In extreme cases, the habit of accumulating things can degenerate into hoarding — a compulsive disorder in which someone keeps collecting objects and can’t get rid of any material possession.

Though you probably don’t belong to this category, you want to make sure that your home is clutter free. Clutter has been shown to negatively affect our behavior, our self image, our free time, and even how we interact with others.

Here is a list of ten reasons to embrace your minimalist side and say no to a chaotic, cluttered house. You may think it’s okay to have piles of stuff lying around, but in reality it’s not. Keep reading to find out more…

Negative effects of clutter

1. Poor self-esteem

Whether we like it or not, there is a direct correlation between our mental health and where we live — our environment. When you are surrounded by clutter, you are telling your mind that you lack discipline, willpower, and self-control.

Just like making your bed every morning gives you a sense of achievement, as well as a tiny dopamine release, living in a tidy room helps you feel proud. Conversely, if your room is a mess, you can’t help feeling lazy.

When it comes to our mental health, it’s essential that we do everything we can to feel happier and more motivated — it could be a short walk every day, eating the right food, cultivating a hobby, talking to a friend, or… living in a tidy, beautiful home.

2. Clutter = less space

Whether you live in a tiny house or a villa, there’s only so much space available, so it makes sense to keep things nice and orderly. You’d be amazed at how much space you can save by simply being more organized.

Besides being bad for your self-esteem, clutter takes up precious space, often to the point where there’s no more space available. For example, both pathological hoarders and those who are “disorganized” can accumulate so much stuff they end up leaving it on the floor.

Interestingly, in Goodbye, Things (a great book on minimalism), the author suggests we imagine our possessions as tenants: when we own a house, or pay rent, our things take up the space we paid for, so it’s as if they were costing us money as well.

3. Clutter = less time

As we’ve seen, clutter takes up a lot of space. But what about our most precious asset — time?

If your room or house is a mess, you will waste more time as well. Think of all the time spent cleaning, tidying up, or moving objects. Plus, it will take longer to find anything, especially if it’s buried under piles of clothes or books.

You can get a certain product for cheap, or even for free, but the true cost of an object isn’t its price tag. As you keep accumulating stuff, your objects eat up the time that could be invested in work, health, or relationships, often without you noticing that.

4. Dust and dirt

This can become a serious problem, especially with hoarders. The more stuff you have around your room, the harder it will be to clean everything, the more dust will build up. Besides the aesthetic aspects, too much dust can be harmful to your health, and may even lead to health problems in the long run (like, if it gets really bad, of course).

But regardless of our job or lifestyle, we tend to spend a significant amount of time at home, so it’s important that we don’t inhale too many dust particles. There is no need to spend hours cleaning every day, but you do want to keep your house as clean and as fresh as possible.

5. More stress

You may not notice it, but clutter triggers many negative thoughts. “This looks bad”, “I never have the time to tidy everything up”, “I’ll take care of this tomorrow, maybe on Sunday, maybe next week”.

Clutter is mental taxation. It stares at you and makes you think you’re lazy and unproductive. It reminds you of all the tasks you’re supposed to do. It reminds you of how bad you are at keeping things orderly. And whether we like it or not, it affects our mood.

If you’re stressed out, something as simple as tidying up your home (and getting rid of all the stuff you don’t need) could actually make a big difference.

6. Less social interactions

Many people found that by adopting a minimalist lifestyle and getting rid of clutter, their social life improves as well: because they don’t feel “trapped” anymore, they spend less time at home, and they’re finally able to invite people over.

As I mentioned earlier, objects don’t just cost money, but also time and energy. When you are surrounded by clutter, you find it harder to be active. It’s almost as if some of the things you own drained your life force.

Whether clutter makes you feel embarrassed to invite people over, or simply affects your self image, your social life will probably shrink because of it.

7. Less focus and productivity

If you want to focus for long periods of time, you want to eliminate all distractions, including the things you own. When there’s no distractions, it’s impossible to get distracted.

Regardless of how motivated or disciplined you are, you will be much more productive in a room that is almost empty than one that’s messy and filled with visual clutter.

Just like it’s impossible to multitask, it’s also impossible to focus on just one thing when you are surrounded by a thousand different objects. If you want to be more productive, you must get rid of clutter before it gets worse, which leads us to the next negative effect…

8. It gets worse over time

Much like bad habits, clutter often gets worse over time. The more you see clutter around you, the more you’ll get used to it. The piles of items will get larger and larger, yet you won’t notice it anymore because you think it’s normal.

The same is true for buying and accumulating objects. It starts with a cute item on sale, then something you buy online, then something you get for free, and as you keep accumulating stuff, it becomes a habit.

So as soon as you notice your house is filled with too much stuff, take some time to get rid of some of your possessions before you end up living in a chaotic environment.

9. It makes you feel trapped

What if you suddenly have or want to move to a different house? What if you have to buy a large object, but there’s no more space available in your house?

Perhaps these don’t apply to you, however it’s important that your possessions don’t make you feel trapped. As we’ve seen earlier, clutter can affect your freedom and your social life in a negative way. The more you own, the less freedom you will have.

Also, according to Feng Shui, clutter is stagnant energy: when you live in a chaotic house, energy (or Chi) can’t flow properly. It’s up to you whether you believe this or not, but it’s obvious that clutter has a negative impact on your energy and productivity.

10. Clutter looks bad

The last negative effect of clutter is that, put simply, it looks bad. When you are at home, you want to be inspired, and you want to be surrounded by beauty.

You don’t need to live in a five star hotel, but you do want to make sure your place is nice and tidy. If your house looks beautiful, you will feel better about yourself; this is especially true if you work from home or spend a lot of time at home anyway.

Perhaps you can deal with the extra stress, and you are okay with spending a lot of time on your possessions. But clutter just looks bad. So unless you collect certain items, or you are some kind of extravagant artist, get rid of clutter — it will instantly improve how your home looks.

Negative effects of clutter: summary

To recap: clutter…

  • Negatively affects your self-esteem in many ways
  • Eats up precious space and precious time
  • Makes it harder to remove dust, which could be harmful to your health
  • Increases stress and makes it harder to be productive
  • Often prevents you from having a fulfilling social life
  • Tends to get worse over time
  • Makes you feel trapped
  • Just looks bad

Like many people, I used to live in a messy home, and owned way too many things. One book that really helped me transition to a more minimalist lifestyle is Goodbye, Things by Fumio Sasaki. It’s a quick read, but I found it very useful. You can read my review here.