How Marie Kondo's Decluttering Tactics May Improve Mental Health
Leave it to the queen of decluttering Marie Kondo to get us excited about cleaning. If her energizing ethos about organization has you sprinting to your nearest Container Store, you're not alone. Her Netflix show, Tidying Up With Marie Kondo, which was released January 1, has catapulted the consultant and her KonMari organizational method into stardom. The internet has been buzzing with articles about folding techniques, purging books, and donating clothes, but what's got everyone so hooked on tidying up? Science says it may have something to do with mental health.
In her New York Times best-selling book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, Kondo outlines her method of organization, aptly named KonMari, which focuses on the principle of joy to make decisions about whether household items should stay or go. It's almost too simple: Hold the object in your hand. If it brings you joy, keep it. If it doesn't, pitch it.
As more and more people take stress seriously, we can look to decluttering aspects of our lives to reduce anxiety. Here are a few ways in which maintaining a mess-free home can help our mental health:
Less clutter helps us focus.
A 2011 study1 found that having more objects in our visual field leads to more distractions. The objects around us compete for our attention, which is a valuable resource among ringing smartphones, hundreds of emails, and other overwhelming facets of our technology-driven lives. With less clutter in your environment, you're more likely to zero in on the tasks at hand.
Too much stuff impairs cognitive control.
Another study2 found that the hoarding of excessive objects causes impairment with many important cognitive functions. The study compared healthy people with those who had tendencies to hoard and found that habitual hoarders had issues with planning, problem-solving, learning and memory, organization, and attention.
You may uncover root problems.
The messier the home, the harder it is to spot problems. In the case of issues like mold, this could have detrimental effects on your mental health, as studies3 have shown a connection between moldy environments and depression. Other issues in the home that have negative effects on mood could include humidity, dust, and water damage, which can easily fall to the background behind mountains of clutter.
It could lead to better physical health.
Another study found a correlation between the tidiness of homes and levels of physical activity. Those with neater nests were more likely to be active, which the study postulated came from the physical activity that comes with cleaning.
While clearing out your clutter may seem like a daunting task, the benefits go far beyond aesthetics. Finding the joy in decluttering very well may have a direct effect on both our minds and bodies.
Elizabeth Gerson is a former mindbodygreen intern and a student at Stanford University studying Psychology and Communication with a specialization in Health & Development. She has also written for SFGate.com and The Stanford Daily and runs a paleo(ish) food Instagram, @healthy_lizard.