How Cleaning Can Improve Your Mental Health - Social Media Explorer
How Cleaning Can Improve Your Mental Health
How Cleaning Can Improve Your Mental Health
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Clutter can have negative impacts on your mental health. Learn how to declutter your life and gain greater well-being. 

Clutter may divert unconscious attention, making it more likely you’ll forget things, make simple mistakes, and be more easily overwhelmed. 

The human brain can take in 11 million bits of information every second. This is pretty amazing, but the conscious brain can only process 40 to 50 bits of information every second. That means that the vast majority of our awareness either passes right by us or is filed unconsciously, where it may not be readily accessed to make decisions. 

How does the brain make up for this discrepancy? There are a few theories. One is that the brain will make cognitive shortcuts to make sense of patterned information. For example, this gap between what we perceive and what we process is also the reason why humans suffer from unconscious bias. Unconscious bias, often referred to as implicit bias, is the hidden prejudices and stereotypes that affect our judgments and decisions without us even realizing it. These biases are ingrained in our subconscious through societal influences and personal experiences. Examples of unconscious bias include implicit racial biases, gender biases, confirmation biases, and age biases. 

Another theory is that it chooses whatever is most prominent—so a big, colorful piece of information will be filed away consciously more frequently than a smaller piece of information. You’ll consciously notice a loud car driving down the street before the ladybug flying past your ear. 

How does clutter affect our ability to process information? 

Well, if you only have 40-50 bits of information, and one is held up on the laundry, another on yesterday’s lunch sitting on your desk, a few on the notifications coming in on your phone, one each for the sticky notes and open notebooks with important information scrawled on each line. . . you may only have 20 or so bits of information left for processing the problem at hand. 

All of this together results in a brain that tires easier, jumps to unconscious decisions without consciously thinking about it, and that cannot see the problem for what it truly is. 

How does clutter affect our mental health? 

Clutter can lead to: 

  • Lower life satisfaction
  • Negative emotions about the self
  • Higher rates of depression
  • Higher rates of mood disorders
  • Lower psychological well-being
  • Higher consumption of unhealthy food. 

One study found that people who live with a lot of clutter do more critical self-evaluation. Overall, strong links have been found between clutter and decreased mental health, especially depression. 

How to get less clutter

The answer isn’t to be a minimalist—although that’s great if that works for you. There’s been a resurgence of minimalist homes recently; social media is full of people showing off homes filled to the brim with color, trinkets, and personality. Is maximalism linked to mental health disorders? There hasn’t been many studies on that in particular, as home and lifestyles have just started to take the turn towards maximalism since the pandemic. 

Instead, what is well documented is shopping addiction and hoarding is linked to poor mental health. Other studies found that limiting your decisions can maximize your brain’s potential—increasing productivity and creativity while decreasing the risk for mental health disorders. (That’s why many successful people wear the same outfit every day!)

However, a minimalist life doesn’t have to be one that is overwhelming and wrought with shopping addiction or materialism. Instead, experts recommend these tips:

  1. Think before you buy: Do you really need that? Will it bring you joy? How long will it bring you joy? Don’t fall into the capitalist trap of over-consumption. Think carefully about what you want and what you need. It’s perfectly healthy to fill your home with wants, just make sure you actually want them. 
  2. Share things: Sure, maybe you need that one super specific cooking tool for that special birthday dinner or you really want to try that new crafting technique and need new tools. . . Instead of buying these items, which, let’s be honest, will be used maybe once, do you have friends or family who have them? Can you rent them? Can you go somewhere to use a tool without needing to buy it? Humans are meant to be in community with one another, so let yourself lean on your community. 
  3. Work on your decision-making skills: If you struggle with procrastination or indecision, you may also struggle with clutter. Being able to say “I don’t need that anymore” is very decisive! Studies show that the best solution for people who struggle with procrastination isn’t time management but Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. 

Lastly, you may need to treat any mental health disorders, such as ADHD, anxiety, and depression. All of these are mental health issues which may contribute to clutter, and clutter can exacerbate them. Instead of forcing yourself to clean everything, which isn’t always sustainable, take the time to seek out therapy and get to the core issue of the problem. 

Therapy for Chronic Messiness and Clutter

Navigating chronic messiness and clutter can be a challenging journey, impacting not just our physical surroundings but also our mental and emotional well-being. If you find yourself struggling with maintaining a tidy space and feeling overwhelmed by clutter, therapy can be a valuable tool to help you address the root causes of these challenges and embark on a path to organized living.

Chronic messiness and clutter are often symptoms of deeper emotional struggles, such as anxiety, depression, or perfectionism. For some, clutter serves as a physical manifestation of internal turmoil, reflecting feelings of being trapped or out of control. Therapy provides a safe space to explore the underlying reasons behind chronic messiness and clutter, helping you uncover and address the emotional triggers that contribute to these patterns.

Therapy can help by: 

  1. Identifying Root Causes:

In therapy, you can work with a trained professional to identify the underlying factors contributing to your chronic messiness and clutter. Whether it stems from past experiences, emotional distress, or mental health challenges, therapy can help you unravel the complexity of your relationship with clutter and develop strategies to address it effectively.

  1. Developing Coping Strategies:

Through therapy, you can learn practical coping strategies to manage and reduce chronic messiness and clutter. Therapists can guide you in developing organizational skills, setting achievable goals, and establishing healthy routines that support a clutter-free lifestyle.

  1. Addressing Emotional Barriers:

Therapy provides a supportive environment to address any emotional barriers that may be fueling chronic messiness and clutter. By exploring and processing your emotions with a therapist, you can develop healthy coping mechanisms and build resilience to navigate challenges more effectively.

Remember, seeking therapy for chronic messiness and clutter is a courageous step toward healing and transformation. Search for therapists near you who are licensed and capable, such as through Lifebulb (online and in-person), Sondermind (online only), or Grow Therapy (online only). 

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