How clutter raises stress levels and how to clear it out of your life


Clutter impacts families in a multitude of unhealthy ways. That’s the topic of an insightful documentary called “A Cluttered Life: Middle Class Abundance” .

In the 20-minute video, a team of anthropologists went into the homes of 32 dual-income American families to record their findings.

They found the families had accumulated so much stuff it put a marked strain on their mental health. Here are 3 ways clutter affected the families featured in the short film.

1. High stress levels

An overabundance of food, toys, and clothing created stress in the mothers, in particular.

The women who noticed and commented on the clutter showed increased cortisol (stress hormone) levels, proving it’s difficult to enjoy peace in a cluttered house.

Women who noticed and commented on clutter showed increased cortisol levels. Click To Tweet

Men didn’t remark on the clutter or seem to notice it as much because they were not the ones responsible for cleaning it up.

Although unspoken, women felt responsible for organizing and cleaning up even though they worked outside the home, too.

Clutter in the house made women feel guilty over all the stuff their families had accumulated. It compromised their sense of self-worth, in addition to the burden of tidying up.

2. Poor health

Families stockpiled food not only in the over-sized fridge in the kitchen but often in another refrigerator in the garage.

Due to both parents working, they shopped less often. As a result, they built up a store of convenience foods that could be prepared quickly but which lacked nutritional value.

Ironically, these convenience foods only saved an average of 12 minutes preparation time per day.

We consume far fewer home-cooked meals than we did a few decades ago. As a result our collective health has suffered.

The size of our refrigerators and our infrequent shopping trips push us to buy and eat pre-packaged and frozen foods that are terrible for our health.

3. Lack of control over clutter

The filmmakers noted that cheaper ways to produce more stuff has compelled us to buy many things we don’t need, especially toys for children.

The U.S. has 3% of the world’s children but consumes 40% of the world’s toys. They found toys spilled into all areas of the house and were never confined to the children’s bedrooms.

The U.S. has 3% of the world's children but consumes 40% of the world's toys. Click To Tweet

They saw toys in living rooms, kitchens, and even master bedrooms. This gave the house a child-centered culture and a sense the parents had given over their space to the children.

Mothers also commented on things coming in from all sides such as objects from school and gifts from extended family.

They remarked on these encroachments on their space with a proverbial shrug of the shoulders. The underlying sentiment being a lack of control over what came into the house.

How to say no to clutter


The truth is, you have the power to say no to things before these things cross the threshold of your front door.

You may have to engage in a dreaded “difficult conversation”. If you’re like me and hate conflict, that can be hard.

You will meet resistance. It’s hard to get grandparents on board at Christmas time when they want to lavish the children with gifts.

But reducing clutter means confronting what’s not working. You deal with deeper issues when you begin to get control of your living space.

That means setting appropriate boundaries. And putting your need for a clutter-free home ahead of others’ desire to bring more into it.

This is how decluttering a room leads to life-changing transformation.

Reducing clutter requires a mind shift

Most of us have been socialized to equate success with financial abundance. That’s reflected in the things we buy, whether it’s a larger home or a more luxurious car.

We feel we have to keep up with our neighbors. Even when the little voice inside tells us that’s not what we value.

There is another way to live and it requires a mind shift. Living uncluttered means letting go of what people think at the same time as you release possessions.

Living uncluttered means letting go of what people think at the same time as you release possessions. Click To Tweet

It means going against the grain and living counter to the culture. It requires courage at times and sacrifice at others.

You become driven by the desire to live according to what you believe in. To take control of your surroundings and align your life with your values.

That’s the dual purpose of decluttering: to help you revision your environment and discover more about yourself in the process.

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