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Health and Fitness News

No Mess Is Harmless

Here’s what happens when you live in clutter.

A sink full of dirty dishes. Counters covered in junk mail. Family room filled with toys, bedrooms layered with dirty clothes, and garage too full of stuff to park the car.

Sound familiar?

You see magazine pictures of homes in perfect order and you wonder if anyone really lives like that. Occasionally, your home is in order, but it’s just a charade. Because everything is just thrown in closets and drawers, where it’s out of sight, out of mind. You’ve got a problem with clutter. You don’t even know where it all came from.

For some people, the mess is so bad they don’t know where to start cleaning. Maybe it’s a lack of storage containers, a house that’s too small, memorabilia you can’t part with, laziness, or just a busy lifestyle. Whatever the reason, your home is cluttered, and it’s time to purge, clean, and organize.

Why should you consider cutting the clutter out of your home and life? Clutter doesn’t just cause a messy house. It can also affect your health and well-being. Here are six ways clutter is making your life more difficult.

When we clear the physical clutter from our lives, we literally make way for inspiration and ‘good, orderly direction’ to enter. - Julia Cameron

1: Stress

One obvious effect of clutter is increased stress—stress when you lose important items, of feeling overwhelmed because of the mess, or of trying to constantly clean up without making much progress. Studies show that people who live in messy environments have higher levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. Chronic elevated cortisol levels increase your risk for all kinds of health problems. These problems include headaches, heart disease, digestive problems, anxiety, depression, sleep trouble, memory loss, and weight gain.

2: Shame

You friends’ homes are spotless. Everything has a place. Then you compare your home to theirs, and you feel a flood of shame and inadequacy. These feelings contribute a low sense of self-worth and depression. You know you would feel embarrassed if someone stepped foot in your house and saw the mess, so you make sure no one ever does. This leads to feelings of loneliness and a lack of connection with friends.

3: Allergies

If your home is a mess, don’t be surprised if your nose is constantly running, your eyes itch, or you sneeze all the time. A cluttered home is likely dirty and dusty. When you have a lot of knick-knacks and furniture, it’s hard to keep your home dust-free. Dust mites and pet dander are leading causes of indoor allergies.

4: Distraction

When you’re surrounded by clutter, it’s hard to focus and get things done. You may start to fold the laundry piled on the couch, but see a stack of mail on the table. Suddenly, you remember you need to pay a bill, and then can’t find your checkbook. Hours later, the laundry is still in a wrinkled pile on the couch. This happens because living in clutter causes your mind to be cluttered also.

5: Safety Hazards

Living in a home with too much stuff can be a safety hazard, especially for the elderly. Clutter on the floor or too much furniture blocking walkways can lead to falls, the leading cause of fatal injury in older folks. Clutter on kitchen counters may fall on a stove burner and cause a fire.

6: Weight Gain

Some people let clutter reach the point of hoarding. Hoarding disorder is associated with binge eating and weight gain. When you live in a chaotic environment, you’re more likely to eat unhealthy food, snack all the time, or feel so defeated you lack motivation to take care of yourself, let alone your home.

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