(Psychology Today) Curbing disorder can radically boost your well-being. An investigation led by Catherine Roster, of the University of New Mexico, examined how clutter compromises our perception of home and ultimately our satisfaction with life. Most people identify closely with their home environment, and Roster wanted to explore the extent to which disarray might interfere with the pleasure of being in that environment. Clutter makes it difficult to navigate the world, and to accomplish what’s needed within it. Nearly 1,500 adults, ages 18 and older, all with mild to moderate disorganization problems, rated their clutter related behaviors say, not being able to find things due to disorder. Roster’s study and other research have identified these five downsides of clutter:
Low Subjective Well-Being
Living in disarray impedes you from identifying with your home, which should be a retreat from the outside world and a place of pride. Having to many things in too small a space will lead you to feel that your home is your enemy, not your friend.
An American-Australian study led by Lenny Vartanian showed that people will eat more cookies and snacks if they are in a noisy and chaotic environment and are, at the same time, made to feel they lack self-control. When your environment stresses you out and you feel powerless to change anything, you’ll grab the nearest junk food.
Poor Mental Health
In examining a century of research on stress and well-being, the University of South Carolina’s Paul Bliese and colleagues noted the importance of a workplace that promotes “mental hygiene.” Other research on work-place satisfaction has pointed to the advantages of employees’ being able to personalize their surroundings, but when those surroundings become cluttered, this may have diminishing returns. Certainly, feeling stressed by a desk piled with papers is enough to cause anyone’s mental hygiene to deteriorate.
Less Efficient Visual Processing
It’s harder to see when your surroundings are filled with random stimuli. James Cutting and Kacie Armstrong, at Cornell, found that subjects couldn’t interpret the emotional expressions on the faces of characters shown in crowded scenes. If this finding holds true in daily life, it means that you’ll be less accurate in figuring out how people are feeling when you’re seeing them amid clutter.
Lower, Not Higher, Creativity
As much as you enjoy strewing the products of your creativity all around you while in the midst of your best Martha Steward moments, research by the Harvard team suggests that you’d be better off acting more like her by keeping things tidy as you go or placing as much emphasis on cleaning up after you finish as you did on making the mess in the first place. If you can’t stop yourself from acquiring possessions to support your creativity, ask yourself why you feel the need to accumulate every gadget out there. It’s true that we’re bombarded by ads promoting “necessities” for every possible project; it’s better to choose one or two items with multiple uses.
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