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Health and Wellbeing

05 Mar 2019

The powerful psychology behind tidying up

As you read this article, take a second to think about the state of your home.

Do you wish it were more organised, tidy, clean, de-cluttered? Having recently read Marie Kondo’s best-selling book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up I thought I would share with you the science behind organisation, and practical tips towards a healthier home!

The positive psychology behind organisation

Keeping your home clean and organised is good for you, and science can prove it. A study led by researchers at Indiana University found that people with clean homes are physically healthier than those with messy ones. Clean and healthy homes have been associated with inhabitants who present with lower cardiovascular illnesses, lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol and less occurrences of allergies and even asthma.

In addition to physical benefits, the psychological benefits are well established. A 2010 study published in the scientific journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin found that participants who described their living spaces as “cluttered” or full of “unfinished projects” were more likely to be stressed, depressed and fatigued than participants who described their homes as “restful” and “restorative.” The researchers also found that participants with cluttered homes expressed higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

The problems and solutions to your organisational dilemmas.

1. You have too much clutter.

The problem: If you’re anything like me, you might have a collection of old newspapers or a blender on your kitchen counter that you never use. These objects take up space that could be better used by other, more necessary items.

The solution: Getting rid of clutter can be difficult, especially since we often attach emotions to old objects.

As Marie Kondo writes: take a look at the item and ask: “does this object spark joy for me?” If not, either store it in a more appropriate place out of sight (if it’s an item you will need to use again), or donate it to a local charity or thrift store.

2. You don’t have enough time.

The problem: As a busy Southbank professional, I know that organising just one room takes a LOT of time. When faced with the prospect of organising your entire apartment, you might be tempted to give up before you start!

The solution: Kondo’s rule is to tidy by category, not by room, for example: dealing with all of your books in one go, otherwise they will continue to creep from room to room and you’ll never manage the clutter. Kondo advises beginning with clothing, since it’s often the least emotionally loaded. Putting everything you own in one big pile and asking yourself whether each item “sparks joy”, and you will see just how quickly you start to get rid of unnecessary items!

3. Your home doesn’t seem to flow, there is just ‘stuff’ everywhere.

The problem: You simply place items where you think they should go or look good, which results in a home that seems “full” not “flowing”.

The solution: Everything in your home must have its place is a key principle of Marie Kondo’s method of tidying. Though no one is expecting you to place your bag in the same spot every evening, it is a good idea to create some habits around where your items are placed. Label boxes, baskets and even drawers so that everyone knows where things should go to avoid creating rooms that explode with accessories.

Remember, cleanliness not only has physical health benefits but also allows your brain much needed space to rest, recover, be creative and dynamic. Keep your home tidy and start reaping the rewards of a less fatigued, stressed and overwhelmed brain and body, and get out there and enjoy everything that your neighbourhood has to offer.


Rajna Bogdanovic

Clinical Psychologist

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