Is choosing less good for your health?

Today, I wanted to explore how choosing less in your home could be good for your health. Is there any research answering that question?

From what I could find, there aren’t studies specifically about how an already decluttered place can make you happier.

What I did find are some scientific conclusions that clutter can be bad for mental health.

Here’s a few examples:

  • From Good Housekeeping: “[A] study from the Princeton University explains that the awareness and annoyance of existing clutter will wear down on your mental state, making you more likely to become frustrated — so you might make decisions differently than your normally clear head might.”
  • From “Other research, published in 2011 in the Journal of Neuroscience, found that clutter often means there are too many stimuli in your environment, which in turn makes it hard to focus."
  • From A UCLA study, published as "Life at Home in The Twenty-First Century,” found “a link between high cortisol (stress hormone) levels in female home owners and a high density of household objects. The more stuff, the more stress women feel. Men, on the other hand, don’t seem bothered by mess, which accounts for tensions between tidy wives and their clutter bug hubbies.”

Yikes. Just reading those quotes gets my cortisol levels up and makes me want to curl up in my bed and do nothing! 

To compare myself to the three research points above, in my home, since I've chosen to have fewer things in my house, I find it easier to make decisions, easier to focus, and hopefully have lower cortisol levels than I did when I had more stuff in my house.

But that’s just anecdotal.

I wish I could give you something more concrete than that from this email. I wish there was more actionable research out there.

Finding something more concrete is something I’m considering for whatever phase 2 of this newsletter is. I want to look at things like:

  • Decision-making and how it can be applied to choosing less
  • The science of breakups and grieving and how that can be applied to our physical objects
  • Science about why we hold onto stuff
  • How having fewer things in our home can help with better eating habits
  • Etc.

Overall, though, I can say that for me, I don't need science to prove that choosing less has been good for my health. And I think it can be for you, too.

This post is adapted from a weekday newsletter I wrote in April 2018, Choose Less.