The Connection Between Depression and Clutter: How Tidying Up Can Improve Your Mental Health | All Points North

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The Connection Between Depression and Clutter: How Tidying Up Can Improve Your Mental Health

Living with depression can be tough. It’s like carrying around a heavy weight on your shoulders every day. But did you know that the clutter in your home could be making your depression even worse? In this blog post, we’ll explore the link between depression and clutter, how a messy environment can add to your mental struggles, and give you simple tips to help you tidy up, even when you’re feeling down.

A Messy Environment Can Mess With Your Mind

Here’s the thing: clutter can actually mess with your mind and make your depression worse. Living in a cluttered environment can add to your stress and anxiety, which are already heightened when you’re dealing with depression. There are several different reasons for that.

Clutter can make it hard to relax and unwind. Instead of feeling calm and peaceful at home, you might feel on edge and overwhelmed by all the stuff around you. A disorganized environment overloads your brain and impairs your ability to focus, and also serves as a constant reminder of things you need to do but have not done yet.

In addition, overwhelm leads to an inability to make decisions, which in turn results in procrastination. Simply put, you may keep avoiding dealing with the mess because it seems like too much work, and you just can’t decide what to keep or throw away – or where to even begin.

Clutter can ultimately affect your levels of satisfaction with life. A recent study completed by specialists at the University of New Mexico concluded that excessive clutter can actually affect your experience of “home.” In this sense, home is not just a structure but a place where you feel safe and psychologically comfortable, and where you create memories and experiences. The study found that clutter has a negative impact on an individual’s sense of psychological home and subjective well-being.

Another study found that a cluttered environment can even affect your ability to make healthy food choices. The study involved placing groups into a standard, clean kitchen and a disorganized, cluttered kitchen and asking each group to sample different foods such as cookies, crackers, and carrots. The group placed in the disorganized kitchen ended up eating a lot more cookies than the group in the clean kitchen, pointing to a possible link between a chaotic environment and an increased vulnerability to making unhealthy food choices.

Depression and Clutter: Which Came First?

For many individuals grappling with depression, maintaining an organized and clutter-free environment can be an overwhelming challenge. One of the many symptoms of depression is lowered energy levels, and lack of motivation, which makes it hard to manage your daily tasks and responsibilities, making even simple chores feel impossible, and keeping a tidy home environment becomes very challenging. The overwhelming feeling of fatigue and apathy can make the idea of tackling clutter seem just too much.

Depression can also impair your cognitive functions, which means it may affect your ability to make decisions, prioritize tasks, and follow through with plans. This mental fog may make you feel stuck or indecisive, making it hard to figure out what to do with all your stuff lying around. So, instead of dealing with it, you might just leave it there, adding to the clutter.

Another aspect that makes things harder is that depression often accompanies feelings of worthlessness and self-criticism. In other words, it is common for people with depression to beat themselves up for their apparent inability to keep their surroundings tidy, leading to a vicious cycle of negative thoughts and emotions.

On the other hand, it is important to acknowledge that we live in a world where we are constantly bombarded by marketing messages telling us to buy this, sign up for that, upgrade this, click on that, and our lives will be instantly improved. If you buy this makeup product, you will feel prettier. This blender will make you healthier. This diet will make you look amazing. In our quest for immediate satisfaction and instant rewards, many people end up buying things they do not need.

The act of purchasing that new “thing” may feel good for a short period of time, but after the novelty wears off, you find yourself with yet another article that adds to an already cluttered home. Now, you may find yourself adding to your clutter, dipping further into debt, and feeling even more depressed and stressed out.

The bottom line is that depression and clutter seem to go hand-in-hand and can result in a vicious cycle where depression makes clutter worse, and vice-versa. Getting your depression symptoms under control by seeking professional help is a critical step to improving your overall quality of life and giving you the motivation, energy, and mental clarity you need to tackle the clutter in your environment. Likewise, taking small steps to clean up your home can also be a step in the right direction in order to improve your mental health.

Tips to Start Getting the Clutter in Your Home Under Control

The good news is that there are many things you can try to better manage your home organization challenges and start getting control over the excess clutter in your environment. Here are a few ideas:

1. Start Small

Break down decluttering tasks into manageable chunks. Instead of trying to tackle the entire house at once, focus on just one room or even one area within a room. If that still feels like too much, just concentrate on a simple task, such as picking up any trash or just going through one drawer, one shelf, or one box. Celebrate small victories to build momentum gradually.

2. Set Realistic Goals

Be gentle with yourself and set realistic expectations. Accept that progress may be slow and imperfect, and that’s okay. Set achievable goals for decluttering, and don’t hesitate to ask for support from friends or family if needed.

3. Create a Routine

Establishing a routine can provide structure and help combat the sense of chaos that often accompanies depression. Set aside dedicated time each day or week for decluttering tasks, incorporating them into your schedule like any other essential activity. Even just 15 or 30 minutes can make the difference and propel you in the right direction.

4. Practice Self-Compassion

Recognize that struggling with clutter doesn’t reflect your worth as a person. Practice self-compassion and kindness towards yourself, acknowledging that managing depression is a challenging journey. Be patient and forgiving with yourself during setbacks.

5. Change Your Habits

Make small changes to your habits, such as sorting through your mail right by the recycling bin and discarding ads and anything you don’t want right away rather than leaving it on the counter. Consider being more mindful of your purchases as well and only bring into your home items that are truly needed.

Finally, if you find that your depression is significantly impairing your ability to function or maintain a clutter-free environment, don’t hesitate to seek professional help. Therapists can provide valuable support and guidance in managing depression and developing coping strategies. At APN, our mental health professionals offer an integrated approach to help individuals with depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions take back control of their lives and reduce or eliminate their symptoms.

Get the Help You Need with APN

APN offers a variety of treatment options – from therapy in person and online to ketamine-assisted therapy, Deep TMS, and a variety of other cutting-edge treatments that have been shown to be extremely helpful, even for treatment-resistant depression. Contact us at 424.644.6486 or fill out our online contact form to learn more. And remember, healing is a journey, and you don’t have to do it all at once. Take it one step at a time and be gentle with yourself along the way. Every small step towards a tidier, more harmonious living space is a victory worth celebrating.


  • Roster, Catherine A., et al. “The Dark Side of Home: Assessing Possession ‘Clutter’ on Subjective Well-being.” Journal of Environmental Psychology, vol. 46, 2016, pp. 32-41, Accessed 12 May 2024.
  • Vartanian, Lenny R., et al. “Clutter, Chaos, and Overconsumption.” Environment and Behavior, 2016, Accessed 12 May 2024.