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Minimalism is so much more than a design fad. Clearing out clutter and keeping your home tidy helps to reduce stress and improve mental wellbeing.

Decluttering and minimalism are having a moment in Australia and it isn’t hard to see why. Our homes are among the largest in the world, yet we fill our living spaces with an unsustainable amount of clutter. A whopping 73 per cent of households report being cluttered with unwanted or unused possessions, and one in five people have so much stuff that there’s no spare room in their home. 

The best bit is there’s more to the decluttering craze than figuring out which items in your home spark joy and the perfect way to fold socks. Crucially, research shows living with less clutter offers a boost to your mental wellbeing, including less stress, improved focus and more energy.

The trouble with clutter

Your living environment has a surprising amount of influence on how you feel. And when it comes to clutter, those feelings aren’t usually positive. Disorganised stacks of books and papers, mounds of clean laundry and piles of shoes strewn around the home can lead to stress and, in serious cases, anxiety and depression.

One American study found levels of the stress hormone cortisol were higher among mothers with cluttered homes. Further research shows people with untidy living spaces are more likely to be depressed and fatigued. What’s more, sleeping in a cluttered room is associated with sleep problems, which increase the risk of psychological ill-health.

There’s even evidence of other behavioural routes to mental health problems, says Dr Libby Sander, assistant professor of organisational behaviour at Bond Business School. “Quite a lot of research has shown that clutter has a range of effects from making us eat more junk food and watch more TV to making us less likely to exercise, which elevates our cortisol levels and, if we sustain that over time, can make us more anxious and depressed,” she says.

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