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Does Decluttering Boosts Brain Power and Happiness?

Stress, Cravings, and Chaos! How clutter is the culprit of heightened stress hormone, fatigue and depression.

Research suggests a cluttered environment impacts not just aesthetics, but also well-being and healthy choices. A study published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin found women experiencing cluttered homes reported higher levels of fatigue and depression, linked to elevated stress hormones.

Furthermore, a 2016 study in Environment and Behavior explored the link between messy kitchens and unhealthy food choices. Individuals lacking control over kitchen clutter were found to consume more cookies compared to those feeling in control.

These findings highlight how clutter can contribute to unhealthy lifestyle habits, even influencing workout routines. While decluttering may alleviate symptoms like depression and fatigue, many report experiencing a more profound benefit: increased feelings of lightness and productivity.

This potential boost can be attributed to the reduced cognitive load associated with a simplified environment. Research suggests less clutter allows our brains to focus better, leading to improved decision-making and increased energy levels.

Ditch the Clutter, Boost Brainpower

When faced with clutter, our brains dedicate resources to identifying relevant information, forming an “attentional set.” Shifting focus to new tasks requires suppressing the old set, consuming valuable mental energy.

This study examined brain activity while participants viewed images with varying object densities. Results showed that when searching for specific targets, participants’ brains prioritized relevant objects while suppressing irrelevant ones. However, the more irrelevant objects present, the harder the brain worked to filter them out, leading to potential fatigue and decreased productivity.

Conversely, a decluttered or minimalist environment reduces the number of items demanding attention, allowing the brain to allocate more resources to the task at hand. This translates to improved focus, enhanced decision-making, and increased energy levels.


The way people describe their homes may reflect whether their time at home feels restorative or stressful. This article uses linguistic analysis software (Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count) to analyze 60 dual-income spouses’ self-guided home tours by calculating the frequency of words describing clutter, a sense of the home as unfinished, restful words, and nature words. Based on a principal components analysis, the former two categories were combined into the variable stressful home and the latter two into restorative home. Over 3 weekdays following the home tours, wives with higher stressful home scores had flatter diurnal slopes of cortisol, a profile associated with adverse health outcomes, whereas women with higher restorative home scores had steeper cortisol slopes. These results held after controlling for marital satisfaction and neuroticism. Women with higher stressful home scores had increased depressed mood over the course of the day, whereas women with higher restorative home scores had decreased depressed mood over the day.

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