The clutter in our lives is not accumulated suddenly, but rather gathers gradually over time. Clutter can be defined as an overabundant collection of disorderly possessions that collectively causes chaos in your living space. Sometimes this collection of items is so slow that we hardly even notice it is filling our space, drawers and corners. The level surfaces in our homes, such as bench tops, are disappearing with things we are meant to ‘get around to’ but never do! Our 50,000-year-old brain at times can be struggling to process all our possessions as it is not hardwired to keep track of all that we own. All of our smaller items are cluttering up not just our physical spaces, but they are also creating mental clutter in our brains, whereby limiting our capacity to process this extra itemised stimuli. This stress that is occurring in our homes causes us to be less productive and distracted. Our homes should be a sanctuary that give us comfort and protection from all the outside busyness of modern life.
The University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA) conducted a study at their ‘Centre On Everyday Lives and Families’ that proves a correlation between clutter and anxiety. This new scientific evidence shows that there is a direct relationship between overly cluttered environments and high levels of stress and anxiety. Women in particular who lived in overly cluttered homes on average have been shown to have higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol. The hormone cortisol is a physiological chemical response that is released through our bodies at times of stress. The impact from living like this begins from the moment we wake up and fills us with a sense that we are never finished. We find it difficult to relax while living in an environment with excess stimuli. This affects our concentration and looking forward in life can be inhibited because of this chaotic background.
Living in a cluttered setting and unable to locate items leads to frustration and makes us feel agitated when we cannot find items that are required at the time in which they are needed. Our brains need open spaces for thinking and problem solving, and a lack of this in our homes leads to a deficiency in our creativity. This study also found that our levels of productivity are decreased when our attention and focus is impacted by the excess. We find ourselves in a state of ‘sensory overload’ just to navigate our daily tasks, which affects how we set future goals. All of this indicates feeling emotionally overloaded with guilt and shame connected with the things we need to tidy up. Rightsizing your belongings will increase your wellbeing and help to elevate the negative emotions caused by owning too much. Owning fewer belongings will increase your overall life satisfaction.
One of my clients confided in me recently about how she felt a freedom in the spaces she had created in her home once she began the Rightsizing process: ‘Not just in my cupboards and living room but in my head’. This gave her a renewed sense of possibility, as now her home was safe for her granddaughters to visit. Safety is another big reason why Rightsizing your life is important. In overly cluttered homes the survival rate once a fire has started is greatly reduced because of the amount of combustible items both inside and outside the home. Reducing the amount of these items will of course reduce fire hazards. What else is extremely important is the redistribution of your belongings to create unobstructed pathways. Redistribution as recommended by the South Australian Metropolitan Fire Service (SAMFS) will increase your ability to exit your home safely in the event of a fire. Rightsizing will increase our memory space as less memory will be required for dealing with all these excess items around us. The clutter in our lives acts as a distractive force. By gradually dividing and removing our excess objects from our lives, we can dramatically reduce this state of stress and anxiety by making room for what is really important to us, both physical and mentally.