What Clutter Does To Our Brain
We recently did an article about simplifying your life in the New Year. As we approach spring, the need to clean and reorganize might be even stronger than it was in January and we’re here to say…GO with that urge.
Not only is it just nice to start fresh as the world wakes up from a winter’s sleep, but it’s also good for your brain. That clutter in your office or home is definitely not good for your brain.
According to Libby (Elizabeth) Sander Assistant Professor of Organisational Behaviour, Bond Business School, Bond University, “Our physical environments significantly influence our cognition, emotions and subsequent behaviors, including our relationships with others.” Clutter and messes have a huge impact on those environments and therefore a huge impact on us.
Need a little more motivation to start spring cleaning? Let’s take a look at how clutter affects us both mentally and physically.
Clutter can make us feel:
- Less focused
Our brains like to keep things like our memories & information organized. Visual reminders of disorganization make our brains work overtime trying to organize all that information. But since our brains can’t physically sort the clothes, old pictures, or stacks of papers, it continues to work overtime and some abilities may suffer.
Trying to process clutter can lower our ability to focus and will even start to negatively affect our working memory. If you can’t remember where you put something, it might not be just because you’re not organized…your brain just doesn’t have the capacity to remember.
Clutter can also lead to bad habits and makes us less productive. It triggers coping and avoidance strategies that make us more likely to mindlessly snack on junk food and zone out watching TV.
Besides making you feel depressed, stressed and anxious because it’s constantly reminding our brains of a huge to-do list, it’s making you less productive, less focused, and hurting your memory. Ouch. Who knew messes were so mean?
But clutter isn’t just affecting our brains, it’s affecting our bodies.
Seeing clutter causes stress and increases the amount of cortisol our brain produces. This is why cortisol is called the stress hormone. Besides triggering mindless snacking, cortisol also triggers symptoms in the body like inhibiting our immune system and increasing our risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Because we’re eating and snacking more, there is definitely a link between clutter and obesity. Research shows that people who struggle with clutter were 77% more likely to be overweight or obese.
The problem with clutter does not go away when we go to sleep. It can cause us to have problems falling asleep and staying asleep.
That’s a lot of power we’re giving our stuff.
So, Marie Kondo might be on to something. Don’t let clutter run your life or ruin your mood. If you have the urge to clean or simplify this spring, do it. You’ll feel better, science says so.