Clutter can Wreck your Health by Dr. Mike Cockrell

If you live by the slogan: “ONE ITEM IN AND ONE ITEM OUT,” you can stop the clutter before it starts. 

If you live by the slogan: “ONE ITEM IN AND ONE ITEM OUT,” you can stop the clutter before it starts. 

We live in a cluttered world. Clutter is all around us - in our homes, our workplace, and even in our minds. The clutter we encounter daily is not only physical; but also mental and emotional. Thus, taking a toll on our health. Below are some insights on how clutter can wreck your physical, mental, and emotional well-being and easy steps you can take to restore your health. 

We collect items for many reasons. Some people believe they will need these items later. Some items have sentimental value or you feel the monetary investment warrants holding on to the item. We often keep items even though we know we have not used them in weeks, months, or sometimes years. Many of these items may be affecting your health in a negative way.

Brain research from Yale University indicates the real reason we are hanging on to so much stuff is we likely made poor buying decisions. As a result, it literally hurts our brains to come to terms with these purchases.

In fact, the researchers in the Yale study identified two areas in the brain associated with pain, the anterior cingulate cortex and the insula. Both areas light up in response to letting go of items. Likewise, these are the same areas that light up when we feel physical pain. The brain identifies “the letting go” as a physical pain. The more emotionally or financially attached you are to an item, the more painful it is to “let go” of that item.

In addition to the physical pain we feel in letting go, other research indicates that clutter in your life causes stress. The emotional stress over time leads to alterations in our adrenal systems and induces many changes in our physical bodies, such as weight gain.

In the book, “Lose the Clutter, Lose the Weight: The Six-Week Total-Life Slim Down” researcher Peter Walsh found people who struggle with clutter are 77 percent more likely to be overweight or obese. Walsh equated this weight gain with a rise in certain stress hormones which alter the way the body handles fat deposition. It was also noted that most disruption in fat metabolism resulted in more belly fat which is by far the most concerning from a cardiovascular standpoint.

In order to de-clutter our lives and improve our physical, mental, and emotional well-being, it is imperative we take action and begin to remove the clutter. The key to success is realizing this is an ongoing process, likely not to get done in one day. Vigilance is key. 

Here are some helpful tips to get the process started: 


Commit to de-cluttering a single room or maybe even a single drawer. You will be more successful if you pick a specific location than trying to do too much. Biting off more than you can chew will result in you moving clutter from one spot in your home to another.


Make a decision on each item in your chosen location. Handle an item only once. Once you pick the item up, decide whether you are going to put it away, get rid of it, or donate it. Do not put the item back down again into another clutter pile and tell yourself you will make a decision later.

If an item is trash, throw it out immediately. Items you have not used in months or years need to go. If you have items that you just can’t throw out immediately, place them in a box and put them in your garage. If you do not go looking for that box of items in the next 6 months, you can safely throw the entire box in the trash.


Replace the old with the new. This one seems simple, yet it creates issues for many of us. If you buy something new, whether it be an item of clothing, shoes, bedding, computers, or electronics to replace an older item, get rid of the older item or donate it. If you live by the slogan “ONE ITEM IN AND ONE ITEM OUT,” you can stop the clutter before it starts.

The book, “Life at Home in the Twenty-First Century: 32 Families Open Their Doors” explains the results of a study that found a family’s possessions increased by 30 percent each year with a new child. Be choosey about what you bring in to your home. Keep only those items that bring the greatest joy to your life and let go of the rest.