How many times have you been mindlessly flipping through TV channels, only to find yourself simultaneously appalled and intrigued by programs like "Hoarders?" You can’t understand how anyone could possibly live like that—surrounded by piles of stuff, much of which is trash and potentially hazardous.
Yet when you go to open the hall closet, there’s a good chance that you’ll be knocked on the head by something falling out. You haven’t been able to park your car in the garage for two years thanks to all of the items filling the space, and the junk drawer contains enough junk to start your own pawnshop. While you might not yet be a candidate for a reality show, you’re still surrounded by clutter—and it’s probably affecting your health.
When your home is filled with stuff, the danger of a head injury from something falling off a shelf isn’t the only health risk. Studies have shown that clutter has some surprising effects on overall health, both physically and emotionally.
Weight loss counselors point out that one common denominator among individuals seeking help with losing weight is an excess of stuff in their homes. Many people who are overweight feel weighed down, in a sense, by their belongings. Often, the excess clutter in their homes creates an obstacle to exercising. In many cases, they feel they are either too busy cleaning and organizing (which is never really done) to find time to exercise, or they have physical obstacles keeping them from working out because the clutter takes up so much space or makes it too hard to find the equipment they need. As a result, they gain weight—especially since clutter-related stress can trigger overeating.
A cluttered home can also irritate asthma, allergies and other respiratory conditions. Doctors note that dust mites gravitate toward the soft, warm and moist environments created by clothing, stuffed animals, pillows and other similar items. These mites and their droppings can trigger symptoms of allergies and asthma. Getting rid of old or unworn clothing, as well as unnecessary items, can help reduce the number of mites in the room, thus making it easier to breathe.
Physical symptoms are just one part of the issues associated with excess clutter. Studies show that having too much clutter increases stress and anxiety. Researchers attribute the stress to the fact that having clutter can create embarrassment—many people are reluctant to have friends over due to the condition of their homes—as well as cause arguments among family members about whose responsibility it is to clean up.
Clutter can also create feelings of being overwhelmed. Every room serves as a reminder of what needs to be done and hasn’t been addressed yet, which reduces the enjoyment of downtime. It’s almost impossible to relax during an at-home yoga session or while working on a hobby if you’re focused on the chores that need to be done.
Clearly, getting rid of the clutter in your home is important to your overall well-being. But where do you begin? Again, when your home is bursting at the seams with clutter, it’s hard to know where to start, which might make you not want to do it at all.
The first step to clearing out the clutter is to make a plan and keep it manageable. It took years to collect all of your clutter, so it’s unreasonable to think you can clean everything out in a few days. Start with the easy stuff; for example, donating the old boat that’s taking up space in the yard can clear a lot of space and inspire you to keep going.
Clearing the clutter can get tedious, though, so try a few of these techniques to stay on track:
Set a timer. Work steadily in 20-30 minute spurts. You can accomplish a lot when you are focused even for a short time.
Set goals. Plan to clean out one closet or tackle a single room, at a time.
Get help. Ask a friend or family member to help you; choose someone who can be objective and help you stay focused—and not get sentimental about the items you’re getting rid of.
Reward yourself. Hold a yard sale to sell some of your unwanted items, and use the proceeds for a treat—just don’t buy more objects to clutter your home!
Getting rid of the unnecessary and unwanted items in your home will not only help you keep it neat and tidy, but it can improve your health as well. If you are feeling stressed, overwhelmed or anxious, try unloading some of your unused belongings—you’ll probably feel much lighter.
Want even more decluttering tips? Visit our collection of organizing tips to get advice for how to make every room in your home clutter-free.
Jasmine Howard is a freelance writer who touches on various topics and niches that relate to her everyday life. In addition to writing in her free time she also enjoys traveling and getting to know the world around her, while continuing her education. Over the years she has built up many strong relationships within the blogging community and loves sharing her useful tips with others.