The Psychology Behind Clutter and How To Eliminate It


Please give a warm welcome to Annie Lewellyn from 15 Acre Homestead,
who offered to do a Guest Post for the readers of The Farm Wife.
For more about Annie, see her Bio below!

An Introduction To Clutter

The Psychology of Clutter

Clutter and the act of decluttering are hot topics right now. Here in the United States, we seem to be keeping more stuff than ever before. We buy bigger houses, have larger closets, utilize garages and attics for more storage and there is an increased number of storage units being rented to people for more storage very day.

There is an entirely separate and very profitable market that has arisen to help our population deal with clutter. From organizers that come to your home to clean and straighten the mess to counselors who help with the habit of hoarding, to companies that are promoting storage solutions both small and large-scale to consumers.

The Psychology of Clutter and How to Eliminate It

Clutter is Harmful

Believe it or not, clutter is not good in any sense. Surrounding yourself and/or your family can cause many challenges for you and your loved ones and friends that surround you.

The Psychology of Clutter and How to Eliminate It

Clutter is Distracting

When was the last time you spent entirely too much time trying to find something you kept “just in case”? Do you realize how much time you waste during the act of looking for something that is hard to find because of the clutter? You look in drawers, boxes, under beds, and so on just searching for that one thing while sorting through all the other “things” to find it.

The Psychology of Clutter and How to Eliminate It

You cannot get lost time back!

Even if you are not really looking for anything, all that stuff can be distracting. Trying to keep mental tabs on where everything is when you have such an abundance of stuff is distracting. It is much easier to focus or relax in a space that is clutter-free and clean.

Clutter Affects Your Coping Mechanism

With too much clutter around we tend to hold on to emotions and feelings longer than necessary. We tend to keep things that have some sort of memory attached to them, and we are not willing to let the item go in fear of throwing away a memory. We fell that if we toss that item it will hurt to much.

Many people have a teddy bear or toy from our childhood. Those items are memories of our childhood. Some people keep things from a loved one that has passed away and can’t let go of it because they feel like it is a tie to their relationship with that person.

But the act of letting go of some of these items can be a helpful part of the overall healing process.

The Psychology of Clutter

Clutter Harms the Brain and Causes Stress

Clutter makes it much harder to focus on even the simplest things. It makes it more difficult to process information, thus taking up valuable brainpower. That only leaves you feeling emotionally and physically drained.

Have you ever noticed that the more clutter that surrounds you the more stressed you feel? Think about a yoga studio. How many items are there within the room? Minimal. There is a reason for so little items being in the room, less stress.

That physical clutter is a lot, and when we add the digital clutter to it, we end up stressed-out. With that stress comes illness, risk of stroke and heart attack and more.

Digital Clutter

As if we don’t have enough clutter with physical objects already, we have to also look at the digital clutter. With the increased use of computers and cell phones, we now hold on to even more clutter than ever before.

Since all that digital clutter doesn’t take up physical space we seem to accumulate even more of it than the physical nowadays. But don’t worry there are some solutions.

Finding Digital Clutter

Take some time to figure out all of the places you are keeping digital clutter. Places to look for it may include the following places:

  • Your computer
  • External Hard Drives
  • Laptops and Tablets
  • Your phone
  • Memory Cards
  • Email
  • Mental Clutter

Once you come to realize how much clutter you have on a physical and digital basis it is time to think about the mental clutter. Yes, it is there. Mental clutter is all the thoughts you keep in your brain.

The mental clutter is sometimes the easiest to rid yourself of. Just simply try doing a brain dump. Grab a piece of paper and a pen, set a timer for 10 or 15 minutes and write everything down that comes to your mind at that time. There is no rhyme or reason for this or what you should write. Just write any and everything you think of on that paper.

Those 10 to 15-minute brain dumps can release a large portion of that mental clutter you have been filling up your brain with and can help with focus and even your stress levels.

The Psychology of Clutter

Finding Your Sweet Spot

Some people thrive in a clean and organized environment with minimal items around and some people need an organized mess to be comfortable. However, most people fall somewhere in between the two.

The key is to find your own sweet spot when it comes to clutter and how much stuff you have laying around both physically, mentally, and digitally. This can be tough.

The Psychology of Clutter

Start With A Clean Space

Take the time to make a completely clutter-free environment. Take as much time as you need to declutter, clean and organize your space. This does not have to be perfect. Just do the best you can for your situation. Clean and organize until you feel comfortable in your space. Only you know where this level of comfort is.

When your space feels comfortable you are there. If it feels cold, add something like a throw to a sofa or a candle. If it feels like too much, take more away. At some point, you will find your comfort level or your sweet spot.

Two important things you should keep in mind are 1) what works for you will change over time, as your life changes so will your sweet spot, and 2) clutter sneaks up on you. Return everything to its place and clutter will lose its ability to sneak into your space.


I hope this post inspired you to examine the spaces you live and work in and to decide whether or not your sweet spot is there or if you have to make some changes.

Decluttering is hard both physically and mentally, but it will be well worth the effort you put in. Don’t let the clutter rule you, instead, surround yourself with the items that make you feel cozy and comfortable, less stressed and attain for you the sweet spot.

Remember that less is more, but how much you surround yourself with is completely up to you.

Annie Lewellyn

Annie Lewellyn is a “from-scratch”, old-fashioned, do-it-yourself country kinda gal, who has a vision for an off-grid homestead, with a focus on growing a Food Forest. She is a writer and blogger on all things Homesteading and Self-Reliant living. Annie is also a Life Coach, and teaches the art of balancing any lifestyle with ease. Visit more with Annie at 15 Acre Homestead!

Are you ready to become the ultimate homemaker?  Get some great tips on how to do this with The Ultimate Manual for the Art of Homemaking!

Julie Murphree is a blogger, newspaper columnist, and speaker on all things ‘Living a Simple Life on the Farm’. She is the author of \\\'The Farm Wife – Living a Simple Life on the Farm. She and her husband have 60 acres in NW Louisiana where they actively work on living as sustainable as possible.

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