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The Psychology of Clutter: How a Custom Closet Can Reduce Stress

4 minute read, by Closet America, on Mar 14, 2016

A professionally-designed custom closet can restructure and reorganize that space you’re “stuck” with, reducing stress and increasing your mental well-being.

There are people who look at Washington DC’s famous traffic circles and find the chaos soothing… or at least interesting. Then there are the rest of us, who look at them (or drive through them), and think: it doesn’t have to be this way! There’s a much better system out there, if only we could get it implemented! If you fall into that category, you probably are constantly on the lookout for more organization, less clutter, and less stress in your life. At home, chances are that starts with your closet.

Having a closet that isn’t as organized as you want can throw off your whole day. It can make you pick the outfit that is closest, instead of wading through everything that is hidden away for what you’d prefer. It is a daily annoyance, sometimes even a source of shame at not being able to get that one last nagging project taken care of. A lot of times, this isn’t your fault. When you moved into a house, the closet was the way it was, and you had to deal with what you found. You can paint and hang pictures on a wall, but it’s still a wall. A lot of us feel that way about a bad closet—all we can do is work with what we have. But that’s not always the case. A professionally-designed custom closet can restructure and reorganize that space you’re “stuck” with, reducing stress and increasing your mental well-being.

How Clutter Increases Stress and Anxiety

Chances are, you don’t consider yourself a messy person—and you’re not. Shows and stories about hoarders give you hives. But, if you’re like us, with a busy life and not quite enough time, your closet doesn’t look the way you want it to. Shelves are filled with mismatched items (in our first apartment, for some reason we had a “shoes/flashlight/winter hats” shelf). Clothes are smashed together, and too much is out of reach and hard to see. It’s a problem that can nag for years. It can lead you to storing things outside the closet; you might box the overflow neatly in the attic, but having to go up to grab it is an annoying hassle. Disorganization can lead to a ripple effect of irritation, and frankly, who needs that?

For those of us who value order and want things to be neat, little amounts of clutter can add up. One person’s “good enough” is another person’s nightmare. Even the minimal disorder in your house can cause stress, and there’s a psychological explanation for this.

  • Clutter distracts our focus. We see this directly if we have messy desks at work, but having a nagging issue like a disorganized closet or desk can also hamper your cognitive abilities. It’s an added responsibility that our brain is concerned with, leading to overstimulation and a lessened ability to concentrate on what is important.
  • Clutter makes relaxation more difficult. Even beyond distractions, we find it harder to relax when we know we still have a long to-do list. Knowing that cleaning your closet is something that should be done can pick at your brain, even when all you’re trying to do is have a nice night of Netflix.
  • Clutter makes us feel guilty. Having a long-overdue project (or one that was never completed to your satisfaction) creates feelings of guilt, like you should be working on it no matter what. When we don’t, we feel like we are somehow failing. This is true even when there is no way to get something organized, like if your closet has a bad layout and you are physically unable to fit everything in neatly.
  • Clutter literally messes with our brain. When clutter is present, according to researchers at Princeton, “Multiple stimuli present in the visual field at the same time compete for neural representation by mutually suppressing their evoked activity throughout visual cortex, providing a neural correlate for the limited processing capacity of the visual system.” Basically? That means our brains can’t do what we want them to do because they get too distracted.
  • Clutter makes us worried about finishing other tasks. For many of us, having a closet jam-packed makes us worried that we’re never going to get it done, which makes us anxious about future stress, and stressed about future anxiety. All of this makes it harder to even get started, which exacerbates the issue.

Clutter, whether large or small, stresses us out, especially when we pride ourselves on being organized. But sometimes there are serious obstacles. Time is one of them, though honestly, just lacking the physical infrastructure required can be a major impediment. It’s like being in a bike race while riding a little tricycle: you can pedal as fast as you want, but you’re going to lose. It’s enough to make anyone anxious.

Getting Organized with a Custom Designed Closet

As you know in work, and in life, the key to getting organized is planning. Having a set of objectives and strategies is the only way to actually accomplish something. This means developing a set idea of what you want your closet to look like. You work with the space, and reimagine it. A custom design team can work right with you. Our design team will create 3D renderings of your existing space, and work with you to come up with a plan that maximizes the space and efficiency of your closet. What you really want is a company who doesn’t just vaguely ask you what you want, but will actually inventory the contents of your closet at the beginning of the process. They will get a true sense of what you need to store, what you need to access most often, and design around that. It’s going back to the bike race: if someone is building you a race bike, you want them to know if you are going to be pedaling on a track or off-road.

The next step is to make use of the newly designed closet. Right after your installation, that clump of clothes and jumble of old belts can start to be stored nicely. You have essentially a fresh slate, designed by you and a team just as enthusiastic about organization, to work with.

There are a lot of reasons to be stressed in life. Work, politics, driving in DC… but having a closet that is poorly designed shouldn’t be one of them. Being organized can be a major stress reducer and can increase your ability to think straight. You deserve to be organized. And a custom designed closet can be the final step to your organized home.

Closet America is the D.C. area’s leading creator of custom-made designer closet, office, garage, and pantry storage spaces. Our experienced team of designers and engineers help create unique solutions that are designed with your needs in mind. Let us help you get your life more organized. Connect with us today to learn more!

Closet America was able to work with my unique circumstances in order to give me the best use of my space.

Amy B.,
Fairfax Station, VA

Let’s Start Your Project

Whether you’re interested in a custom-designed closet, office, pantry, or garage, starting your project couldn’t be easier. Just fill out the attached form or give us a call to schedule your free in-home design consultation. You can download our brochure and you’re welcome to visit our Landover Maryland showroom, to see how beautiful our custom-designed organization systems look in person. We want you to experience the Closet America difference and see how we build organizing solutions for life.