Reduce the Clutter
Spring cleaning (a.k.a. the urge to purge) is good for your head — not just your home.
Clutter wreaks havoc on your brain by making it harder to focus and putting you on edge, according to researchers from Princeton University’s Neuroscience Institute. The visual intake of “multiple stimuli” lowers our ability to process information and makes us feel chaotic.
So where to start? We’ve pinpointed six specific areas to tackle.
Cubicle or Office Clutter
Got papers piled on your desk? Empty coffee cups and messy drawers? The toll that disorganization takes on your job performance can add up to missed meetings, chronic lateness, and just a plain waste of time.
Clean up your act and you’ll boost your productivity, efficiency, and even your effectiveness on the job, says research from the type of group that looks into this sort of stuff, the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO).
Sort it out: Revamp drawers into “zones.” For example, keep all writing materials (from notepads to Post-its) in the same place. This way you’re not searching multiple drawers to find paper clips.
If you have too many tabs open or tons of file icons scattered around your desktop, you may feel overwhelmed by the “visual clutter,” according to MIT visual cognition scientist Ruth Rosenholtz, Ph.D. “Clutter can interfere with information gathering and decision making in complex information visualizations such as maps and Web pages,” she has said.
Sort it out: Pare down what you see when you power up your computer. Streamline what you have your screen by creating new folders on your desktop to store docs. And try to limit your open tabs. Multitasking isn’t that great for you.
Clutter isn’t always the type you can box up and stash in storage. Your online involvement in media outlets (social or otherwise) count as “content clutter,” say experts. That’s because our brains have a limited capacity to process information, according to brain research by McGill University scientists.
By studying brain cells, the authors found that the brain can process just 1 percent of the visual info it is asked to take in. This suggests that information overload is real — and that endless stream of news can hurt more than help.
Sort it out: Consider restricting your online use by downloading Freedom, the $10 app that will do the dirty work for you: blocking you from using the Internet for up to eight hours. Or if you want to go the free route, summon up all your willpower and put down your smartphone.
Clutter also hurts your ZZZs, according to The Sleep Council: “Clutter is a great energy drainer. You know it’s there, even though you might ignore it, and it takes up room.”
From the books and magazines piled on a night table to the television on the wall, these items distract you and keep you from nodding off early — and the result isn’t just fatigue in the daytime. When we don’t get enough sleep (seven to eight hours a night), we’re susceptible to an array of chronic health problems too, from a higher risk of diabetes to hypertension.
Sort it out: Incorporate a new 10-minute ritual to your bedtime routine: tidying up your room before turning in. This includes lining up those shoes in the closet, hanging up clothes, and clearing off the surfaces of your dresser and nightstand. Spending a few minutes each day ensures things won’t pile up night after night.
It’s dark, it’s cold, and it has a door, so you can easily ignore what’s going on inside. But when your fridge is jam-packed or hasn’t been cleaned in a while, the clutter can take a toll on your wallet and your waistline. Americans toss nearly 25 percent of the food and drinks we buy, according to The National Resources Defense Fund. This translates to up to $2,275 annually lost in household waste due to what’s hidden in the back of the fridge.
Another reason to toss what’s old and reorganize? You may just find yourself eating better. We eat up to 44 percent more snacks in a cluttered kitchen than in a neat one, according to Brian Wansink, director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab.
Sort it out: Make it a habit to rotate items on shelves so the newest foods are always placed behind the older foods. This way you’ll be less likely to forget about foods and let them expire.
Living Room Clutter
It’s also the right time to pare down the most trafficked areas of your home, like your living room, to recharge your mind. That mess has been scientifically shown to cause stress, since your feelings about your home can shape your everyday moods.
Sort it out: Here’s a small splurge that’s worth the money — and easy on the eyes: canvas bins to sort items that clutter the living room. Get one for reading materials, one for remote controls, and another for items that should be returned to other rooms of the house at least once a week.