“Mom—where is my homework? I can’t find it.” “Don’t come down until you clean up your room.” Sound familiar? These are just two of the commonly-heard results of too much clutter in a home. As Americans, we have an abundance of stuff, and sadly, the stress of clutter can be bad for kids.
A team of researchers at UCLA’s Center on Everyday Lives of Families (CELF) explored Los Angeles families and the following is what they discovered. “Walk into any dual-income, middle-class home in the U.S. and you will come face to face with an awesome array of stuff—toys, trinkets, family photos, furniture, games, DVDs, TVs, digital devices of all kinds, souvenirs, flags, food and more. We put our stuff anywhere in the house, everywhere there’s room, or even if there’s no room. We park the car on the street so we can store our stuff in the garage, and pile the dirty laundry in the shower because there’s nowhere else to store it, and no time to wash it.” Their conclusion: we are a “clutter culture.”
The problem is that clutter creates stress. “It’s difficult to find time to sort, organize and manage these possessions. Thus, our excess becomes a visible sign of unaccomplished work that constantly challenges our deeply ingrained notions of tidy homes and elicits substantial stress,” said Anthony Graesch, PhD., co-author of Life at Home, a book based on this study.
How Does the Stress of Clutter Affect Kids?
Graesch surmises that “Dual-income parents get to spend so very little time with their children on the average weekday, usually four or fewer waking hours. This becomes a source of guilt for many parents, and buying their children toys, clothes and other possessions is a way to achieve temporary happiness during this limited time span.”
This clutter has an adverse effect on kids. According to Sherrie Bourg Carter, Psy.D., they experience:
- Excessive stimuli, causing the senses to work overtime on things that aren’t important
- Distraction from what the focus should be on
- Difficulty in both physical and mental relaxation
- Inhibition of creativity and productivity with the lack of open spaces that enable thinking, brainstorming and problem solving
- Frustration due to lost items
- Anxiety from never getting everything done
Another study reports that kids in disorganized homes have more trouble regulating their emotions, and that they can feel overwhelmed by a mountain of playthings and the constant nagging to put them away.
How to Reduce the Stress of Clutter
Dr. Carter offers 8 tips to reducing the stress of clutter:
- Don’t tackle the job alone. Get the whole family involved. Start with one room and make each person responsible for a section.
- Create designated spaces for frequently-used items. Make them closed spaces like drawers and cabinets.
- If you don’t use, want or need it, get rid of it. Toss it, recycle it or donate it. If you use it rarely, store it.
- When you take something out of its designated space, put it back immediately after use.
- Create a pending folder to clear your workspace.
- Don’t let papers pile up. Go through them and toss what you don’t need.
- De-clutter before you leave a space.
- Make it fun.
Let 123JUNK Help Reduce the Amount of Clutter and Stress on Kids
123JUNK has some advice too—let us haul away your unused, unwanted and unneeded items. As Dr. Carter advises, start in one room and make piles. You don’t even need to sort them for donation, recycling or trash. We’ll do that when we pick them up; it’s part of our service and our 1-2-3 Process of Donate-Recycle-Dispose designed to help the environment. Just make the piles and point our team members to them when they arrive. It’s as simple as that.
With less stuff, you have more room to breathe, relax and enjoy life without the stress of having to clean, organize, manage and worry about the clutter. Your kids will thank you too.