Scientists Show That Living In A Messy Home Causes Anxiety

Updated February 12, 2018

While hoarding seems to be a hot topic these days and real-life incidents have been showcased on television involving people who obsess over belongings, the truth is that most people prefer to be in a neat and tidy environment and there is scientific evidence that clutter causes anxiety.

It can be frustrating to come home to a house that is in complete disarray with toys strewn about and dirty dishes piled up in the sink. If you find yourself feeling more stressed when the house is cluttered, that is because it quite literally causes stress in our lives, according to psychologists.

“Clutter can play a significant role in how we feel about our homes, our workplaces, and ourselves. Messy homes and workspaces leave us feeling anxious, helpless, and overwhelmed. Yet, rarely is clutter recognized as a significant source of stress in our lives,” Psychologist Sherrie Bourg Carter said in an article highlighting the topic in Psychology Today.

And Carter has concluded that there are eight major reasons that contribute to this clutter-induced stress:

  • It signals to our minds that our work is never done
  • Clutter overwhelms us because it causes excessive stimuli so our senses go into overdrive
  • It distracts us from other things we’d like to focus on
  • It can impede productivity and creativity
  • It makes it harder to mentally and physically relax
  • It causes anxiety because we have to think about how we are going to clean everything up
  • It makes it harder to find things we need and takes up space for doing other necessary things on our list

And there is proof that women react more to clutter in their homes than men do. The UCLA’s Center on Everyday Lives and Families found that women who live in cluttered homes have a higher level of cortisol, which is a hormone related to stress. The men who live in those same homes didn’t have the same level of cortisol.

There is hope for those who suffer from anxiety caused by a messy home and Carter has shared a few tips to prevent clutter from taking over your house and your mind…

  • If you clean up your mess as you make it you will have a sense of closure and it will be clean when you return to it
  • Get the whole family involved in cleaning and have each person dedicated to a certain area of the house, making sure that everyone stays in their areas until they have finished their cleaning task to ensure they feel a sense of accomplishment
  • Keep your items in designated spaces and it’s always best to have things put away in closed spaces so you don’t have to look at them. The more you see things that could cause a mess, the more likely you are to get anxious.
  • Throw away things that you don’t use. A good rule of thumb is to ask yourself if you’ve used the item over the last year. If you haven’t, then it’s time to toss it. Make sure to teach your family members this same rule to get them on the right track.