The Haunting Effects of Clutter by Karen Kruzan, LISW-S, CPO-CD®

01 Oct 2015 12:49 PM | Julie Riber, CPO®

Cooler temperatures arrived and Halloween is on the horizon. If you have ever been to a haunted house you know the adrenalin rush that comes from fear and excitement. As you walk through, your brain tries to sort out what it sees in order to protect you from danger. The darkness and fog make it difficult to make out details as you struggle to find what you are looking for – the exit. Whether or not you enjoy haunted houses, your brain perceives them as stressful, no different than the feelings you get when surrounded by clutter. In addition to stress, effects of clutter include wasted time trying to locate things, wasted money from late fees or buying duplicates, and even missed opportunities. When you are dealing with significant stress, such as being in a haunted house or cluttered environment, your brain goes into fight, flight, or freeze mode. It is as if your brain is telling you “Danger! Get ready to fight for survival, run for your life, or stay still – maybe the danger will pass you by.” When you are in this mode your ability to think clearly is compromised, so that finding things, making decisions, planning, and prioritizing are nearly impossible. Unfortunately, these are the same skills you need to get out of the haunted house or change your cluttered environment.

Fortunately, now that you know what is going on with your brain, you can do things that will make a difference. The most important thing is to be aware that you are in fight, flight, or freeze mode and get out of it. Deep breathing, exercise, picturing a relaxing scene, or listening to soothing music all help. If you are having trouble getting out of fight, flight, or freeze mode or getting the clutter to stop haunting your home, consider asking for help from family, friends, a therapist, or a professional organizer affiliated with NAPO or ICD.