Distractions are minimized through the reduction of clutter, enabling a heightened focus on more critical ongoing tasks by the brain.
Clutter is generally disliked by many. For instance, a study published in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin discovered that, among 60 women who were asked to provide researchers with a tour of their home, a connection was observed between perceiving one’s home as cluttered and experiencing persistent fatigue and the display of depressive symptoms. These outcomes were linked to the hormone cortisol, which is involved in stress response.
The presence of clutter, coupled with a sense of lacking control over it, can also result in poor decisions being made. In a 2016 study published in Environment and Behavior, an examination was conducted regarding how individuals’ attitudes toward a disordered kitchen influenced some to make unfavorable dietary choices. In particular, it was observed in the study that when individuals perceived a lack of control over the disorder and chaos in their kitchen, more cookies were consumed compared to when they believed they had control over their kitchen.
When we broaden the perspective, we can discern how a cluttered environment can shift from a matter of aesthetic preference to a significant lifestyle concern, potentially leading to the avoidance of exercise routines.
Even though the act of decluttering can assist with combating depression, unhealthy cravings, or fatigue, the most notable positive consequence of decluttering, as experienced by many, is a sensation of lightness and heightened productivity.
Enhanced Brain Function Through Reduced Clutter
It may have been heard (or personally encountered) that optimal performance is achieved when there is minimal physical disorder in our vicinity. A neuroscientific rationale is provided by science.
An investigation conducted in The Journal of Neuroscience explores how high-clutter settings are processed by the human brain and proposes that the organization of one’s surroundings may be one method to guarantee that their finite cognitive capacity is utilized most effectively.
- When clutter is observed, the brain endeavors to identify the most pertinent information for accomplishing immediate objectives. This information, termed the “attentional set.”
- As goals evolve, the brain must deactivate the prior attentional set and transition its focus to a fresh attentional set, a process that consumes cognitive resources.
In this study, the response of participants’ brains to various objects in pictures was investigated by the researchers. They discerned that, when individuals sought a particular type of object (the target), their brains accorded greater attention to that specific category while diverting less attention to other types of objects (the distracters) that were once significant but no longer held importance.
The greater the extent to which objects unrelated to one’s objective fill the visual field, the more strenuously the brain must labor to exclude them from the attentional set.
This exertion can result in weariness and might lead to a sensation of reduced motivation and productivity.
Conversely, when the environment remains uncluttered or minimalist, the brain concentrates on fewer elements, requiring less sifting, thereby freeing up additional cognitive resources for the ongoing task.
Tidying up one’s home or surroundings is not only a physical endeavor but also a mental one. Distractions are diminished when clutter is reduced, enabling a greater focus of the mind on essential current tasks. The process of arranging one’s environment can also impart a feeling of control and organization, potentially alleviating stress and fostering a sense of contentment. The mental revitalization stemming from decluttering serves as compelling proof of the connection between our physical environment and cognitive functioning.