organization makes sense

Symptoms of Depression
Is Clutter One of the Causes of Depression or One of the Effects?

The symptoms of depression are well documented but is clutter one of the causes of depression?

This comparison shows that the signs of depression are strikingly similar to the emotions felt by individuals drowning in clutter.

Signs of depression include:

  • feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness
  • irritability
  • loss of pleasure in ordinary activities
  • feeling constantly overwhelmed and confused by simple decisions
  • persistent fatigue
  • difficulty concentrating or focusing on a task
Symptoms of depression can even lead to suicidal thoughts which are often expressed as
"I don't want to live like this!"
facial symptoms of depression

Excuses offered for cluttered environments include:

  • fatigue
  • hopelessness- "Why bother! every time I try to get rid of clutter, it comes back again!"
  • difficulty concentrating or focusing on the declutter task "I do not know where to start and if I get started then I can't seem to finish it."
  • irritability - "We are constantly fighting over this"
Persistent and overwhelming clutter also prompts people to say
"I don't want to live like this!"

See any similarities?

Causes of clutter behaviour

It is a widely held belief that clutter is related to childhood poverty and that clutter behaviour is an attempt to prevent a repeat of the emotions experienced during an impoverished childhood.

A survey conducted by Clutterless Recovery Groups has revealed the following:

  • 24% of clutters consider themselves to be depressed
  • 46% have been in therapy

This sounds like a reasonable explanation, but in the early 1990s Smith College psychologist Randy Frost, PhD found out something completely different through his studies of clutter behaviour.

He found out that it was not physical impoverishment but rather emotional impoverishment that was related to clutter behaviour.

His studies revealed that when cluttering occurs outside of psychiatric conditions such as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or OCD it is related to emotional deprivation and lack of warmth expressed in the family, especially during adolescence.


Is clutter one of the symptoms or causes of depression?

People who show signs of depression often are not able to mount the energy or the motivation necessary to deal with every day activities and because of this clutter builds. Of course the clutter situation tends to worsen until eventually it reaches a point where it causes the owner to feel overwhelmed, hopeless, and depressed.

The vicious cycle continues as the depression and the clutter both fuel each other.

facial symptoms of depression

One thing is clear, people who clutter show signs of depression, and people with depression show signs of clutter! It would be very difficult to decide if clutter was one of the causes of depression or one of the symptoms. The fact that the two are related is, however, indisputable.

If your clutter is causing you to experience signs of depression or anxiety, or if you are feeling overwhelmed, confused, or otherwise emotionally disturbed because you cannot get control of the stuff in your life, take the steps to understand why you cannot get rid of clutter.

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If you do not know where to start with organizing your home or feel overwhelmed try a self help program first.

If you are already experiencing symptoms of depression then accumulating clutter will only make those symptoms get worse, and there is lots of solid evidence to suggest that keeping clutter around will adversely affect your physical, emotional and spiritual health.

by Beverly OMalley


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