The life changing science behind tidying up

We know that a good tidy up or declutter makes us feel so much better – but is there any science behind this feeling?

We’ve become accustomed to our clients telling us how our organising service has been “life changing”, or it’s made an “incredible difference”, or even recently “I feel so much clarity”. These are the kind of moments we live for and give us those warm fuzzy feels.

And with the overwhelming success of Japanese declutter enthusiast Marie Kondo, surely there’s scientific substance to all these feels?! With the millions of books sold on the topic, Marie’s Netflix series, reality TV shows and info segments on free to air TV – logic dictates there’s some pretty compelling science behind it.

So we did some digging…

What the science says

Our physical environment influences our cognition, emotions and subsequent behaviours. The human brain likes order, and so when clutter and chaos are present, this has shown to increase cortisol (stress hormone) levels. This has a flow on effect with stress, anxiety, impaired immunity, reduced sleep quality, and even weight gain due to lowered metabolism.

A study of women in 2009* with increased cortisol found that they had untidy and cluttered homes, and this correlated to their depressive symptoms, in addition to heightened anxiety.

Mess in the home may be a sign of depressive illness, as well as a symptom. In more extreme situations, such as the habits of hoarders, this loss of insight and inability to effectively manage their surroundings, can be a sign of more severe mental health issues.

On the positive side of the study, other women who did not have elevated cortisol lived in clean, tidy and more organised homes. These women also ate better foods, were more focussed, exercised more regularly and slept better.

An English Neuroscientist, Sophie Scott from University College London agrees that decluttering and tidying practices, such as colour coordinating a bookcase or sorting out a pantry, can act as rewards, stimulating dopamine, the neurotransmitter known as the brain’s “pleasure” chemical.

Conversely, there are some people whose brain plays tricks on them and they actually feel physical pain when throwing things away. This explains why some people find it exceedingly difficult to part with objects while others have no issues in doing so.

The jury’s in…

So whether it’s the positive dopamine from your organised home, or the negative cortisol from the chaos, one thing is for sure – there is a lot of agreement that being organised is beneficial in many ways for one’s well being.

While we may not be transforming 11 million households like Marie Kondo (yet!), we do know that the impact we make and the lives we change on a daily basis are heart-warming, and now we have the scientific evidence to boot, which must Spark Joy!

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