How a Chaotic Room Leads to a Chaotic Mind

Shereeza Ibrahim. B.A.Psych, M.S.W, R.S.W.
Clinical Counsellor and Author

When we think about our well-being, we think about food, physical activity, and sleep. We don’t really consider
the tidiness of our space, do we? A study showed that those who identified their homes as “cluttered” had
higher cortisol levels, which is the stress hormone (Darby E. Saxbe et al., 2010).
After a stressful day, our homes should be our safe haven. But when the place is in chaos, it doesn’t give us that
restful and restorative setting that we need. Such a space signals to our brain that there is “unfinished business”
which creates a feeling of stress.
Scientifically speaking, how exactly does a cluttered space impact our well-being? We have a part of our brain
called the visual cortex. When our space is cluttered, messy and disorganized, that part of our brain can get
overwhelmed, which makes it harder for us to focus our attention on what we need to in order to complete our
tasks efficiently. Additionally, looking at a cluttered and disorganized space can be overwhelming and make you
feel defeated. You wonder to yourself, “where do I begin?!!” Well I’m sure a lot of us can relate, we end up
procrastinating, and our space is set forth on a steady decline.
Being in an untidy space also limits our freedom of movement. It causes some social isolation when we’re too
embarrassed to invite people because of how unpresentable our home is.
But let’s be honest, on a very basic level it makes us feel unsettled, and irritable. When we become irritable,
how does it influence how we interact with others around us? We become easily agitated and impatient, and
get into fights with family members or roommates.
Research shows that tidying our environment teaches us to feel confident and good about ourselves after chaos,
if we take the lead and tackle the challenge. If a messy environment can make us feel heavy and frustrated,
then organizing and cleaning up will make us feel light and relaxed. Having an organized space will improve your
ability to complete tasks efficiently. And once organized, you should honour the way you have set up the space.
As tempting as it is to just throw things in a corner, put things back in the spaces you allotted for it, for the sake
of your own stress-levels!
Lastly, engaging in the physical activity of sweeping, dusting and vaccuming inadvertently causes the brain to
release the ‘happiness’ hormones of dopamine and serotonin which stabilizes your mood and fights depression
and anxiety.
Because getting started can feel overwhelming, there are many Youtube channels and websites that can give
you tips on how to get started with tidying up or getting organized. And when you begin, you might find that
you uncover items you haven’t used in years! You can donate them to thrift stores that then take the profits
and donate it to charity, or even sell the items online. Also, one last element for your consideration is the scent.
Top off your successful effort of getting cleaned and organized with lighting a soothing candle scent or incense.

Author Bio: Shereeza is a clinical counsellor and award-winning author, whom offers low- cost telephone counselling through GTA Wellness Consultation. She has been with the Islamic Institute of Toronto community for over 10 years and is now a regular contributor to the IIT Newsletter.