Clutter negatively affects your productivity and your wellbeing

Would you believe your emotions and mental wellbeing can be intrinsically linked to how disorganised your workspace is?

It’s true – a cluttered desk or office can negatively affect your mood, resilience and ability to work productively.
In fact, The Positivity Institute’s Dr Suzy Green says research has shown clutter and disorder create stress which can cause low mood.

Georgie Rees, professional organiser of Clutterfly, has seen signs of emotional and mental distress from clients who have very cluttered homes and workspaces.
New clients often tell Georgie they’re “overwhelmed”, “stressed”, “embarrassed” and feel as though they lack control over their spaces.

Messy workspace causing stress

A messy workspace can cause people to feel overwhelmed. 

Georgie says these feelings cloud her clients’ ability to determine how to clear the mess –that’s why they ask for her help.

Reasons people cite to avoid addressing clutter

Georgie’s clients often mention four key problems:

• not having enough time
• not having enough storage or space
• having too much ‘stuff’
• not knowing where things should go.

These problems often become reasons for procrastination.

Clutter is mentally draining – and can even lower your self-esteem

Dr Green and Georgie agree it takes a lot of “mental energy” to work in a disorganised, cluttered environment.

A messy space actually competes against our to-do lists for our attention, Dr Green says.
“A research project on visual perception shows our brain can only deal with so much information. Having too much clutter can affect our capacity to maintain attention.”

Desk clutter

Clutter competes for your attention, thereby potentially lowering your productivity. 

Unaddressed clutter can spiral into mental and emotional discontent, Dr Green explains.

The effort required to address clutter seems cumbersome but by avoiding addressing the clutter, you often increase the amount of mess.
As it builds, so do your stress levels, which negatively impacts your ability to work productively.

Feeling consistently unproductive negates one of your fundamental psychological needs: competence, a major factor of self-esteem.

How to break the cycle of clutter: Make the time and start cleaning

Georgie says business owners often prioritise client work over addressing their clutter problem, to their detriment.
Disorganised paperwork adds unnecessary time to tasks; cleaning, minimising and ordering paperwork will save time and hassle in the long run.

Georgie makes her clients accountable for their mess – working with them to re-establish order – and then also holds them and their team accountable for keeping it organised.
Decluttering provides “relief” to clients – they feel “inspired” and “motivated” to work productively again, Georgie says.

An argument for mess: a little bit can help creativity

In general, an ordered workspace is a great foundation for productive working, but if you’re pursuing a creative task, feel free to get a little messy.
Dr Green says messy desks have been scientifically linked to creativity.

But the mess should be purposeful – such as sprawling out resources for a project you’re working on, to help spark ideas.
When you’re done using those materials for your creative pursuits, organise them and restore a sense of order to your workspace, Dr Green says.

Occasional mess during idea brainstorming

Occasional mess – created during purposeful activities such as brainstorming – can fuel creativity.