Can Decluttering Really Make You Happier?

Is it true decluttering your home can “spark joy” in your life, or is that just what Marie Kondo wants you to believe? Well, research has shown clutter can have several effects on a person, both physically and mentally. Here’s how decluttering can influence your health and happiness — as well as some tips for tidying up your place.

The benefits of decluttering

woman standing in front of clutterCredit: Motortion/Getty Images

When you organize your space and purge all that accumulated, unnecessary stuff, you’re doing both your home and your body a favor. This is what science has to say about the benefits of decluttering.

Reduces stress

It almost goes without saying that clutter can contribute to a person’s stress level. If you’re constantly bumping into things or not able to find an item in a disorganized environment, it probably doesn’t bode well for your mood. And that’s exactly what a study published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin found. Women who described their homes as cluttered had higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol than those who found their homes to be relaxing. So a little organization might go a long way to keep your body happy and healthy.

Promotes focus

A cluttered space can be very distracting. Besides making it difficult to find things, clutter also can overload your senses and actually affect your brain’s processing ability. A study published in the Journal of Neuroscience found “multiple stimuli present in the visual field” — i.e., clutter — can overload the brain and slow thinking as you process everything. So if you’re finding it difficult to concentrate and get things done, decluttering might be a solution.

Increases energy

Decluttering your home might result in a better night’s sleep — and consequently boost your overall energy. For one, it can lower your stress level, allowing you to sleep more soundly. Plus, specifically decluttering the bedroom can make it easier to relax your mind before bed. Try making your bedroom a sanctuary away from piles of paperwork and unfinished projects, and see how much faster you fall asleep.

Helps you maintain a healthy weight

That stress and lack of energy due to clutter might not mean great things for your waistline. A study on clutter and overconsumption found a chaotic environment triggered participants to reach for comfort foods, such as cookies. “Less cluttered, less distracting, and less chaotic environments may lead people to snack less than they would in a more cluttered and chaotic workplace,” the researchers wrote. But they did point out that a mindset against overeating could work to counter the chaotic environment. Still, do your willpower a favor, and cut some of the clutter.

Improves indoor air quality

Regularly cleansing your home of dust, dirt, mold, allergens, etc. is important to maintaining healthy indoor air. But excess clutter makes it especially difficult to stay clean. “[Clutter] traps and holds dust that can trigger a reaction,” Harvard Medical School says. Plus, when surfaces are full of stuff, they’re much more daunting to clean — meaning you might put off the task. So by decluttering, you’ll make cleaning your home more painless and get to enjoy better indoor air quality.

Benefits relationships

Decluttering doesn’t just make your body happier. It also can benefit your relationships. “Clutter can create family stress,” Psychology Today says. “You might argue about mess with your spouse, or find yourself snapping at your children if you’ve spent 10 minutes looking for something and are now running late.” Furthermore, maintaining a clutter-free home can remove a major organizational burden from loved ones who inherit your possessions.

Boosts confidence

Decluttering requires a certain amount of problem-solving and rational thinking. You have to deliberate about which items are worth keeping and then figure out how you can fit them into a functional space. “Doing this successfully can help you feel confident about your decision-making skills,” according to Psychology Today. And once your home is fully decluttered, you’ll probably feel pretty energized and proud of what you’ve accomplished — a sentiment that can linger if you maintain your organized space.

Tips to successfully declutter your home

Shelves with storage boxes, black and white folders, and green plantCredit: AnikaSalsera/Getty Images

Now, there are some very valid ways decluttering can benefit your wellbeing. But on the flip side, constantly striving for Marie Kondo-like perfection isn’t always healthy or realistic. In fact, some people do better with a little mess, and that’s OK. The goal is to make your home functional for you and to fix anything that might be bringing you down.

Here are five tips that anyone can apply to their decluttering journey.

1. Organize before you buy

If your clutter situation is getting out of hand, pump the breaks on any new home purchases — even for organizational items. “Do not go out and buy a ton of storage pieces and supplies before you sort through your home,” according to Apartment Therapy. Instead, clear out items you don’t want anymore, and take inventory of what’s still there. You might realize you already have everything you need.

2. Have a daily declutter to-do

A little cleanup every day can do wonders to alleviate clutter tension. Make a point to clear off surfaces, especially your kitchen counter and table. Take care of the spots where you commonly drop mail, paperwork, etc. before it piles up. Plus, the simple act of making your bed each day can cause you to feel like you’re starting your day on a more organized note. Find some minor decluttering tasks that work for you, and stick with them.

3. Finish what you start

Depending on your clutter situation, it might take several sessions to get your home organized. That’s fine. It’s better to work in pieces — say one closet at a time — rather than pulling out all your possessions, becoming overwhelmed and abandoning the project. So make sure you can finish the project you start in one session. “Once you have decided where something is going to go — take it there,” Apartment Therapy says. “Never keep bags for charity or boxes for friends in your home to deliver later. Do it now. Finish the process.”

4. Leave room to grow

Those pretty baskets and boxes all lined up and labeled with their contents seem great on the outside. But if there isn’t enough room for you to grow within them, then that organizational system is going to break down pretty quickly. Leave yourself a little breathing room for when you inevitably acquire new items.

5. Don’t expect perfection

Clutter is subjective. Some people like clean surfaces while others prefer a few knickknacks lying around. But not many people actually have — or need — spaces that look like an ad for storage bins. Your home should be functional for your lifestyle, and it shouldn’t cause you stress. So if you’ve organized to the point where you can say that’s true, that’s a decluttering victory.

Main image credit: urfinguss/Getty Images

94 comments

Elle K
Elle K1 months ago

Organizing/decluttering is a great stress reliever for me; you can gauge my stress level by the tidiness of my living space.

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Louise A
Louise A2 months ago

tyfs

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Olga Nycz-Shirely
Olga Nycz-Shirely2 months ago

TY

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Paula A
Past Member 2 months ago

tyfs

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joan silaco
joan silaco2 months ago

thank you

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Helen C
Helen C2 months ago

thanks for sharing.... it does work

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Ingrid A
Past Member 2 months ago

thank you for this

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Maria P
Martha P2 months ago

Thanks for sharing

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Caitlin L
Past Member 2 months ago

Thank you

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Renata Kovacs
Renata Kovacs2 months ago

Yes think does make you feel better well I do..Thank you for sharing..

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