Proven Link Between Clutter And Depression (+ Effective Tips To Declutter)

clutter, depression, home

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Written by: Kat Gal

It is now scientifically proven that there is a link between clutter and depression.

Clothes strewn everywhere, overflowing closets, piles of laundry waiting to be folded, dishes in the sink, toys all over the floor, sticky notes, bills waiting to be paid, to-do lists, magazines to be read and more. It all makes you feel embarrassed if people come over, but even more importantly, it turns out that all that clutter may even cause depression.

According to researchers at the UCLA Center on Everyday Lives and Families, there is a real time relationship between families and the thousands of objects in their homes based on the 32 Californian families they studied.

They have found that clutter has a profound affect on your mood and self-esteem:

  • There is a link between high cortisol (a sign of high stress) levels in female home owners and the density of the objects in their household. With more stuff around, women tend to feel stressed, but most men seem to be less bothered.
  • Women tend to associate a tidy home with a happy and successful family, hence why clutter and mess can create the opposite effect and lead to higher anxiety.
  • Families that want to de-clutter and reduce their stuff often feel emotionally paralyzed and stressed out. Giving up sentimental attachments or letting go of monetary value can be difficult.
  • Shocking statistics show that while the U.S. only bears 3% of the world’s children, these children own 40% of the world’s toys. This doesn’t even include all the cute snapshots, artwork, trophies and awards displayed all over in most American homes. 

Think about your home. How much stuff do you have? How much stress does all the stuff – or rather the clutter, the organizing and the cleaning – cause you? How much stuff are you still buying because there is an event or a sale going on? Do you need all this stuff?

You don’t have to become a minimalist to reduce your belongings and to de-clutter your home.

Here are some proven tips for how to effectively declutter your home and life:

1. Adapt The Rule Of Five

Every time you go to a new room or new space in your home, put away five things. It takes a few minutes each time, but by the end of the day it will look like you’ve been cleaning and organizing for hours.

2. Be Strict With Your Kitchen Sink

Make a commitment to clean your sink every day. Rather than keep piling things up, take a few seconds to wash your dishes or place them in your dishwasher right away. This is a technique we used when I was living with roommates years ago and still works for me today.

3. Put Your Photos Away

Put your snapshots in your family albums that you can take out when you want to look at them. Of course, keep some photos around, but only those that are very meaningful for some reason. If new photos pop up – such as those yearly class pictures – put some of the old pictures away.

4. Declutter Your Fridge Door

From magnets to bills, from coupons to report cards, from photos to phone numbers, you probably have millions of things on your fridge. Clean it up. Keep some important phone numbers, maybe your favorite picture or magnet up, but put away or toss you extra magnets, restaurant menus and year-old bills.

5. Reduce

This may be the most emotionally painful, but reduce your stuff. Clothes that don’t fit anymore or you never wear should go. Donate them or sell them, as you wish. You may not need hundreds of glasses and cups, even if they came free with a brewery tour or an event. Magazines from years ago, age old bills and expired coupons may be things you want to get rid of too. Rather than putting them in a box into a storage area, get rid of them.

This is a slow and gradual project. Taking a few hours every week may benefit you, but just simply picking one item from your closet to get rid of each week may suit your style more. Develop of process that works best for you.

6. Exchange The Old for Something New

When you buy or get something new, it doesn’t have to be something extra. Look for something old, broken, never-used or unwanted to get rid of instead. If you buy a new blender, sell or donate your ancient clunky one. If you buy a new pair of jeans or a new shirt, get rid of something you never wear anymore.

To control the number of toys your children have, decide on the number of toys they can possess. It can be 5, 10 or 50 or whatever number of toys. But if they want and get something new, they have to get rid of something old. This will help them to think twice if they really need that new and trendy toy and will help them to value what they have. Donate anything unwanted to children’s homes, shelters or hospitals to teach them the value of giving back.

7. Test Whether You’ll Miss It

If you are not ready to get rid of things right away, here is a test. Fill a box with things you don’t love or never use. Seal the box and place it in your closet or basement. If you haven’t opened the box in a year, donate it to a charity. Don’t be tempted to open it before donation, clearly, you didn’t need any of those things! Even if you opened it and took out one or a few items, just donate the untouched items as you didn’t need those.

8. Get Inspired

The internet is full of decluttering ideas and tips on minimalism. Read them. Use what you like and ignore the rest.

With spring coming up, this is a perfect time to start decluttering your home.

What steps will you take to de-clutter? What benefits have you experienced from de-cluttering and cleaning up in the past? Share in the comments below, we would love to hear from you.

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Kat Gal

Kat Gal

Kat Gál is a multi-passionate writer, world traveler, nomad, runner, and cat-person. She is a lifelong learner who lives outside of her comfort zones stretching her boundaries and discovering beauty around the world. She is a Certified Holistic Health and Life Coach who encourages others to embrace their unique authentic selves, follow their heart and find their own version of freedom in life.
Kat Gal

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