Like many families with small children our house is rather cluttered at the best of times. This is not something that has bothered me too much but for my wife it is a constant irritation. I’ve tended to shrug it off and make-do with ensuring that there are no trip hazards between the door and the sofa/dining table. If we’ve got some guests coming round I even tidy the lego away from the living room floor. Recently however I’ve begun to wonder whether the clutter isn’t actually a more serious issue than I’d realized.
In his book “Stuffocation” James Wallman argues that our society is reaching overload in the amount of “stuff” that we are accumulating. In a survey of 32 middle class homes in the Los Angeles area (completed at UCLA) it was found that even the smallest home (980 square feet) had 2,260 items visible in just the two bedrooms and living room (excluding stuff tucked into drawers and cupboards). On average each of the families had 39 pairs of shoes, 90 DVD’s or videos, 139 toys, 212 CD’s and 438 books and magazines. Nine out of ten had household stuff in the garage.
I regret to say that I don’t think our home is much better. The interesting thing to me however is that when the researchers did a detailed study of the cortisol levels (indicating stress & depression) in the occupants of these cluttered houses they discovered that for women in particular the levels of stress when living in a cluttered house increased during the day. This didn’t apply to all the women surveyed but it related especially to those who used words such as messy, disorganized, chaotic and cluttered to describe their homes.
I must admit this switched a light on for me. My wife often refers to our home as a place that drains her energy. She loves the house but the stuff and clutter seem to feed a sense of being overwhelmed and of frustration at not feeling on top of things.
Suffice to say that this discovery is another great incentive to de-clutter. It’s also a spur on our journey of not letting the stuff into the house in the first place!