How Clutter is Affecting Your Health

If you’re busy, that’s normally a sign that you’re being productive and getting stuff done. That’s great, right? Well, being busy can easily lead to something less great; a never-ending cycle of clutter. 

Picture an artist’s desk. If they weren’t busy, the canvas would be clean; the paints would be neatly away and there wouldn’t be any scrapped designs to litter the floor. However, if they’re busy, all these things become an issue – and the cycle begins when you realise you’re too busy to tidy it all up. 

This might just seem like an aesthetic issue, but there’s more to clutter than meets the eye. It can easily become a health hazard, but the danger isn’t just limited to the physical, as plenty of mental health issues have been linked to clutter, too. 

When you’re busy, you probably want to prioritise tackling the issues that are the loudest and most obvious; that’s how these more ‘invisible’ mental issues can easily go under the radar and cause the most issues. That’s what makes them so important to address, and we want to highlight why it’s important to do that and what can happen if you don’t. 

Defining “collecting” and “hoarding”

The mountains of glass and piles of pizza boxes left behind by something like a party definitely constitutes a ‘mess’, but there’s a level beyond that. Hoarding doesn’t just make a good basis for (many, many) reality TV shows, but is an issue that affects approximately 1,650,000 people in Great Britain. Comparatively, 30% of all British adults consider themselves collectors. The difference can be hard to recognise but is fairly easy to define. 

Collectors show pride in what they own, hoarders don’t. 

If you visit the house of a friend that collects vinyl records, they’ll likely have them neatly packaged and stored away nicely; the same goes with collectors of stamps, or jewellery, or wine. However, if items are being hoarded, they’re more likely to be in disarray and uncatalogued. 

There have been cases all over the world where hoardings have literally taken up an entire home to the point of squalor. Like we said before, there are plenty of issues that can arise from this outside of the obvious eyesore. Let’s take a closer look.

Be messy, get stressy

The mess that can be caused by hoarding, or just taking time to clean your flat, can lead to serious health issues. 

Most obviously, a mess can create numerous tripping hazards throughout the home; where 23.5% of all deaths occurred throughout England in 2016 (source). Rubbish of an organic nature, such as rotting food, also pose a major biological risk. However, outside of stomach bugs and scraped elbows, clutter can also have a damaging impact on your mental health. These issues may include: 

  • Stress, fatigue and depression
  • Unhealthy overeating
  • Poor sleeping habits
  • Respiratory issues
  • Attention

Surveys even show that 28% of employers are less likely to promote someone that is messy, while compulsive hoarders have an average of seven absences per month. 

How to reduce clutter

If you’re guilty of hoarding, then the best advice is to be less sentimental. It’s easy to get carried away thinking that everything has a purpose and you’ll need it eventually, but the truth is you’re just lying to yourself to justify keeping hold of it.

However, if you’re just a bit messy, then we’d recommend two things: store what you want, and bin what you don’t. New shelves and drawers can be great for making a place feel tidy while buying a few extra bins to leave in different rooms will make getting rid of rubbish a lot easier. 

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When you lead a busy life, it’s easy for your living space to get out of hand. Unfortunately, clutter could be causing more problems in your life than just a messy house. Without even realising it, clutter could actually be having serious effects on your physical and mental health.

Compulsive Hoarding

A compulsive hoarder does the following:

  • Collect and keep a lot of items, even things that are almost useless in day-to-day life.
  • Clutters storage spaces and other rooms, causing problems in day-to-day activities.
  • Doesn’t get rid of useless things.

Hoarding is different from collecting!

Collectors usually proudly display their collections and keep them well organised.
Hoarders seldom display their possessions, which are usually kept in disarray.

Almost 30% of British adults consider themselves to be “collectors”. 2.5% of the British population can be considered as actual hoarders. 1.2 million people within the UK are hoarders.

The Impact of Cluttering

Hoarding and cluttering your space can have negative impacts to not just your own health, but your family’s health as well.

Mess Can Cause Stress

Clutters can cause stress, fatigue, and depression. Stress can also cause poor eating and sleeping habits which can lead to overall poor health. According to a study by the University of California, the levels of stress hormones cortisol were higher in mothers living in cluttered homes.

Reckless Eating

Cluttering can cause unhealthy overeating. According to a Cornell University study in 2016, clutter that is causing stress can induce overeating or “comfort-eating” as a form of coping mechanism.

Triggers Respiratory Issues

Cluttering can cause dust to pile up in your home as things are not often cleared or cleaned up. Accumulation of dust can cause severe respiratory issues like asthma. According to the Alliance of Healthy Homes, cluttered homes contain more dust than average households, amplifying respiratory issues.

Cuts Down Productivity

Clutter can affect your vision and hamper your ability to concentrate on one thing at a time. Visual distraction overwhelms you and makes you feel more nervous. According to a study by Princeton Neuroscience Institute, clutter overloads the visual cortex and interferes with its ability to process information.

Affects your Profession

According to a survey, 28% of employers are less likely to promote someone who is messy. A compulsive hoarder is found to have an average of 7 absences from work in a month.

Juggling your Family & Social Life

Surveys say that clutter affects relationships and leads to higher rates of divorce. Children living in a cluttered environment are found to have poorer mental and physical health. 50% of surveyed homeowners say that they’re reluctant to invite friends to their place due to clutter.

If you feel that you need to declutter your home, make sure you do it right! Choose the right storage space and organise your possessions.