The Impact of Clutter on the Brain

Sep 4, 2020 | Health Matters, Healthy Living

10 Benefits of Simplifying Your Environment

Last time we gave some suggestions on clearing the clutter in your home.  Hopefully, you have given it some thought or even tried some of the tips.  But did you know that clutter actually impacts the brain?  Several recent studies have used functional magnetic resonance imaging (FMRI) and other assessments to determine how clutter alters the brain, and the results are fascinating.

In a nutshell, it is clear that trying to work or relax in a cluttered environment makes it difficult to focus, be creative, process information, and filter information.  It also increases stress and distracts the brain on several levels.  An abundance of visual stimuli, as well as the awareness of clutter in the room, can overload the senses and impact your ability to give your full attention to the task at hand.

Researchers at Yale found that two specific areas of the brain “light up,” or become active, in ways similar to experiencing minor to moderate physical pain when people consider parting with belongings.  Their research implied that one of the reasons people hold onto things is to avoid this pain.  At Princeton, researchers found that people performed far better and were more productive in organized spaces.  They traced brain activity in cluttered environments and found an increase in stress hormones.  They determined that working in cluttered spaces causes the brain to split its attention, resulting in poorer performance.

There are so many reasons to simplify and organize your environment.  Here are 10 things to look forward to when you do:

  • You will have an increased ability to sustain focus and attention.
  • Your mood will improve in an organized, clutter-free space.
  • Working memory is enhanced when there is order around you.
  • The ability to quickly shift between tasks improves.
  • You will experience less stress. Knowing where things are and having an organized space means not wasting time looking for what you need.
  • Things will seem more manageable. Rather than being overwhelmed by piles of random things, you will be able to do what you need to do, one step at a time.
  • Creativity and productivity will increase when your environment is orderly.
  • You will be able to relax more if you are not visually overstimulated.
  • Simplifying your home will allow more time for yourself, friends, and family.
  • When things are organized you will save money because you will know what you have, rather than buying things that have been misplaced or lost in the piles.

As we discussed last time, people hold on to belongings for many reasons.  If there is an emotional or financial investment in a specific item, it seems even harder to get rid of it, even if it is something you no longer need or rarely use.  Sometimes, thinking of getting rid of an item forces people to consider they made a mistake in purchasing it to begin with.  This isn’t necessarily an enjoyable thought!  But, with practice and consistency you can clear away clutter and develop an organizational system that works for you.  Remember the old saying: work smarter, not harder.  You can do it!

Next time we will talk about using lists as an organizational tool, and give suggestions on how to use them at home, work, and even in the grocery store.