Clutter Causes Anxiety, But Mostly for Women.
Yes, you read that right.
Raise your hand if you can't go to bed when the house is a mess? If walking into your basement storage area makes you feel downright terrible. But maybe your husband seems fine with it? Read on for more.
When my house is tore apart, it feels like there's a ping-pong ball in my brain and my anxiety goes through the roof. I get cranky and bark orders. “I’m going to throw this away if I find it on the floor again!” might be in your list of mom-phrases, too. Or it might be Saturday and I drink a pot of coffee and go on a cleaning spree for the whole day. The. Whole. Day. A day I can’t get back. Or I might eat too much ice cream to avoid tidying up. Depends on the day, my mood, and my energy level.
But why does it provoke such anxiety? This isn’t something I alone struggle with. It’s been studied. With actual brain monitoring studies.
According to a recent article on Motherly that popped up in my feed due to the crazy on-point Facebook algorithm, our brains love order. Makes sense, right? The brain is an interconnected network of perfectly harmonized electrical pulses that are fine tuned that enable us to survive.
Orderliness in our environment feels good to us because our brains don't have to work so hard to create order in what we see. Ahhhhhhh. Right?
The article goes on to site a 2009 UCLA study that identified a direct correlation between the amount of stress a woman experiences and the amount of clutter that they (and their family) had accumulated in their home. Wait, what?! I knew it.
And there's more. Men did not react to "stuff" in the same way at all, showing no increase in cortisol during the study. It was suggested that this is due societal “norms” that assert that the home is the woman's domain and is not the man's responsibility. Meaning that men literally don't think the home - and the clutter in it - is their problem so it doesn't bother them to the point of stress. Interesting, indeed.
So ladies, if reducing the stuff in the home can lead to less stress, why aren't more of us doing that? Well, because pain.
If you have a medically-diagnosed hoarding disorder, getting rid of any item may cause actual physical pain. The process of decluttering activates the same areas in the brain that are triggered when you stub your toe, for example. Real pain. No wonder it's so hard to let things go. It hurts! We think about the memories, and the money we spent, and the new year’s resolutions that never happened. We feel guilt. Simply acknowledging that guilt has value. Allow yourself to experience the memory, allow the feeling of loss to be felt, and then let go. Why would you want to subject yourself to that pain, guilt, and loss repeatedly by keeping that item in your home? I don’t know either.
So what’s the answer to this stress generated by the stuff we own, which we bought because it was on sale, or gifted to us, or made by our kids, or found-on-the-side-of-the-road-and-could-be-cute-if-painted, stuff? Declutter now. In the future, live life with more awareness of we are bringing into our homes and why in order to avoid this stressful cycle altogether.
Take a page from the latest Netflix sensation and best-selling author Marie Kondo and get rid of anything that doesn’t “spark joy.” She goes by category; I go room by room. Whatever works for you. The more you do it, the easier it’ll become. If you need more reasons, the article sites several studies that have shown that keeping a neat and tidy home leads to better sleep, a better diet, and even improved health overall.
Less stress, better sleep, better diet, improved health, more exercise, improved brain function, less family stress, and more time to relax. How many more reasons do you need to declutter your most precious space?
The only question now is: what are you going to declutter first?