The things we own aren’t passive. Our stuff actively takes from us, all the time. In this post, I’m sharing more about the negative effects of clutter. Discussing the common ways your stuff is actually stealing from you. All to inspire and motivate you to clear the clutter and regain control over your life!
Most people feel attached to the things they own. You spent your money on them, you’re emotionally attached to your things, you use “stuff” to express who you are to the world, etc. Because we feel attached to the things we own, decluttering and letting go can be hard.
But looking at the negative effects of clutter and realizing everything you choose to own is taking from you in a variety of different ways, can help make letting go easier.
The goal is to only keep the things that add enough value to your life (because you use them regularly or love them), to make up for what they take from you.
After all, decluttering isn’t about what you’re giving up. Instead, it’s about what you gain when you let go of the clutter, the excess and the distractions.
It’s about clearing the clutter from your home and your life so you have more time, space, energy and freedom to do more living!
12 negative effects of clutter
Here are 12 common negative effects of clutter to show you a variety of ways the “stuff” in your home and your life is stealing from you. Use this list to light a fire under you and give you the push you need to start – and finish – clearing the clutter from your life!
1. Clutter steals your time
Everything you own takes some of your time. First, you need to work to earn the money to buy it. Then shop for it, pick it up, organize it, put it away, repair it, maintain it, look for it, etc.
Even if it doesn’t seem like much time, when you multiply those few seconds multiple times a day by every single item you own, it adds up. It can often feel like you have a never-ending to-do list just taking care of all your stuff!
For the things you use and love, it’s ok because they add value to your life in exchange for the time they take from you. But the clutter, the stuff you aren’t using or don’t love, simply takes your time without giving you anything in return.
When you have more stuff than you use, need or love, you spend a lot of time managing and taking care of all that stuff. And as a result, have less time for other, more important things.
2. Clutter steals your space
Every item in your home takes some of your space. Again, for the items you use and/or love, they add value to your life in exchange for the space they take up.
But for the things you don’t use or love, they simply fill your space. Making your home feel crowded, cluttered and overwhelming.
Clutter can even make you feel like you need a bigger home or more space. But more often than not, you don’t need more space, you just need less stuff!
3. Clutter steals your money
All the stuff you own used to be money you had.
When you buy more than you need or buy stuff that quickly ends up as clutter in your home, it’s basically like that stuff has stolen your money.
Impulse or emotional purchases are excellent examples of the way clutter can steal your money. Those are the kinds of purchases you don’t need and likely won’t bring you lasting enjoyment or use. Quickly ending up as unused or unloved clutter in your home instead.
And even worse, purchases that aren’t planned and intentional can cause you to spend more than you want or can afford. And can even lead you to accumulate debt.
4. Clutter steals your energy
One of the big negative effects of clutter is just how much energy the stuff you own takes from you. And there are so many different ways “stuff” takes your energy.
It starts with working to earn the money to buy the stuff. Then goes on to the energy it takes to manage all the stuff you own. From shopping for it, picking it up, organizing it, looking for it, reorganizing it, keeping track of it, etc. it all adds up.
Then finally, the clutter stays in your home and your life until you decide to get rid of it. And then the decluttering process takes even more time and energy from you.
Imagine what you could do with all the extra time and energy you’d have if you didn’t have to spend so much of it taking care of your “stuff”!
5. Clutter interferes with your relationships
Another negative effect of clutter is the way it interferes with your relationships with the people you love and care about.
When a big portion of your time and energy are spent managing the stuff you own, you have less time and energy to give to the people you love.
Not only that, but clutter is distracting! It’s hard to give your full attention to the people you care about when the clutter and “stuff” in your life are constantly competing for your attention.
When you aren’t able to give your time, energy and attention to the people you love, your relationships with them can suffer.
Clutter can also leave you feeling overwhelmed or frustrated with the amount of work required to take care of everything you own. These feelings of frustration and overwhelm can often be directed towards your family. Even causing you to feel resentful or angry for the amount of time and energy managing your home and the stuff in it takes.
A cluttered home can also leave you feeling embarrassed about the way your home looks. Sometimes making you not want to invite people over to your house. Which can interfere with your relationships with friends and family even further.
6. Clutter steals your contentment
When clutter causes your home to become a source of stress for you, not a retreat from the world and the stress you face in it, clutter can start stealing your happiness and contentment with your home.
Research has found that clutter interferes with how much pleasure you take from being in your home. And because many people strongly identify with their home, a cluttered home not only impacts your feelings of contentment with your home. But can also even negatively affect your feelings about yourself.
Clutter can also impact your happiness in general, beyond just your contentment with your home. For many people, a cluttered home can negatively impact their mood, leaving them feeling stressed, cranky, anxious and unhappy.
7. Clutter and mental health
There is a strong connection between clutter and mental health. A variety of studies have shown that one of the big negative effects of clutter is the impact a cluttered home can have on your mental health.
There is a strong link between clutter and stress. Studies have shown a cluttered home increases cortisol levels in the brain, particularly in women. Cortisol is known as the stress hormone. When your body is in a continual state of stress for long periods of time, it can impact both your mental and your physical health.
Clutter has also been linked to heightening anxiety and depression in some people.
8. Clutter interferes with your physical health
As I mentioned, the negative effects of clutter can impact your mental health, but also your physical health as well.
First, cluttered homes often contain more dust, simply because clutter makes cleaning and clearing the dust more difficult. The increased dust levels can pollute the air and contribute to respiratory problems in some cases.
Clutter can also pose a fire hazard. Not only are there more things to catch fire and burn. But clutter can often block exits in the event of an emergency.
Research has shown that living in a cluttered home can even impact your eating habits. People living in cluttered homes are more likely to make less healthy food choices because the clutter causes them to feel stressed and overwhelmed.
9. Clutter steals your freedom
There are many different ways clutter can steal and interfere with your freedom.
To start with, the stuff you own ties you down and burdens you. The more you own, the more you are required to take care of and manage. Whereas a clutter-free home gives you more freedom to use your time and energy for things that matter most to you.
Beyond that, owning more and buying more often requires you to work more to pay for it all. This ties you to your job and the hours you work more than if you were buying less and spending less.
10. Clutter steals your productivity
Clutter distracts you, competes for your attention and can visually overstimulate you. All of which makes it hard to focus and can interfere with your productivity.
Not to mention, when you have too much stuff to take care of, it can feel like you’re fighting a losing battle with a never-ending to-do list. No matter how hard you work, when you have more stuff than you can manage, there’s always more to do.
When you feel like you are never catching up on or are always behind on housework, it’s hard to feel or be productive. Often feeling like you’re spinning your wheels, but never getting ahead.
11. Clutter steals your peace
When you’re surrounded by clutter and chaos, it’s hard to rest or relax in your home. It can leave you feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, defeated, stressed and discontent. And definitely not peaceful in your home.
Your home becomes another source of stress in your life. Instead of a refuge from the stress you face in your daily life. It is no longer a sanctuary or peaceful place for you to retreat to in order to rest, relax, recharge and find peace.
12. Clutter impacts your quality of life
All of these negative effects of clutter add up to impact your overall well-being and quality of life. Clutter can impact so many facets of your life. From your time and energy, your contentment with your home and life, all the way to your mental and physical health.
Clutter and stress
The biggest way clutter impacts your quality of life is the amount of stress it adds to your life. Stress affects us in so many ways, increasing blood pressure, slowing digestion, even interfering with sleep.
And while your response to stress can be helpful in life or death situations. When your stress response is triggered by non-life or death situations and triggered often, the effects of stress can begin to negatively impact your life. Which impacts your overall well-being and quality of life.
The relationship between clutter and stress is significant. As I mentioned, clutter tends to trigger your stress response and increase cortisol levels in the brain. When your home itself becomes a trigger for your stress response, you experience more stress over the long term. Not even having your home as a place to retreat to escape the stress of daily life.
Use the negative effects of clutter to motivate you to simplify!
Knowing more about the negative effects of clutter and what clutter is stealing from your life can help you continue on your path towards simplifying and decluttering your home and your life.
No one wants to be stolen from. As you begin to see the different ways “stuff” and clutter are stealing from you, use it to fuel your motivation to clear the clutter. All so you can regain your time, space and control over your life!
Which of these negative effects of clutter impacts you the most? Which one motivates you the most to clear the clutter from your home and life? Leave a comment and let me know!
Sunday 5th of September 2021
I’m facing a bedroom piled high with things from great grandparents to my youngest child, to remember them by, to cherish them - I’m going to start back in on my bedroom and ignore the photos by instantly putting them in shoe boxes. Thank you for your words. I hope I can influence my momma (73) not by making her read this (until we r en route to somewhere and she’s driving and captive then I’m reading you to her!!) and we can be of help to one another in our home and let go of some old hurts. Bless you.
Simple Lionheart Life
Tuesday 7th of September 2021
I'm so glad you found it helpful! Thanks for reading :)
Friday 17th of April 2020
Thank you from the bottom of my pile of junk. I have started the process and just finished a two week marathon on just 2 rooms. I am exhausted, but am looking forward to having back my home and my life. After collecting for years, and I mean years. I need to let the stuff I've been using to avoid dealing my disappoints, so that I can live a life that will fill my soul. Reading your articles has really encouraged me tonight to make sure my WHY is front and foremost as I work through one or more projects a day. I will definitely embrace the complete one small task/section at a time. I've already designated the "items to go location" so that when this is crisis is over I can donate the items. I think this will be the key to my success. You are a gem for sharing your thoughts on this and great suggestions. thanks
Simple Lionheart Life
Sunday 19th of April 2020
You're so welcome! I'm glad you found it helpful. And good for you! It sounds like you're working very hard and making amazing progress. That's so great! I think keeping your "why" at the forefront of your mind and working away at decluttering one small step at a time sound like great things to do. Thanks for reading and I wish you all the best as you continue decluttering and enjoying the benefits it brings!
Saturday 10th of August 2019
Oh my goodness I know I need to simplify and declutter...the part about stress rings so true. I have a 3 year old, work from home and have a husband who loves to keep things...just in case. I have been dealing with anxiety and depression the last couple of years and I wonder if somebody it is related to all of the STUFF in our house. Really hope to start de cluttering soon!!
Simple Lionheart Life
Sunday 11th of August 2019
While decluttering won't solve all the challenges in our lives, it can certainly help remove one big source of stress. And give us a home where we can rest, recharge and find peace in order to be better able to deal with the other challenges we have to face. I think decluttering is a great way to bring more peace (and less stress!) into our lives! Thanks for reading and happy decluttering :)
Wednesday 7th of August 2019
I am a retired teacher and haven't been able to let go of a lifetime of teaching treasures. I basically have a classroom in the basement. Reading your article has inspired me to go about the arduous task of clearing it all out. I found several places to donate the best items and though depressed, am starting to get excited about having open space for new endeavors. Thanks for a fresh perspective!
Simple Lionheart Life
Wednesday 7th of August 2019
That's amazing! Good for you! I am so happy this post was able to give you some inspiration. I love that you are focusing on how you will be able to use the space in the future. That's a great way to stay motivated and positive as you clear out your teaching supplies. Thanks for sharing your experience and good luck as you declutter :)
Sunday 28th of July 2019
I am really loving your articles! I am finishing up my fourth semester in nursing school, work part time, have four teens in the house and a husband that hates getting rid of things! I also have my two year old grandbaby at my house five days a week.... So I am sure you can imagine the clutter. Thank you for helping me get a mental take on things. I didn't even realize how stressed I am at home just because of our cluttered up house! I am very excited to learn more from you.
Simple Lionheart Life
Monday 29th of July 2019
I'm so happy to hear this post was helpful for you Angie! It definitely sounds like your life full! Thanks for reading :)