Declutter Secret 2

Clutter Research

Quite a bit of research has recently been done on aspects of human behavior with regard to clutter. The most important studies give us significant insights into the negative affects of clutter on the human psyche and how best to deal with them:

Overcoming Clutter = Mindfulness

1. The Center on Everyday Lives and Families  (CELF) at UCLA uncovered a direct correlation between clutter and cortisol levels in women participants. Cortisol, a stress hormone, negatively affected these participants’ moods and self-esteem when they were surrounded by clutter.  Men alternatively, were found not to be stressed by clutter.

Differences in reactions to messes strain most relationships to a lesser or greater degree. In addition, couples committed to decluttering their houses are often paralyzed by the thought of disposing of items of value. For more information on CELF’s findings see their book: Life at Home in The Twenty-First Century.

2. Researchers at the Yale School of Medicine traced the difficulty or inability to declutter to two areas of the brain generally associated with the feeling that something is wrong. When throwing out something that the participants felt connected to, the anterior cingulate cortex and insula, were activated. The brain signals a need to prevent harm or alleviate anxiety by retaining the item. This is the same process that motivates, for example, a smoker to smoke.


3.Over the decades, our customers report that they alleviate the stress of decluttering, by first storing the things they value most at a Sofia Storage Center. This preemptive step eliminates most of the decluttering tension, including that between spouses or partners. With the knowledge that things they treasure are stored safe and secure, decluttering anxiety and procrastination are naturally reduced. Sorting the remaining clutter into boxes for selling, donating and throwing away, reportedly can actually become fun. 

4. Dr. Kelly McGonigal of Stamford University points out that a technique, used in a recent study of reducing smoking, can help those unable to declutter. In that study, behavioral reseach scientist Sarah Bowen at the University of Washington taught participants a method called “surfing the urge.” 

Bowen explained that urges or feelings of anxiety pass away over a relatively short period of time, regardless of whether you submit to them or not. Participants were taught that when they felt a need to reduce anxiety they should picture themselves surfing on an ocean wave, representing in this case the urge to smoke. The wave would become steadily larger, peak, crash-over, dissipate and disappear. The smokers were to imagine themselves just riding the wave – neither struggling against it nor giving in.

They were advised to pay attention to their thoughts as well as any feelings in their bodies as they went through the process.

According to Dr. McGonigal , the same “Surfing the Urge” can be used to overcome decluttering anxiety. 

You can try “Surfing the Urge” by listening to Dr. Bowen’s hypnotic meditation at:


You may find additional decluttering help by visiting Sofia Storage Centers at 475 Amsterdam Ave (@W. 83rd Street) and asking for John Foran, the author of this Blog.