A top sought after topic in regards to clutter is the question of whether or not decluttering can help you lose weight. This concept may feel like it is coming straight out of left field, but the reality is, there is some truth behind it. Can decluttering our house really help us lose weigh? Let’s dive into some of the research behind clutter, stress, and weight gain and offer up some perspective as to why this phenomenon may be true.
The clutter / weight correlation
There have been two significant findings when it comes to the correlation between clutter and weight gain. One was a study completed by the University of Florida that found that 77% of people with extremely cluttered homes were more likely to struggle with weight gain. Not only were these individuals more likely to be overweight, but they also found that binge eating was more likely as well.
This study put a focus on people with hoarding tendencies, however, we can’t help but think less clutter would still have an impact on our weight and overall health.
A lot of research also points to the correlation between clutter and increased levels of the stress hormone.
Clutter and stress
A 2017 study that looked into procrastination and clutter tendencies found that clutter tendencies reduced happiness as a person ages and that clutter can negatively impact our mental health. There has also been evidence that clutter can increase cortisol (stress) in women in particular.
In 2010 another study was conducted that found amongst married couples, women who perceived their homes as cluttered or needing work had increased stress levels that built throughout the day. Those who didn’t feel cluttered had stress levels that seemed to drop throughout the day.
This could be largely due to the fact that when our surroundings are overly cluttered, it makes our brains go into over-drive.
Morning routine and brain fatigue
Imagine waking up in the morning, tossing your legs over the edge of the bed and your feet immediately being met with a pair of slippers. From there you grab a coffee mug from the cupboard and pour yourself a cup from the pre-made coffee that’s waiting for you in the pot. When you’re done, you make your way to your bedroom where you have a pre-selected outfit for the day hanging on the closet door. Naturally, you get dressed, and continue on with the rest of your morning routine.
Now imagine that you wake up, throw you legs over the side of your bed and are met with piles of undone laundry and dirty dishes from your late night snacking. You walk barefoot to the kitchen and open the cupboards, but can’t seem to find your favorite coffee mug. Finally you give up on fumbling through the endless array of cups and mugs that are taking over you cupboard space and grab whatever mug is closest. After your coffee, you head to your room and try to find a perfect outfit for the day. Each one you try on seems less appealing than the last and before you know it you’re running late and you’ve added more clothes to the pile on the floor.
Which of these two examples would leave a person feeling more stressed out before the day has even begun? Not to mention the first of these examples allows you to wake up and start your day using very little brain power. You didn’t have to think about anything the moment your feet hit the floor. This is not only due to the fact that example number one follows a habitual routine but because clutter also causes our brains to go into overload.
Visual clutter and decision overload
Our brains naturally seek pattern recognition and familiarity. This allows our brains to work more efficiently by exerting less energy. Just think about how you feel when you see a close friend at the grocery store. You might instantly perk up at the sight of a familiar face.
However, we’ve all also been in the situation where a seemingly total stranger strikes up a conversation and we can’t help but feel like we’re supposed to know how they are. While they chat our ears go deaf and we start racking our brains trying to find their face in our brain’s data system. Maybe our palms get a little sweaty, our pupils dilate and we are nervous system starts working overtime.
We benefit from familiar. Not only in the form of faces, but in easy to process environments as well. But, what does all of this have to do with decluttering and weight gain?
Clutter and anxiety
This all leads back to the connection between a cluttered space and an anxious mind. When we feel stressed out or overwhelmed by our space, we may fall into a paralyzing inability to take action. Just by looking around our space we might instantly become overwhelmed by the amount of tasks we have to do. From there, we probably heap on a pile of shame and guilt because of our inability to keep a tidy home.
What do a lot of people tend to do when feeling full of shame and overwhelm? Find a coping mechanism like shopping, drinking, or…eating.
The spiritual explanation
In the spiritual community they use the example that when we feel small, we tend to want to make ourselves feel bigger. This might mean we buy more stuff in order to feel safer, or give ourselves a padding. It could also mean eating more to achieve that same sense of comfort and protection.
When those two things start working hand in hand, we can have a really serious problem on our hands. However, hearing all of this can oftentimes only add to our sense of overwhelm and exhaustion which makes us less likely to take action. Perhaps, then the key to decluttering and losing weight falls into 2 smaller categories.
Let go of the shame
There is a potential reason that women had increasing levels of stress when they had a cluttered environment. Could this be due to the fact that women are naturally social creature who seek acceptance? When we are bombarded with Pinterest cleaning routines and Instagram worthy home aesthetic there may be a part of us that goes into shame overload.
We feel like we are behind, or that other people have figured out something we haven’t. This begs the question, is the clutter to blame or is it our mentality around it? Probably a little bit of both.
Perhaps a good start would be to remind ourselves that people only share the highlights of their homes on social media. Who knows, perhaps they are so good at home maintenance because other areas of their lives are falling apart. This isn’t to make us feel superior to anyone, but to remind ourselves that none of us is perfect at everything. Some of us are just better at making it appear that way.
Take small action
One of the best things we can do for our sanity is to stop trying to attempt perfection. When we believe we have to do it all, we generally tend to do nothing at all. Instead try setting small “half assed” goals for yourself.
Don’t clean the entire house, don’t even clean the entire room. Maybe just start by picking the clothes up off the floor. Who cares if some clean clothes make it into the hamper? They’re not doing any better sitting in a pile on the floor.
Instead of cleaning the entire kitchen, maybe just put dirty dishes in the dish washer.
Set small goals and let yourself off the hook for the rest. You are the boss, who says you can’t make. up the rules?
Learning to gain control of your space in a way that works for you, is one of the first steps to taking back control of clutter. If you need more guidance, grab The Gentle Art of Letting Sh*t Go for some simple ways to do less and accomplish more.