The Psychology & Physiology of Clutter

Conquer your clutter!

When two different people send me the same New York Times article, I figure I better read it. This one’s on clutter, and it reports the results of several scientific studies regarding the connection between clutter and stress. The authors of the study done at DePaul University in Chicago define clutter as “an overabundance of possessions that collectively create chaos and disorderly living spaces.” That’s a darn good definition!

In my experience as a consultant, I’ve found that women complain about their husband’s clutter much more frequently than the other way round. A California researcher’s studies support that by measuring the cortisol (a stress hormone) levels of people living in cluttered houses. But it’s more complicated than gender—anyone who feels responsible for the cleanliness and neatness of the home (which is often the wife in straight marriages) is likely to have elevated cortisol levels in a cluttered home.

One of the most interesting things in the article was that one researcher discovered that when people are decluttering, they can do a more thorough job of it if someone else is the person who is actually picking up and touching the items to be evaluated. The mere act of touching the item heightens the attachment—or as the study says, “over-attachment.”

There a a good many books on clutter, but I keep recommending the same one over and over—Clear Your Clutter With Feng Shui by Karen Kingston. It really is the classic book on the subject.

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