Clutter Kills. Seriously. Here’s Why We Care + What To Do About It

1 thegirlfriend suggests selling the good stuff you don’t use for cold, hard cash. (Image:

Most of us have too much stuff. We accumulate things we admire or cherish. Then we move them from shelf-to-shelf, room-to-room, home-to-home and finally into storage—sometimes rented. No wonder the average American home reportedly has over 300,000 items. But too much of a good thing is bad for us; a cluttered home is usually a stressful home, the New York Times reported a few weeks ago.

2 Nola Lopez NYT

Clutter can negatively impact mental well being and cause a physiological response that includes increased levels of stress hormones, the New York Times reports. (Image: Nola Lopez, New York Times)

Why do we care? As interior designers, we spend countless hours designing beautiful, comfortable, clutter-free homes. Or at least that’s how they look when we’re done with an installation. We know every home doesn’t stay that way. But more significantly, the growing body of research on this subject shows clutter not only destroys our work but shrinks living spaces; saps time when we can’t find what we want or need; diminishes our ability to think clearly; hurts health, wealth and relationships; and more.

3 carol kane in clutter

Houses don’t always stay the way they look when we install them. That’s ok. But when clutter interferes with life—as it did in the 2013 drama Clutter—it’s time to pare down. (Image: Clutter clips)

Why let clutter corrupt? There’s no reason for any of us to suffer from what the New York Times called “the unbearable heaviness of clutter.” Yet at the same time, we aren’t advocating austerity a lá Marie Kondo, whose minimalist approach to de-cluttering can rob a home of warmth, personality, comfort and items that may have a second life (but we are tickled to see clutter has become such a problem that she has a new Netflix series, Tidying Up With Marie Kondo).


Don’t let clutter kill your ability to focus. (Image: HBR)

Instead, take a long, hard, look around your home. Here are the three biggest problem areas to hit first because they’re the most obvious and telling; if the descriptions below sound familiar, it's time to start paring down.

5 Poshmark

How packed is your closet? (Image: Poshmark)

1. Your closets and drawers are jammed or overflowing. It’s hard to pull something out (or put it back in)—let alone find what you want to wear. Good pieces need space so they can maintain their structure, shape and air out between uses.

6 Essence of coffee

Do you really need two or three of the same thing? (Image: Essence of Coffee)

2. You have doubles and triples of things—and we don’t mean clothing. A few copies to the same book, multiple blow dryers, three dust-busters, several coffeemakers, a way too robust collection of grocery bags…you get the idea. Useless items take up valuable space and invade other areas.

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The best way to go: keep clutter to a minimum. (Image: Vogue)

3. How much stuff is there on the bench or console in your foyer? What about the occasional tables in your living spaces and your dining room buffet or dining table? Is your desk a mess? And what about the dresser, chairs and nightstands in your bedrooms? Do you have to straighten up for company? Or move things around to sit down? You don’t need us to tell you what you need to do!

26 Jan 2019

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