Sorry, you need to enable JavaScript to visit this website.

Health & Wellness

For a Happier Life, Clear Out the Clutter

From  / 
You can’t sit down to a meal at your kitchen table without pushing aside piles of mail, newspapers, and magazines.

It’s a challenge to unearth the sweater you wanted to wear from your crowded closet or overstuffed drawers. When people come over, you apologize for being “messy.” Or maybe that mess keeps you from having friends over in the first place.

If these scenarios sound familiar, chances are good you have a clutter issue. And new research suggests that might be causing you unnecessary stress and getting in the way of your accomplishing things that are important to you.

Joseph Ferrari, Ph.D., a professor at psychology at DePaul University in Chicago, defines clutter as “an overabundance of possessions that collectively create chaotic and disorderly living spaces.” The author of the book Still Procrastinating: The No-Regrets Guide to Getting It Done, Ferrari led a research team that looked at the connection between clutter and life satisfaction. His studies have surveyed three groups of adults: college students, young adults in their 20s and 30s, and older adults with an average age of 54.

The results: There was a strong connection to clutter and delaying everyday activities like paying bills on time or returning phone calls and behavior such as putting off decision-making until it’s too late. The greater the tendency was to procrastinate, the more clutter problems increased. In turn, this was linked to lower life satisfaction and a decreased sense of having a meaningful life.

Other research has found a link between clutter, a depressed mood, and levels of the stress hormone cortisol among women.

Ferrari says his research shows that getting too attached to possessions can disrupt your comfort at home and your sense of self. “When possessions interrupt your life,” he says, “when they take priority over your relationships and your responsibilities, then you need to do something. And that’s the problem with clutter. It can disturb your enjoyment of home and your ability to bond with others.”

For those of us who have accumulated a lifetime of what might be too much stuff, Ferrari has some advice: “I would suggest people focus on relationships, not relics.” And, perhaps, he says, make a conscious choice to acquire less. “Most of what we bring into our home, we don’t need,” he says. “Contrary to what people might think, it’s not true that the more you have, the happier you are.”

There’s never been a better time to clear out the clutter. Today, you can find books and TV series devoted to tidying up. An online search of “getting rid of clutter” brings up millions of links. One tip: to get started on the path of a clutter-free home, read the stories, but don’t print them out. Cutting down on excess paper is an easy first step.

Read More In Health & Wellness

It's time to stop worrying about getting old and start enjoying it.
Get Oldspired →