Depression and Anxiety vs. Clutter and Disorganization: A Vicious Cycle (and How to Break It)

Is your home cluttered and disorganized because you’re depressed or anxious?

Or are you depressed and anxious because your home is cluttered and disorganized?

If you have a messy home and are suffering from symptoms of depression or anxiety, the answer is probably “yes” to both.

It’s a vicious cycle :

This post will closely examine the relationship between clutter and disorganization, and depression and anxiety. I will also give you some methods for trying to break through depression and anxiety in order to address the clutter and disorganization in your home.

The Effect of Depression and Anxiety on Clutter and Disorganization

In her “Dysfunction Interrupted” column on PsychCentral, Dr. Audrey Sherman noted that the biggest problems depressed people report are chaos and disorganization. She stated, depression“Emotional baggage has a way of building up, and then expressing itself in an outward display of turmoil.”

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) 5, there are many debilitating symptoms of depression. Among these, I’ll focus on those with the strongest relationship to clutter and disorganization:

  • Slowed thinking and a reduction in movement-This could create difficulty in figuring out how to declutter and organize as well as curtail the movements needed to perform these tasks.
  • Fatigue or loss of energy-If you’re so tired it’s a challenge just to get out of bed, it may be beyond your capability to summon enough energy to take on the challenging work of decluttering, organizing, and maintenance.
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt-With such feelings, you may not believe you deserve to live in a beautiful and functional home.
  • Difficulty concentrating and making decisions-Lack of concentration could promote distractions and making choices about what to keep or discard may feel impossible.

Nicole Reiner, a New York-based therapist, stated, “The combination of lethargy, lack of motivation, and negative thinking can make something like cleaning one’s home feel like an insurmountable task.”

The Effect of Clutter and Disorganization on Depression and Anxiety

In a Psychology Today article, Sherrie Bourg Carter, Psy.D. discussed several of the negative effects of clutter:

  • Clutter overloads our senses, causing them to work harder, with unnecessary stimuli.
  • Clutter redirects our attention from the things we need to be focusing on.clutter
  • Clutter reduces our ability to physically and mentally relax.
  • Clutter tells our minds that we are never finished.
  • Clutter increases anxiety because we never know when we’ll get to the bottom of the pile.
  • Clutter creates guilt feelings because we think we should be organized and embarrassment when someone visits unexpectedly.
  • Clutter causes frustration when we can’t find things that we need.

Furthermore, in a UCLA research study, researchers found women whose spaces were cluttered had higher levels of cortisol, a stress hormone which gives rise to our fight or flight responses. They also experienced higher levels of depression.

And I can speak from personal experience that the amount of clutter, and the anxiety that it results in, can be overwhelming and paralyzing. This can lead to avoidance, allowing the clutter to remain or continue to grow.

The mind responds well to order. When it perceives nothing but a room full of clutter and disorganization, it struggles to maintain focus. Regina Leeds, an author of 10 books and personal organizer with 30 years of experience, said, “Chaos in physical space means chaos in one’s mind.”

Breaking Through

“Cleaning your home is a way to show up for yourself, and a reminder that you care about the quality of your life,” Reiner says. “Decluttering can show us that we can face what seems unmanageable and get past it (and let go of what doesn’t serve us anymore).”

So what does it take to break through depression and anxiety and be able to effectively confront the clutter and disorganization in our homes?

There’s no magic wand or quick fix. I’m sorry if that’s what you were looking for. Believe me, I wish I had a wand (then again, I’m a big Harry Potter fan).

The fact is, those of us suffering from depression and anxiety symptoms will probably have to work harder at making a dent in our clutter than someone who isn’t. That said, it’s not impossible.

If you’ve read Decluttering and Organizing – The 2-Part Formula for Success, then you know that decluttering comes before organization, so start by just focusing on that. Even just decluttering will make a huge difference in your home which can create momentum.

When you’re feeling tired and depressed or anxious, don’t think about everything that has to be decluttered. Start small. Pick a clean-dishesdrawer, shelf, or box. You could also pick one obvious thing that’s bothering you, like the dirty dishes in the sink. Set a timer and work on that for 5-15 minutes, your choice. If the timer rings and you feel like continuing, go for it. If not, that’s okay. Look at your results and remember, it doesn’t have to be perfect. Give yourself a pat on the back for what you did accomplish. Focus on how you’re feeling. Accomplishment? Happy? Pride? Great! Focus on and remember those feelings and use that memory for the extra push to get you going next time.

Another trick that I use to help manage my anxiety is to watch a show with commercials (sorry Netflix, this doesn’t include you.) Try to pick something that you will be able to pause by using a watch-tvDVR or streaming channel or device that allows for this. Pick a show and, every time it goes to commercial, pause it and go work for 5-15 minutes. You know it won’t last long and you’ll be back in front of the TV where you can focus on your show instead of your clutter. This helps me because I’m able to get in several quick sessions and not think about it in between them. My anxiety stays in check and I feel a real sense of accomplishment when the show is over.

So, what do you do when you’re having a bad day? If it’s one of those days that you can barely get out of bed, maybe you won’t get in your 5-15 minutes. Be kind to yourself; avoid negative self-talk. Remind yourself that you’re struggling right now. It’s okay. Hopefully, you’ll feel a little better tomorrow. And if you’re really having a good day, try to get as much done as you can without burning yourself out. That way, on the next not so great day, you won’t have as much clutter to bring you down.

Living in a clear, organized, and clean environment has been proven to elevate your mood. It allows for feelings of hope and can motivate you to tackle other basic tasks around your home, such as doing bills and taking care of your personal self-care needs, like cooking a healthy meal for yourself. Living with less reduces distractions and will be easier to maintain.


Depression and anxiety along with clutter and disorganization created a vicious cycle.

Depression and anxiety interfere with our ability to plan, physically function, concentrate, and make decisions about what to keep or discard.

Clutter overloads our senses, distracts us, and increases anxiety, guilt, and frustration. Living in a constant state of chaos increases cortisol levels, is overwhelming, and can be paralyzing.

While there’s no quick cure to break through depression and anxiety to create a clear and organized home, you can start with small areas and short chunks of time to get you started. Give yourself compassion on tough days and make the most of good days.

I know you can do it!


P.S. I hope this post has been of some value to you. I’d love to hear your comments or questions. Please feel free to share your stressors and successes here!

Decluttering and Organizing – The 2-Part Formula for Success

Is your home the relaxing and put together place you want it to be? When you need something, do you know exactly where to find it or do you find yourself digging through clutter in frustration?Stressed Are you always planning to get organized but don’t even know how to get started?

Today, we’ll be looking at the cornerstones of getting and maintaining a functional and stress-free home, decluttering and organizing. We’ll examine what decluttering and organizing are, why they are important, and how they work separately and together to achieve the desired result for your home.

Ready? Let’s go!


The purpose of decluttering is to reduce the amount of stuff in your home. Decluttering can be difficult. It can be hard to let go of items that you’ve spent a lot of money on, that you imagined using for some purpose that you never got around to, that has good memories attached to it, or that you think you may be able to use someday.

QuestionTo begin the process of decluttering, you must ask yourself a few questions about your belongings. Is the item in question in use and serving a function within your home? Is it currently in reasonably good condition? Do you still enjoy having the item or does it have significant sentimental value?

If the answer to these questions is no, then the item needs to be removed from your home. You must now decide on a method of discarding the item. Does it simply need to be thrown in the trash or the recycling bin? Can you sell it and, if so, where and how likely are you to follow through with doing so in a timely manner? Would it be quicker and easier to donate it to a charitable organization or give it to a friend or relative who would really enjoy having it?

Decluttering and letting go of items can be a difficult process but it can also improve the appearance of your home, decrease stress, and allow you to focus on the things you really use and love. It also paves the way for organizing!


Organizing is a process which can make it easier to know where things are in your home when you need them, faster to retrieve them, and more simple to return when you are done with them.

It involves setting up systems for the management of things in your home which entails finding a place for each item that you have and making each of these places somewhere that is both logical and functional for you. In most cases, such a place would be either close to where the specific item will be used or where you will remember to look for it when it is needed.

containersAdditionally, various forms of storage products are often purchased or improvised to contain items in a neat and easy to access way during the organization process.

Organizing can require thought and time but, once accomplished, can result in systems that you can maintain and which will create a more beautiful and restful home the whole family will enjoy.

One Without the Other

Individually, decluttering and organizing will only take you so far. For example, you may declutter your home and have less stuff to dig through when trying to find something. However, you still may not know where the desired object is because you haven’t given that item a place to live, making it easy to find and return after use.

Conversely, you may just want to get to the organizing and skip the decluttering. You may get excited about all of the organization products out there and believe that once you have these products, you will finally be organized. When you organize without decluttering first, though, you will spend far more time and energy than necessary by trying to organize items you no longer use and have a more difficult time finding places for each item within the limited space of your home. You will also need to buy storage products to fit a greater amount of stuff which, if you decide to declutter at a later time, will prove to be a waste of your hard-earned dollars.


As you can see, for the best results in your home, you should first declutter as much as possible. It’s a big step in reaching the goals you have for your home and should not be overlooked or put off until later, after you’ve organized. Once the decluttering has been organized-homefinished, you’ll then be able to put systems in place to organize and maintain your home, making it easier to clean and resulting in less frustration and stress and more time and relaxation.

I know you can do it!


P.S. I hope this post has been of some value to you. I’d love to hear your comments or questions. Please feel free to share your stressors and successes here!