Does Mess Really Create Stress?

Does Mess Really Create Stress?

Today I had a conversation with a Year 12 student in the middle of exams.  This gentleman has one exam to go, and ten days between his previous exam and the final one.  I had encouraged him earlier in the week to take a day off, so when I saw him next, I asked him if he had managed to take a break.

He had, and let me know that he spent the day clearing out his bedrooms cupboards.  Surprised?  I wasn’t.

Many of us find organisation incredibly therapeutic – and the popularity of shows such as Netflix’s Get Organised with The Home Edit and Marie Kondo’s whole system of “sparking joy” show us that as a society, we are increasingly recognising the power and the beauty of order and organisation.

I love a well-organised pantry as much as anyone, but I am sorry to say that mine rarely isn’t a mess. I am a messy person – and I could accept this except for one thing – I hate mess.  Whenever I walk into my house and stuff is everywhere (my partner and the kids are messy too!) I actually feel completely overwhelmed and well, exhausted.

So is mess stressful? Or is it just me?

A quick bit of research shows that disorder in the home is actually a tremendous cause of stress, strain and pressure. Clutter and chaos can affect our sleep, our ability to focus and can even cause anxiety.

We should never underestimate the impact of our physical environment on our wellbeing.  What we see around us impacts us unconsciously. If nothing else, mess is always a visual reminder of just how much we have to do, and just how out of control our lives might feel.  Neither of these feelings are conducive to relaxation, and this is the very thing home should signify to us.

There is even research that links a cluttered bedroom to sleeplessness, and clutter in general to SNACKING.  Can you believe it?  And irritation to our sinuses – with dust accumulating amidst the piles and piles of stuff. Our untidiness is having an impact on our physical health!

Clutter has also been linked to social anxiety – and we know how important connecting with others is.  But a messy home makes us less likely to open it to friends and family.  We feel shame or embarrassment that we cannot better manage our space and our time.  Who needs to feel this?

So is it time to tidy? And why can tidying sometimes feel so good?

Our brains actually like organisation – they like things that are easy and logical to process.  So when my student tidied his wardrobe on his day off, he was actually removing a stressor and creating positive feelings in his study space that will no doubt have a positive impact on his learning.  Apparently it was very satisfying too – letting go of so many things he realised he no longer needed!  It feels good to be back in control!

The only exception – according to some articles –  is our desks.  Messy desks can apparently be a sign of creativity – and I am happy to accept that looking at my desk at work right now.

So next time we have had a hard day, and want to put out feet up with a cuppa, maybe we should embrace our inner Marie Kondo and do some tidying as well – it might help us avoid stress later on. Just don’t go buying all the clear storage boxes at Kmart… I need some of those!

And if you can, get a cleaner! Never feel guilty about this. It could be a valuable investment in your mental health.


Want to Know More?  You might enjoy these:

The Psychological Impact of Clutter

Declutter Your Life Today (The Home Edit)

Top Ten Tips of Tidying Up From Marie Kondo


Photo by Andrew Piacquadio from Pexels

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