The research is in, and the answer is yes, clutter is bad for your health. But in what ways can different types of clutter hurt you, and what can you do about it?
Clutter naturally increases the amount of dust in the house, especially above and behind the various items that you have lying around. Clutter also often indicates less cleaning, which means that the dust doesn’t get cleared away. With an increase in dust, dust mites and contaminants also increase. This can trigger asthma or other allergies.
If you live in a messier environment, you tend to choose more unhealthy snacks. This may be in part due to the comfort that the food provides from the stress of the clutter. You are also less likely to exercise, often because you have to clear out the space first, which is a hurdle that will often put you off.
When you have a lot of stuff within view, that takes up brain power with visual processing, and so reduces productivity. It also means that you are less efficient with that visual processing, and can mean that it is harder to read other people’s feelings due to the inability to focus on just reading them.
Clutter in the house has been shown to negatively affect your finances. This is in part due to a correlation with poor money management. It is also in part due to the frequent misplacement of items because they’ve gotten lost in the clutter, so you have to buy a duplicate, alongside all the money that is being spent to hoard items. Clutter also leads to losing track of bills and bank statements, which can lead to additional fees, high-interest rates and late payments.
Clutter at home when you live with other people affects you and the others in the house. This can lead to trouble with relationships in the home. Hoarders are shown to have higher rates of divorce, but any cluttered home can lead to increased irritability due to frustration with the mess. Children have also been shown to have higher stress levels when they live in a cluttered home.
If you don’t yet live with anyone, a cluttered home can reduce your desire to invite someone round, erasing your chances of developing relationships.
All of the above problems contribute to stress and anxiety, but even without the above problems, clutter has been shown to decrease mental health. Clutter reduces the ability to relax, and the constant reminder of disorganisation reduces self-satisfaction. This inability to relax also inhibits the decline of cortisol, the stress hormone, which can affect other parts of personal health, such as reducing the ability to sleep well, which goes on to compound the issue further. The problems with focus also lead to heightened anxiety, which increases cortisol as well.