We all have areas of our lives that are filled and dominated by clutter, both physical and mental. In an age of material and virtual adundance, where we are constantly bombarded by distractiosn and stimualtions from every possible angle, it is important to remember the quote from Henry David Thoreau,
“Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplify, simplify, simplify! I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand; instead of a million count half a dozen, and keep your accounts on your thumb-nail.“
Now, that doesn’t mean avoid the opportunities in life and the chances to explore new ideas, places and interact with new people. Rather, I think it means we should be choosy of what we give our time and attention to. Life is precious and fragile, but also strong and resilient. It can be LONG, and feel LONG, if we spend it wisely and richly in a manner that best suits our temperaments and proclivities.
Psychological Impacts of Clutter
Clutter can have a number of negative psychological impacts, including:
- Stress and anxiety: Having a cluttered living or working space can create a feeling of being overwhelmed and out of control, which can lead to increased stress and anxiety.
- Difficulty focusing: Clutter can be distracting, making it harder to focus on tasks and making it more difficult to be productive.
- Low self-esteem: Clutter can create a sense of shame or embarrassment, leading to feelings of low self-esteem and self-worth.
- Procrastination: Clutter can create feelings of being overwhelmed, which can make it difficult to start or complete tasks, leading to procrastination.
- Difficulty sleeping: A cluttered environment can make it difficult to relax and wind down, which can lead to difficulty sleeping.
- Depression: Clutter can make you feel trapped, helpless, and like you are stuck in an endless cycle of disorganization and chaos which can lead to depression.
- Difficulty making decisions: Clutter can make it difficult to think clearly, which can make decision-making more challenging.
It’s worth noting that these effects are not limited to people with a diagnosable disorder, but can be experienced by anyone who feels overwhelmed by clutter in their living or working space.
In addition, some people may have a stronger psychological reaction to clutter, such as hoarding disorder, which is a mental disorder characterized by the persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions, regardless of their actual value.
The Ziegarnik Effect
The Ziegarnik effect is a phenomenon observed by the Soviet psychologist Bluma Wulfovna Ziegarnik in the 1920s. The effect is named after her. The Ziegarnik effect refers to the tendency for people to remember incomplete or interrupted tasks better than completed tasks. In other words, when a task is left incomplete, it creates a sense of tension or unfinished business that can make it more difficult to forget. The Ziegarnik effect has been observed in a number of different contexts, including memory, problem-solving, and decision-making.
The Ziegarnik effect can be used to improve productivity and goal-achievement. For example, breaking up a big project into smaller, more manageable tasks and focusing on one task at a time, instead of multitasking, can help to make the task more memorable and easier to complete.
In addition, it is important to take a break from time to time and allow the mind to rest. This can help to reduce the tension and cognitive load associated with an incomplete task, making it easier to return to the task with renewed focus and energy.
It’s worth noting that the Ziegarnik effect is not a universal law, and the effect of interruption on memory is complex and varies depending on the type of task, individual, and other factors.
Essentially, the tasks that we have started or planned on already starting, but have not finished, have a negative impact on our minds ability to completely focus on a given task. We only have so much processing power and it is wise to properly allocate your biological resources. A technical example would be if you have a bunch of programs and services running in the background on your computer, it will run significantly slower.
Organization and cleaning can have a number of positive mental benefits, including:
- Increased productivity: A clean and organized environment can make it easier to focus on tasks, leading to increased productivity.
- Reduced stress and anxiety: Being in a clean and organized space can create a sense of calm and control, which can help to reduce stress and anxiety.
- Improved mood: Cleaning and organizing can give a sense of accomplishment, leading to an improved mood.
- Better sleep: A clean and organized environment can make it easier to relax and wind down, which can lead to better sleep.
- Increased self-esteem: Having a clean and organized space can create a sense of pride and accomplishment, leading to increased self-esteem.
- Improved decision making: Being in an organized environment can help to clear the mind, making it easier to think clearly and make decisions.
- Better relationships: A clean and organized space can make it more comfortable to have guests over, which can lead to better relationships with friends and family.
- Better mental health: A clean and organized environment can help to reduce the negative effects of clutter on mental health, such as anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem.
It’s worth noting that the benefits of organization and cleaning are not limited to people with a diagnosable disorder, but can be experienced by anyone who feels overwhelmed by clutter in their living or working space.
Here are areas in which I can declutter:
- Tool and Yard Equipment
- Kitchenware that is no longer used
- Apps on my phone
- Social media accounts
I’m sure there are more, but that’s what I could come up with for now! Go through this exercise yourself and see how you can start to declutter your life!
What matters is getting started and starting small. As you build momentum you will be able to do more with less effort. The cloud filled sky will part revealing a sunshine that was always there, but needed to be uncovered!