7 Warning Signs That Clutter Is Killing You

October 25, 2021

Clutter is nothing more than deferred decisions. - Andrew Mellen

In the northern hemisphere, fall is in the air everywhere you look. Pumpkin spice has taken over our favorite restaurant menus. Spooky decorations are seen on every street. And, our favorite horror flicks are constantly streaming on TV and online.

Maybe it is just the time of year, but does it feel like strange shadows are suddenly creeping around the corners of your home? 

Is that a masked serial stalker? A knife-wielding murderer? Ghosts, goblins, or ghouls? 

We have all had that uneasy feeling that we are being watched by someone or something in the shadows but few of us ACTUALLY have to worry about some guy named Jason who will come after us with an ax.

More likely we may be surrounded by clutter that is stalking and haunting us *right now*. 

You may think that statement is overly dramatic … but unfortunately, for at least some of us, it is not. 

Of course, short of a bear trap, sharp knives, or other weapons, clutter may not literally be threatening you with bodily harm … but clutter can definitely affect your life more than you realize. 

To stay safe any time of the year, here are 7 warning signs that clutter is coming for you with a vengeance! 


7. You Are Stressed Out 

"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," writes Sherrie Bourg Carter, a doctor of psychology, for PsychologyToday.com.

The environments that you live in, work in, and play in affect your mental health on many levels. When you are surrounded by too much stuff, it can’t help but stress you out. 

Studies have proven that being surrounded by clutter increases cortisol, the stress hormone, in our bodies. 

It may sound crazy to think that clutter, in addition to all the other stresses it causes, is making you fat … but the science doesn’t lie.

Overweight and overwrought are two major consequences of clutter. Too much stuff DOES equal too much stress.


6.  You Have Trouble Sleeping

It’s been a long day. You are exhausted. All you want to do is crawl into bed for a good night's sleep, but as soon as you settle in under the covers, it is clear that your dream of quiet rest isn’t happening again tonight. 

When you find yourself having trouble falling asleep OR staying asleep, clutter may be to blame. Scientific studies have proven that when our bedrooms are filled with chaos, we are more likely to experience issues with sleep. 

And for anyone with insomnia—there’s even evidence that YOU are more likely to get a good night's rest if your bedroom is tidy and clutter-free. 


5. You Can't Focus

Your imagination is not playing tricks on you when you feel confused or are having trouble holding onto a single line of thought.  Clutter creates chaos which undermines your ability to home in on one point and stay focused. 

When our brains experience an overabundance of mental stimuli, we have trouble focusing on a single task. 

You may not even consider the stuff around you as distracting because you’re so used to seeing it that you DON’T see it anymore … but all that visual clutter is unconsciously stimulating your mind and fracturing your attention. 


4. You Isolate From Friends and Family

When clutter is overwhelming your heart and your home, you may be more likely to hide away from friends and family. 

You may be embarrassed by the amount of stuff you have, especially if it is now covering most of the surfaces in your home to the point that you (or a guest) can’t find a clear place to sit down.

Between the shame you may be feeling AND your fears of being judged by family and friends, it could seem that just avoiding people, and definitely NOT letting anyone into your home, is the better choice.

But isolating yourself only aggravates any loneliness you may already be feeling, especially as we continue to navigate the Covid-19 pandemic, along with any social anxiety you may already have. 

And the more you pull away from people, the more that impulse perpetuates a never-ending cycle where clutter controls how and when you interact with others. 


3. You Are Packing on the Pounds

Not to beat a dead horse, but it may seem like those extra pounds are caused by late-night snacking or too many desserts, but when your house is overweight, chances are you are, too. 

It is a fact that when you live in a cluttered home, you are more likely to make unhealthy food choices

As we discussed above, clutter is stressful and activates cortisol in our systems. And when you are constantly stressed out, your body even produces a protein that blocks enzymes that break down fat in the body

Kitchen clutter also makes it much easier to just surrender and reach for quick-fix junk food or a take-out menu more often than cooking or assembling a healthy meal. 


2. You Are Drowning in Debt

Clutter and debt go together like pumpkins and Halloween. 

Filling your spaces with stuff will likely take a toll on your finances. And it doesn’t matter whether you’re shopping at Neiman Marcus OR Goodwill—too much stuff is too much stuff.

I wrote about a client in Unstuff Your Life! who had a multiple six-figure income AND was carrying over $150,000 in unsecured credit card debt. And her explanation was that her obsessive shopping was just a “woman” thing that I wouldn’t understand.

Let’s be clear—clutter and debt are gender-neutral.

One of the most common consequences of having too much stuff is buying the same items multiple times without even realizing it because you can’t keep track of the things you own.

But even if you are not destroying your budget acquiring stuff, you are more likely to stay in debt when you live in clutter. 

Without an organized plan for managing your mail, it is easy to lose track of critical, time-sensitive documents. Misplacing credit card statements may result in paying more interest and late fees. 

You may have so many open accounts that you owe money to that you don’t realize the scale until a collection agency starts blowing up your phone. 


1. You Can't Breathe

There is a good reason why collectibles have been deemed "dust collectors." When you surround yourself with piles of stuff, your breathing is more likely to suffer. 

Asthma and other respiratory ailments are worsened by the dust mites and other allergens that come with clutter. 

Clutter also makes it harder to keep your home as clean as it needs to be. When the choice is between moving a bunch of stuff around so you can vacuum the rug or sweep the floor, it’s really easy to talk yourself into waiting until “later” or “someday” to tidy up.

So if you want to breathe easier, start decluttering your home by kicking those dust bunnies to the curb. 


The Bottom Line

All joking aside, the fun-filled frights that accompany this time of year can be amusing and entertaining. But clutter is terrifying any time of year AND not just for how it impacts your home. 

Clutter affects your mental health while also taking a toll on your physical health.

And most of the time, the compounded effects of clutter sneaks up on you like a stalker in the night. 

It becomes very easy to chalk up the growing complications as “just my imagination” or to tell one of your 200 lies until there’s just no way to ignore what’s really happening around you. 

And by that time, your fears and doubts may cause you to freeze up, not realizing how to turn around and face the clutter that is haunting your life and threatening your happiness and serenity. 

Fortunately, it is NEVER too late to exorcise excess stuff out of our lives. 

In addition to addressing the 7 warning signs above, you can find other effective ways to face and take charge of the clutter that is killing you by subscribing to my podcast: Declutter Your Life: Reclaim Your Time & Freedom. You’ll find lots of fun, short, easy-to-consume episodes where we demystify the steps you need to take to organize your world. Listen to sample episode here.

Click Here To Learn More!
Declutter Your Life Podcast by Andrew Mellen. Available on iTunes!