Why Clutter is Messing up Your Productivity

My husband once observed, “the thing about the laundry and the dishes is that they just never stop.” Never has that felt truer than right now when everything happens at home – from elaborate meals to smoothies to workouts to every single shower to work. And in the background of all of that, the dishes just do not stop.

Two weeks ago, I was having trouble sleeping. I’d startle myself awake and think about the clutter in our kitchen, which was a new concern keeping me up at night. I’m usually a to-do list in the middle of the night kind of person. It felt strange and trivial to be waking up simply because we didn’t put the kitchen and living room back together before we went to bed (and because I’d Swedish-Chef’d the kitchen again, ignoring the rule followed in all professional kitchens to clean your work station as you go).

As the weekend grew closer, I’d planned to spend my Saturday lounging and recharging, but the clutter wouldn’t allow it. I couldn’t relax with the mess just looking at me, slowly gaining size and power in my mind. So I killed the clutter-monster instead, spending an entire Saturday pulling things out of closets and dividing between “keep,” “donate,” and “toss.”

At the end of that Saturday, I felt better than I could have imagined. I set a goal, accomplished it. And the best part? I felt less distracted as the week unfolded and I slept better each night.

That feeling is why we created a bite-sized decluttering challenge and we’re inviting you to join us in taking it on this week. We created five daily tasks (kicking off with a personal styling workshop and closet clean-out) that will empower you to clear out the trouble spots in your home.

Science says, you’ll feel happier, more productive, and less stressed by the end of the week.

If you’re thinking to yourself, “self, it feels like “decluttering” is just another word for cleaning and I have enough to do,” I hear you. I would rather do 100 burpees than a sink full of soaking pots and pans. Also, please someone tell my why we’re still hand-washing pots and pans?  I want to live in a world where I can make scrambled eggs without consequences. 

Sink full of dishes aside, here’s the rub: decluttering is an act of kindness and self-care for future you in three key ways. 

1. Decluttering makes you less stressed out
According to the Mayo Clinic “a cluttered environment can make your brain less effective at processing information — and more prone to frustration.”

That frustration you feel in a cluttered space is similar to that constant “wait, what was I doing?” feeling when you have too many tabs open. There are too many things happening to keep track of, which is stress embodied. 

“When our surroundings feel full, it can also make us feel more anxious and stressed … Clutter can also make it harder to fall asleep and can even make us more likely to reach for junk food, according to one study, which found participants using a “chaotic kitchen” ate twice as many cookies as those in an organized kitchen,” The BBC reported.

2. Decluttering makes you more productive
And because those who can work from home are working from home, the clutter in your space matters deeply for your workday and what you can accomplish. A study done by two Princeton University psychologists found that visual clutter makes it difficult to focus.

Why? Lifehack’s founder Leon Ho says, “Ignoring anything takes energy, and the brain becomes passive when it can’t control what to think about. Ignoring clutter around you (noise, distractions) often takes the same amount of energy as focusing.”

3. Decluttering makes you happier
One of happiness expert Gretchen Rubin’s most quoted secrets of adulthood is “outer order contributes to inner calm.” And, she shares, that getting control of the stuff around you helps you feel in control of your life in general.

BBC backs it up, stating that, “The idea of tidying and being neater can give you a feeling that you’re capable of achieving goals, which is one of our key drivers … If you can look at a new area of organisation, it’s good for your self-esteem and can make you feel like you can master the next challenge too.”

Your challenge this week: Take on the clutter in your home, either by taking on this challenge with us, or by finding a system that works for you, like KonMari, or Gretchen Rubin’s book “Outer order, Inner Calm.” Make this new clutter-clearing stick by reminding yourself of how you feel when the clutter is clear and creating a system to keep it clear in the future.

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About Jeana Anderson Cohen

Jeana Anderson Cohen is the founder and CEO of asweatlife.com a premiere wellness media destination that creates content and community to help womxn live better lives and achieve their goals. Before founding health-focused companies Jeana earned a degree in Journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Madison - and fresh out of college she worked on the '08 Obama campaign in Michigan. From there, she created and executed social media strategies for brands. aSweatLife fuses her experience in building community and her passion for wellness. You can find Jeana leading the team at aSweatLife, trying to join a book club, and walking her dog Maverick.