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How Clutter Affects Stress and Your Mood

A Cluttered House Is a Cluttered Mind, So I Try Really Hard to Stay Organised

Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Julia Van Arsdale

I didn't always realise that clutter has a direct effect on my mood. The daily grind of getting ready in the morning and coming home after a long day at work usually ends in dropping bags at the door, trading jeans for comfy clothes, and shedding any stress while seeing what's for dinner and taking some time to relax. But for me, that sigh of relief and sense of calm isn't possible without a clean, tidy home. If the countertops aren't clear, neither is my mind. Piles of paper and probably unnecessary post? Cringe. Hoarders is a horror show.

Now that I've identified that there's very much a correlation between what my apartment looks like and how I feel physically and mentally, it's made such a difference in my day-to-day. I make a conscious effort to clean as I go while cooking, get dishes done ASAP, keep shoes out of the doorway, avoid the dreaded "clothes chair" in my bedroom, keep my coffee table organised, and put something back in its place after I use it. I also avoid accumulating clutter in the first place by striving to create a minimalist space and only keeping what I really need and love — I've been technically KonMari-ing since before that was a thing. I'm a big fan of playing the "what is this, and do you need it?" game. I swear, I'm fun sometimes.

Photographer: Julia SperlingNo RestrictionsOK for Native and co-branded useSource: POPSUGAR Photography / Julia Van Arsdale

I also know that not everyone feels this way about clutter, and a lot of people — including my longtime boyfriend, with whom I've lived for years — wouldn't bat an eye at a few things strewn across the counter. I have to remind myself that that's fair. It's not OK to punish others just because they don't feel the same way about organisation as you do (within reason), but it is totally OK to vocalise your own stress so that everyone's expectations are clear. Sometimes my boyfriend will give me a heads-up if I'm on my way home and he's still tidying up, which I appreciate. I honestly couldn't imagine keeping kids' messes in check, too, so I applaud parents who do that every day.

If the countertops aren't clear, neither is my mind. Piles of paper and probably unnecessary mail? Cringe.

In Psychology Today, Doctor of Psychology Sherrie Bourg Carter writes, "Clutter bombards our minds with excessive stimuli, causing our senses to work overtime on stimuli that aren't necessary or important. Clutter distracts us by drawing our attention away from what our focus should be on." Yes. Simply put, mess equals stress.

The authors of a study called "No Place Like Home: Home Tours Correlate With Daily Patterns of Mood and Cortisol" published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin noted, "The way people describe their homes may reflect whether their time at home feels restorative or stressful."

I know what it's like to feel a stressed-out "ugh" instead of a welcoming "ahh" when thinking about going home. This was especially true when I lived in a small studio apartment in San Francisco (yes, with another person!). We've graduated to a much more spacious one-bedroom, in case you're wondering. There's something awesome and refreshing about truly enjoying the space that surrounds you, so wouldn't you want to do your place justice by keeping it as Zen as possible?

Photographer: Levi MandelRestrictions: Editorial and internal use only. No advertising or print allowed.Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Julia Van Arsdale

It's not "crazy" to be annoyed by disorganisation, so if this resonates with you, know that you're not alone. A clean, bright space not only looks good — it makes you feel good, too.

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