I’ve got a friend who wants to unclutter her house, but she thinks it’s going to be hard and she doesn’t know where to start. “It just makes me sick to look at this mess,” she told me.
And the weird thing is, she’s right. Literally.
There’s a whole lot of research that shows that a messy environment can affect your happiness and raise your stress levels. There’s a whole article here that links to the studies, and gives lots of reasons why an organized environment can make you feel better, and feel better about life — and keep your blood pressure from going through the roof.
We designers, of course, have known this for a long time. We know that when things are out of place, you have to spend time looking for them, which is incredibly stressful and makes you feel both stupid and helpless. We know that the eye always tends to gravitate to new things, so you’re always paying attention to clutter instead of focusing on what you should be doing. People like to make patterns and group things together, so a messy space actually makes you want to start cleaning — but it then just becomes overwhelming and you surrender to the stress. And, tragically, even your best friends won’t want to visit, because the clutter stresses them out so much that they don’t enjoy the visit. It’s just no way to live.
Really, there are no excuses for excess clutter (especially now that you know it can make you sick). So clean up! It’s just not that hard. If you power through a little straightening each day, soon it will be second nature. Believe it or not, many people find it a calming exercise, as natural and habitual as brushing their teeth.
And really, it’s all about “calm.” When designers talk about a calm environment, they’re often talking about a clutter-free design. The reasons those rooms in shelter magazines look so stylish and comforting is that no one is actually living in them, and there’s no clutter lying about to stress you out.
When you design your home, you also need to design your life — and that means keeping them both clutter-free. I’ll be back next week with some tips to get you on track.
Mary Spalding is a Nashville based interior designer with over 30 years of experience. She has overseen countless home revitalizations, renovations, and restorations. She can be reached with your projects and ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org.