more serious physical conditions that can be debilitating. Where does Clutter begin and more importantly, how can I take back control?

The Birth of Clutter

Some blame marketers, advertisers, corporations or capitalism, after all, we’re receiving information and one-click buying options nearly twenty-four by seven these days. Buying comes to us sometimes with the swipe of a finger and sometimes without even having to fetch a credit card. It’s easy to buy but why are we buying so much?

Will the possessions we buy make us feel more secure? Logic tells us that owning material possessions brings us security (that roof over our heads, that reliable car parked outside, clothing to keep us warm or cool). Maybe we buy stuff because it makes us happy. Faster car, bigger home, state of the art technology. The phrase “retail therapy” takes on so many images of beautiful people laughing, shopping, and eating together, who wouldn’t want that in their lives? 

Perhaps we are more susceptible to the messaging of those advertisers than we believe, after all, our lives will be better if we buy what they are selling, right? Or maybe it’s something else. Maybe it’s about impressing others. Displaying our wealth, our importance, and our financial status in the world. Maybe we just want to feel better about ourselves. The reasons why we buy are innumerable to list in this blog, there is however, another side to the accumulation of Clutter, why do we hold onto things we seemingly have no use for?

The Need to Hold On

There is research that answers this question. Turns out there are two areas in our brain associated with pain, the anterior cingulate cortex and insula. Each light up in response to letting go of items we own and/or feel a connection to. The same area of the brain lights up when you feel physical pain.  Our brain views the loss of one of our valued possessions as the same as something that causes physical pain, hence why it is so difficult at times to get rid of our stuff and a good answer as to how stuff becomes clutter.

Most retailers are familiar with this research and some take full advantage.  Apple, for example, understands how merely touching an item can cause us to become more emotionally attached to it.  It’s why they have all their computers laid out for everyone to fully experience through touch.  The main reason notebook computer screens are slightly angled is to encourage customers to touch the screen in order to adjust it to their ideal viewing angle.

Clutter and Our State of Mind

There is a direct relationship between a person’s state of mind and the amount of clutter in the home.  Let me repeat that … there is a direct relationship between a person’s state of mind and the amount of clutter in a home or office space.  Living surrounded by things, too many things, things that are out of place, causes visual saturation and tiredness.  The more time you spend in a cluttered environment, the more likely you are to develop conditions such as anxiety and depression.

If you are not living your best life because of your cluttered or chaotic surroundings, there is light at the bottom of your stacks.  If you have read this article and are interested in taking that first step out of the clutter nightmare, there are a number of professional home organizers to help.  Taking that first step is always the hardest but I promise, decluttering and ridding yourself of chaos is life transforming. 

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