July 28, 2013
Written by Kathryn Russell Selk for ParentMap Magazine
School is looming. The kids are cranky. You know you have to wean the minions from their summer
schedule and somehow keep your cool.
The last thing on your mind is dealing with your own clutter.
But taking a little time now to get your own things more in order may go a long way toward reducing your own anxiety level — and your kids’ stress as well.
Those piles of chick lit stacked next to the bed and the towers of paper you plan to deal with “soon” are not just unsightly, they’re downright unhealthy. A 2012 UCLA study finds that levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, are higher in the saliva of women whose homes were cluttered versus those whose homes were described as “restorative.”
Searching for your keys in the clutter? Researchers at the University of Washington have found a direct link between stress and cognitive problems such as issues with memory.
And a 2012 study from the University of Wisconsin–Madison shows that stress actually interferes with the function of your prefrontal cortex — the part of your brain that plays a fundamental role in short-term memory. It turns out that the stress from owning all those items may actually be making it harder to remember where you put them!
The effects of stress don’t just land on you. In 2004, Harvard researchers found that high levels of anxiety in parents increase their children’s risk of developing asthma and allergies. What’s more, kids whose parents have clutter collections often keep their own messy mountains of junk lying around.
“If you are not organized yourself, don’t expect your kids to be,” says Kammie Lisenby, CEO of Seattle Organizing Experts.
“You have to be the role model.”