All The Clutter And Extra Stuff In Your House Is Making You Miserable

by Melissa L. Fenton
Originally Published: 
A woman shocked by all the clutter in her living room
valzhina / iStock

If I asked you right now what’s the one thing about your home that makes you the craziest, I bet your answer would be something along the lines of, “It’s not big enough for all of our stuff,” or “I need to get rid of all this clutter, toys, and clothes that don’t fit anyone anymore, and all of this crap!”

It’s no surprise that we Americans love our stuff! We’re the largest consumers of household goods in the world, and hands down, our homes are the most stuff-filled ones on the planet. The average American household has over 300,000 items in it, and families spend more money on clothes, shoes, and jewelry than they do on higher education.

Our homes are filled with more TVs than people, we drop 1.2 trillion a year on non-essential goods, and the home organization industry has more than doubled in size in the last decade. We’ve even given a name to our stuff-accumulation diversions: retail therapy. And where does all that stuff go in our homes? Sadly, it actually doesn’t because when we can no longer fit all of our stuff in our homes, we rent storage units, of which there are currently five times more of in the U.S. than Starbucks. Process that for a sec.

You’d think access to all this useful (and plenty of not-so-useful) stuff would fulfill all of our needs, and in some ways, it does. We have gadgets and gizmos aplenty, stuff to make all of our lives easier and more efficient. And when our stuff starts to overtake our homes, no biggie, because then we just buy giant storage bins and organizational systems to hold all of our stuff in nice, neat, stuff-able places. And since it’s now all organized, time to buy more because now we have more room!

So the stuff accumulation cycle continues, yet we never seem to have enough or even be grateful for what we do have and, instead, we’re drowning in our possessions, but they provide us with only temporary satisfaction and fulfillment. Stuff cannot fill our soul with peace and contentment, but it sure as hell can fill up our closets, under our beds, our laundry rooms, our basements, attics — you get the idea. But it’s when our stuff becomes a burden to our mental health and well-being that it becomes obvious that we need to swallow a very tough pill: minimalism.

In other words, start throwing some crap out because it will make you happier.

You see, we don’t often realize it, but stuff needs plenty of attention, and I don’t know about you but I’ve already got enough things living in my home that also need my attention — small humans, for example. According to Psychology Today, clutter overstimulates our visual, olfactory, and tactile systems, exhausting our senses with unnecessary stimuli. It interferes with relaxation by constantly reminding our brains of to-do lists and causing anxiety because the idea of sorting and organizing our stuff becomes overwhelming.

All of the things we own require our time, energy, and focus because they need to be cleaned, managed, and maintained, thus distracting us from the things that truly bring us happiness. Scientists have even found a link between an overabundance of household objects (making for what they call stressful home environments) and how it detrimentally affects a woman’s long-term well being more than it does a man’s. (Ever notice your husband is able to sit and relax peacefully when the house is a total mess, but you’re not able to do the same?)

We are a nation living in giant homes filled to the brim with everything we could ever want, and yet it’s making us all miserable. No wonder books on minimalism and simple living theories like KonMari are flying off the shelves (and probably sitting under a pile of other books you bought but haven’t read yet). We’re all desperate to get our lives back from the bondage of excess and abundance.

But what’s the best way to do it? Call in a real person because attempting this alone with a book on decluttering will get you nowhere. It’s as simple as that. Have another human in your home who is good at throwing crap away (You know that one friend who has a clutter-free home? Call her) and have no shame in doing so. You need someone with zero emotional attachment to all the crap you are clearly (and irrationally) attached to.

Start with small goals of clearing one drawer at a time while also not buying or bringing in any new unessential goods. Small improvements in reducing the amount of stuff in your home will slowly yield big improvements in your mental health, and turn your home back into a place of tranquility and peace, and one that you want to actually be in rather than complain about.

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