Health Effects of a Cluttered Home

Messy, cluttered house

A cluttered home is not only unsightly, but it can also be dangerous. There are several dangers associated with having an unorganized, messy house that are worth knowing about. It can help protect not only you, but your kids, family members, and friends.

Falls

It probably makes sense that a cluttered home increases the risk of injury due to falls. However, you may not realize that falls are the leading cause of home injury death in the United States. According to the National Healthy Homes Training Center and Network (NCHH.org), accidental falls account for 33 percent of all home injury deaths. This includes tripping over clutter and other types of preventable accidents.

Respiratory Problems

Excessive clutter can aggravate or worsen symptoms associated with various respiratory diseases, such as asthma. According to the Alliance for Healthy Homes (AFHH.org), cluttered homes tend to contain higher levels of dust, which is a major cause of respiratory complications. Messy homes harbor dust mites more efficiently than clean homes. Also, stuff (aka: clutter) brought into the home contains high levels of dust. Medical experts agree that excessive dust can trigger asthma attacks. The hard part is ridding the home of dust when it’s so cluttered that you can’t physically reach certain items to clean and dust them. Dust continues to pile up and make the home even more dangerous to those with respiratory illnesses. The best way to avoid this issue is to declutter and thoroughly clean the home. It all comes down to this: The less “stuff” in the home, the fewer places for dust to collect.

Rodents and Pests

Rodents, cockroaches, insects and other pests love clutter! Pests in the home can cause respiratory illnesses and other health problems. Decluttering infested areas can greatly reduce a pest problem. It also allows you to get at the infested areas to thoroughly clean and disinfect them.

Weight Gain

Some research links cluttered homes to obesity. If you think about it, it makes sense. If your gym equipment is piled high with boxes, or you have no idea where your running shoes could be, your odds of exercising are far lower than if these items were easily accessible. Dr. Pamela Peeke, assistant clinical professor of medicine at the University of Maryland, told the New York Times, “How are you going to shoot a couple of hoops with your son if you can’t even find the basketball?” She went on to tell a story about one of her patients whose garage was once “a solid cube of clutter” as she put it. The patient decluttered her garage and entire home after that, and lost 50 lbs along the way.

It’s not that the actual process of decluttering a home promotes weight loss, but it does help from a psychological standpoint. Dr. David F. Tolin, director of anxiety disorders at the Institute of Living in Hartford and professor at Yale University, states, “It isn’t a house problem. It’s a person problem. The person needs to fundamentally change their behavior.” Essentially, Tolin is saying that excessive clutter in the home is more of a psychological issue than anything else.

Extreme cases of house clutter – referred to as "hoarding" – is often a symptom of a bigger health problem, such as depression, emotional trauma, attention deficit disorder, or mental illness. The New York Times talked about one study that proved treatment of these illnesses can greatly improve the health of a person’s home and body. It states, “Six months’ therapy resulted in a marked decline in clutter in the patient’s living space.” It’s important to point out that just because you may have a cluttered basement, garage, or home doesn’t necessarily mean you suffer from some sort of mental illness. It’s safe to say that most homes in America have at least a closet that could use some decluttering, so you’re not alone.


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