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Mental Health Benefits of an Organized Home

posted:

3/12/2024

@caroline__potter

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Caroline

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This question popped in my inbox a few weeks ago, and I truly can’t stop thinking about it. So, what could be the mental health benefits of an organized home?

“Caroline, your house looks pretty tidy. How do you manage it?”

My response might not be what you are expecting.

A tidy house is a mindset shift. It has nothing to do with how much time, money or storage you have.

It’s believing, and fully knowing, that an organized home = an organized brain.

I daily see a huge difference in my mental and physical health when my house is organized. I see how it impacts the way my children play, sleep and interact with me. Experiencing the value of a tidy home is the reward!

For more inspo…

picture of a drawing of an organized home, with cute bushes, windows and a large roof.

So, how does organization actually impact your mental health?

Clutter is perceived by the brain as stress.

Do you ever feel overstimulated? Clutter is a huge source of physical and mental overstimulation because the brain views it as a stress.

Visually, clutter decreases focus and memory and increases mental overwhelm.

Physically, clutter increases cortisol, our body’s main stress hormone.

Messy homes can even lead to overeating. Yes, I’ve been there, overwhelmed and reached for a snack instead!

Clutter keeps the brain stuck in chronic fight or flight.

Clutter triggers your brain that your environment is not safe. When you don’t feel safe, your body cannot heal or balance.

When you see, feel or perceive something as stressful or “not safe”, your body goes into fight or flight (stress) mode. Constantly being around clutter stresses your brain and shifts your body into chronic fight or flight mode without you even realizing it.

Then what happens? Well, that seemingly “small” thing that triggered you (like your kids asking constant questions, feeling tired or just having a rough day at work) turns into something BIG. 

Your body brilliantly prioritizes survival over rational thought or “calming” down—so when you are in a constant state of stress, your body keeps your heart beating rather than your emotions in check. Yes, physical clutter in your home can lead to some unnecessary emotional responses.

Clutter decreases energy that could be directed to healing and rational thought.

Although some days you may feel like superwoman, I know I certainly have those days, the reality is we are humans with limited capacity and energy.

Our bodies are beautifully designed and have the ability to do SO much greatness, but we can’t do it all.

Choices are exhausting, decision fatigue is real. When we are overstimulated by things or even the time it takes to manage those things, our brain says, “hey I’ve had too much, so I’m going to decrease functioning to conserve energy for life sustaining functions.” Rational thought goes out the window. Patience and a slow response is gone. Energy to tackle your responsibilities decreases. That’s not you doing something wrong, that’s your body prioritizing.

What if you only had one to two options of shoes to choose from? And if you had a ‘daily uniform’ and knew exactly what to wear each morning? What if you had less toys to manage? 

You’d have MORE energy to heal and love your life!

similar picture of the drawing above, of an organized home with cute bushes, windows and a large roof.

How to (practically) start keeping your home organized

We know that clutter leads to stress but stress often prevents us from organizing, so, we get caught up in this never ending cycle. Taking the first step is always the hardest—but just do it, you’ll reap the benefits!

This is where daily rhythms beautifully support your nervous system and organizing your home.  Once you get into a flow, the organization because subconscious actions you love rather than ones that overwhelm you.

Throw away 10 items.

Whenever I’m feeling overwhelmed, I do this and instantly feel calmer and so satisfied with myself. If someone could bottle up and sell the feeling that throwing away stuff creates, they’d be a billionaire!

This could be something as simple as a gum wrapper, a catalog that came in the mail or those old socks that have a hole in them. This is something I love doing daily and it always makes me feel so accomplished—rather than focusing on all I didn’t get done, I can quickly think, wow I got that done and my house feels less cluttered.

It’s a fun ‘game’ to play and winning the game is pretty easy!

Set a timer and do this as a family. Challenge your kids to walk around and find 5-10 things (depending on their age) to get rid of—I have them put them in a pile so I can make sure they are actually meant for the trash! 

Read more about this concept: How to Support Your Nervous System in an Overstimulated World >

Focus on one space. 

There is no way that every space in your home will be clean and tidy all the time. That’s not realistic. 😉

I choose one space and do a power clean up. 5 minutes can make a huge impact. Do this 3 times a day and that’s 3 spaces and only 15 minutes. Everyone has 15 minutes right?!

For me, the spaces usually are our kid’s toy area (I recruit them to help), kitchen counters and laundry room. But make this list yours! 

Ask yourself: What space is stressing me out most? Where do I notice an increase in anxious and overwhelming thoughts? 

That’s your space to start with. Go ahead, set your timer. Ready, set, go.

Love the items you bring into your home.

“Stuff” has to be managed. Managing stuff (even the required items like toothpaste, food and clothes) takes time and brain power. As humans we have a limited capacity—we only have so many decisions, so much mental power and time.

The energy it takes to “manage your stuff” pulls energy away from healing, from rational thought and from your ability to navigate life stressors. In simple terms, if you spend so much time organizing your stuff, you’ll have less energy to do what you love to do, what you need to do, have conversations and laughter with your loved ones and even what you want to create.

As I like to say, I’d rather have time to go for a run, play with my children and work with my clients than organizing my kids toys.

So buy what you love—quality items you know you’ll still love in a decade. 

That shirt you really don’t need, wait until you find one you love, spend time thinking about it, picturing how you’ll wear it. If after a few days or weeks, you still are thinking about it—then it’s most likely a good purchase.

And yes, truthfully my kids each have 2 pairs of shoes and 3 sets of pajamas. It is possible!

Explore our holistic toolkit for our favorite items >

Picture of the "Reset Your Nervous System" guide and a call to action to get it

FAQs

What are the mental health benefits of a tidy home?

A tidy home can reduce mental and physical overstimulation, decrease cortisol levels (the body’s main stress hormone), and improve focus and memory by minimizing clutter that the brain perceives as stress.

How does clutter affect mental health?

Clutter is perceived by the brain as a stressor, leading to decreased focus, increased mental overwhelm, and physically elevating cortisol levels, which may even contribute to overeating.

Can a messy home increase stress levels?

Yes, clutter and mess in your home can trigger your brain to feel unsafe, pushing your body into a chronic fight or flight mode, leading to unnecessary emotional responses and increased stress levels. Organizing your space can signal to your brain that your environment is safe, which allows your body to rest and restore.

How can throwing away items help with stress?

Throwing away even small items like a gum wrapper or catalogue can instantly reduce feelings of overwhelm and bring a sense of accomplishment, helping to calm and satisfy the mind.

Why is focusing on one space at a time beneficial for mental health?

Focusing on one space at a time allows for manageable, impactful cleaning sessions that don’t overwhelm the mind, helping reduce anxious thoughts linked to specific cluttered areas.

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