Reducing Visual Clutter

Does your external environment cause you anxiety? Do you struggle to focus because of external clutter? Today I wanted to talk about visual clutter, the impact it has on us, and how to reduce it.

For many people, visual clutter is distracting. The reason is because our brain is constantly processing our environment. Visual clutter can have an impact on our mental and emotional health, resulting in us not being as efficient and productive as we could otherwise be.  Clutter has been linked to cortisol production, the stress hormone. Research from a 2009 study out of UCLA’s Center on Everyday Lives of Families (CELF) has shown that women who perceive their homes to be cluttered tend to have unhealthy patterns of cortisol levels. Interestingly, men did not have the same cortisol response with regard to clutter. This could potentially be because women tend to take on more of the household chores even if they are also working full time. Clutter is also linked to lack of self control, resulting in unhealthy eating habits. According to a Cornell University study from 2016, stress triggered by clutter may also trigger coping and avoidance strategies, like eating junk food, oversleeping or binge-watching Netflix.

So what can we do to reduce visual clutter? I wanted to share some ideas for you to reduce visual clutter in your home today.

First, the obvious one: declutter your possessions. When you have less, it is easier to clean, store, and organize your items. This can be easier said than done, so I suggest doing this slowly over time. If we try to declutter all of our items at once, we can get overwhelmed and experience decision fatigue. Slowly but surely as you declutter your possessions, you will have less visual clutter.

The next one goes along with the first. Be intentional with what you keep and what you bring into your home. When you are intentional with what comes into your home, you have an idea of where the item will go and how you will use the item or what purpose the item will fulfill to you. Sometimes people get into the habit of purchasing anything they find beautiful without intentionally thinking about its purpose. This is when it gets difficult to find a place for everything we bring into our homes. I have learned to enjoy and appreciate items visually at the store, acknowledging that you like it and it is beautiful,  without having to take the item home with me.

Next, group like items together in bins or baskets. When smaller items are stored away in bins or baskets, there is less visual clutter.

Choose uniformity when organizing and storing items. Get uniform food storage containers, cleaning bottles, and storage bins. When you have uniform jars, bins, and bottles you eliminate bright colored packaging, making your space feel more calm.

Have a place for everything. If you have a home for each of the items you own, they are less likely to get left lying around your home. When things are put in their proper place, your home feels less chaotic and less cluttered.

Another principle you can implement to reduce visual clutter in your home is maybe one (or a few) is better than an abundance. Throw pillows are a good example here (although admittedly I likely own too many of these!!) Maybe having 2 on your sofa is better than having the entire sofa lined with pillows. Or perhaps it’s home decor. Maybe having a small vignette of 3 items grouped together is better than the entire piece of furniture being covered in home decor.

Lastly, storing items away in a cabinet or drawer instead of leaving it out can reduce visual clutter. For me, I like to have a spot in my cabinet to store things like our toaster, the blender, and other large appliances. In the bathroom, you can have space for your items such as make up, a hair brush, toothbrush, and facial products in your bathroom drawers or cabinets instead of housing them on top of the counter. This will immediately reduce visual clutter in these spaces.

I hope this gave you some practical ideas on how you can reduce visual clutter in your home today!

The YouTube video I made in conjunction with this blog post.