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What Clutter Does to Your Brain

There is Great Mental Power to Be Had in a Place of Peace

…and great frustration to be had in a cluttered, visually noisy environment!

Do you have a fortress of solitude where there is no visual noise to interfere with your budding big-ass ideas and potent problem-solving? I do. I always say, Peace of Mind requires Peace of Place, and in this second blog post on clutter, I’ve gathered up some of the science that shows just how visual and physical clutter can make our adult ADD/ADHD seem worse.

But to get us started…In which of these two bedrooms do you think you’d fall asleep faster and get a better night’s sleep?


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Which would you rather begin your day in?

I know, the pairing’s quite exaggerated, but all to amplify that the latter creates or preserves positive energy…and the former, just drains it.

And importantly, whether you live in a McMansion or a mobile home or a micro-home, you can create an environment for more mental power. All the more important therefore, that our place of work, must be a place of visual peace. And so, let’s talk about…

Visual Clutter’s Impact On Your Brain

…which is of particular importance in your office or other workspace.

Research shows that any excess items in your surroundings can have a negative impact on your ability to focus and process information: Neuroscientists at Princeton showed that physical clutter in your surroundings competes for your attention, resulting in decreased performance and increased stress.

Why is this? What are the mechanics of this? Writing in Psychology Today, Dr. Sherrie Bourg Carter does a nice job of explaining. She says that…

  • Clutter pelts our minds with excessive stimuli (not just visual, but olfactory, tactile), causing our senses to work overtime on unnecessary or irrelevant stimuli.
  • Clutter distracts us by pulling our attention away from where it should be.
  • Clutter constantly reminds us that our work is never done.
  • Clutter inhibits creativity and productivity by invading the open spaces that allow us to think, brainstorm, and problem solve.
  • Lastly, clutter makes it harder to relax, both physically and mentally.

Now many of you may look around your office and say, “Hey, I like my stuff, I can find my stuff, and I’m pretty productive, so don’t mess with me or my STUFF!”

Well, I hope the evidence-based info above will have you thinking a bit more about getting rid of a bit more! Cuz as I say in the first post in this clutter series, You don’t have to be a hoarder to benefit from some de-cluttering!

And by the way, just as a cluttered desk can slow us down….so can a cluttered computer desktop!

So whenever my desktop gets a little cluttery…

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I sweep it clean…and what a difference it makes to my ADHD brain!!

Next installment in this series, I’ll show you a very simple, step-by-step process to getting clear skies ahead…

‘Til then, wishing you Peace…of Place!


P.S. — We devoted an entire episode of CrusherTV to the topic of clutter. If you’d like to dive into a bigger heap of insights and tips, consider trying CrusherTV! We do an episode each week on a new topic…and we dig in deep, with A-List Guest Experts. Hope to “see” you there!

10 Responses to “What Clutter Does to Your Brain”

By Mary - 16 February 2020 Reply

This is such a great reminder! Thank you. Now I have to remind myself to just do one pile, box,etc at a time or I will be overwhelmed. To actually do it though I have write it down, (sort put away bills, or magazines etc.) Yes…the timer Alan is the best….5 min., ready, set, go! It works!

By ADD Crusher - 16 February 2020 Reply

So glad this resonated with you Mary. Another “timer trick” is what’s known as the “10×10”: Set a timer for 10min and try to put way or discard ten items before the buzzer goes off!!! Do that 5x a week and you’ll start to see your clutter monster retreating!!! AB

By Karen - 15 February 2020 Reply

Thanks great article. I did the one small space cleanup in my kitchen recently. A little used corner of the countertop where I’d been dumping empty plastic water bottles thinking I’d fill them and keep them in the cat to save money. Well that didn’t happen and it was just an untidy mess. Once I’d finished it felt so good. Now I have a space that’s organised and got a whole new purpose.

By ADD Crusher - 15 February 2020 Reply

The upside is so big, isn’t it Karen, when we “push into the discomfort” to de-clutter even a little bit!!!! Keep on CRUSHING IT! -AB

By Stephanie Ray-Stoviak​ - 7 June 2017 Reply

I have ADHD and I have become extremely disorganized and flite from one thing to another. I waste time by doing this. I wonder where is the best part of the house to declutter 1st. Appreciate any feedback.


By ADD Crusher - 8 June 2017 Reply

Hi Stephanie, not sure if there’s a “best practice” around where in the house to start. The key thing is to pick ONE SMALL section of a problem room….set a timer for 5 minutes — yes, just 5 minutes — and then START, with zero expectation of success. Zero!! That is how your ensure starting. And what happens after that is usually more than Zero!!! Alan

By Sean Desilva - 16 March 2016 Reply

Sigh… now I have to start organizing my workspace to be more productive 🙂

By pat - 1 February 2016 Reply

I have adhd…..sometimes my space is incredibly messy….other times immaculate…I am the poster child for clutter and procrastination….

By ADD Crusher - 1 February 2016 Reply

We totally “get you” here at ADD Crusher, Pat!!

By Nick Stokes - 29 December 2015 Reply

Really interesting article. My room was always messy and I rarely can finish anything at my home. Made me thinking.

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