The High Cost of Clutter and a 15-Minute Fix

The high cost of clutter

Clutter costs you more than you might think.

The unwashed dishes in your sink, that stack of Amazon boxes in the garage, and those piles of paperwork on your crazy desk are constant visual drains that don’t do your body or brain any favors.

In fact, there’s an undertow to clutter, pulling you away from your best thinking, your best performance, and even your best health. The research is convincing.

The 3 Crippling Costs of Clutter

Here are just three of the many unexpected costs of clutter.

    1. Clutter makes you fatter. How? By causing sugar cravings. A number of studies on the subject indicate when you’re in an untidy environment, you’re more likely to reach for sugary, high-carb snacks. It seems weight loss and home organization go hand-in-hand. If you feel more in control of your surroundings, you feel more in control of your food decisions. There are several books on the subject to check out to know more. One such book, Does This Clutter Make My Butt Look Fat?, by Peter Walsh, gives practical advice and offers inspiring stories.
    2. Clutter makes you dumber. It turns out clutter can impair your thinking and decision-making skills. Scientists tell us our pre-frontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for focus and executive function, is sensitive to clutter. All those visual distractions cause your brain’s neural circuits to fire up and compete with one another. The result is slower cognitive function and decreased mental efficiency as the brain’s ability to process information is impaired.
    3. Clutter is a bummer. Especially for women, clutter can be mood altering—and not in a good way. You may have experienced an inability to truly relax, both mentally and physically, if your space is a wreck. It’s as if your clutter is continually taunting you by saying, “You can’t relax, you have cleaning to do!” Clutter makes you feel the work is never done. It can cause depression, feelings of guilt, and even shame when you think you should have a better handle on your environment. When you can’t find things you need or are afraid you’ve lost something important, anxiety levels increase.

None of this is good! So, let’s talk alternatives.Egg timer

I know Marie Kondo’s KonMari Method is all the rage right now. But, the idea of dumping all my clothes, all my books, or all my anything in a big pile, and then determining piece-by-piece whether each item “sparks joy,” gives me the heebie-jeebies. Poof! The whole weekend is gone, and I’m exhausted? No, thank you.

Instead, try this habit-building idea to rewire your brain in just 15 minutes a day. Get a win or two under your belt, and those overwhelming weekend clean-up projects can be a thing of the past. Hooray!

The Fix: Commit to 15 Minutes for Just 21 Days

First, commit to 15 minutes a day for 21 days. They don’t even have to be consecutive days, as long as you schedule four or five sessions during a work week. Then, take the weekends off!Woman putting appointment in calendar

Second, identify the one, horrible clutter-spot that icks you the most. The dreaded place… You know the one. Now, imagine that place clean and organized. If you get an immediate sigh of relief, start there! We’re looking for the “Whew!” factor.

Now, calendarize your commitment. Create a daily 15-minute recurring appointment for the next 21 days. Set a phone alarm, and act like these appointments are non-negotiable. Pretend you’ll have to pay a huge fee if you fail to show up (as if you missed a doctor’s appointment). Your mental and emotional health is literally at stake. It’s that important.

Set a Timer, Rinse, and Repeat!

Now, when the first appointment time comes, set a timer. Work for 15 minutes, and then stop. It’s not the end of the world if you go longer, but the point is you don’t have to. Just do the 15 minutes, and consider yourself a rock star for the day. And sorry, you don’t get to skip tomorrow if you did extra time today. To rewire your brain, you need to keep your 21-day commitment.

Do not sabotage yourself with negative self-talk. Give yourself credit, and watch how you begin to naturally avoid clutter in the first place.

Rinse and repeat for 20 more days. Of course, if you finish cleaning and organizing that first clutter-spot before the 21-day cycle ends, start on another spot. Again, keep your 21-day commitment. And then, celebrate! (Happy dances are encouraged.)

Clutter-free kitchen

Up the ante on your motivation and accountability by creating a little decluttering fun. Give your best friend $100, and tell them they get to keep the money if you don’t keep your 21 decluttering appointments.

How’s that for putting your money where your good intentions are?! At the end of the 21-day cycle, use the money on a special reward. Spa treatment with your BFF, anyone?

You are well on your way to conquering clutter. To help secure the habit, pick new clutter-spots, and keep going for a couple more rounds of 21 days. Soon you’ll have built a new, clutter-busting routine into your lifestyle. Keep going!

If the clutter undertow is proving to be too strong for you, it’s probably affecting you on a profound level. You don’t have to live like that! Come coach with me for a few sessions, and get a fresh perspective while you make real progress. Please contact me today for more information.

About The Author

Kathryn Leslie is an established author, speaker, wellness instructor, and certified professional life coach. With over seven years of coaching experience, Kathryn knows first-hand that with the proper mindset, support, and tools, it’s never too late to create a life you love. Her unique coaching model is based on six principles of self-management to help you take stock, take steps, and take control. She lives on a beautiful marsh in St. Augustine, Florida, with her adult children nearby and her puppy dogs in tow.