Get Organized: Why Decluttering Hurts Your Brain

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Why Decluttering Hurts Your Brain - The Peaceful Mom


Why Decluttering Hurts Your Brain

I admit it: I like stuff. I am fairly selective about the stuff I like, but I still like stuff.

But the stuff takes up space —

In my house.

In my mind.

In my life.


And yet I still have trouble getting rid of it.


Well, now there is science to explain what my problem is.

According to a post on Psychology Today, researchers at the Yale School of Medicine studied the brain activity of hoarders and non-hoarders while they sorted through items like junk mail and old newspapers, and had to decide what to keep and what to toss. Hoarders, unlike their non-hoarding counterparts showed increased activity in two areas of the brain that are associated with pain: the insula and the anterior cingulate cortex — which mean absolutely nothing to me, but I am trying to sound scientific here.

It turns out that the more a hoarder complained about feeling “not right” about getting rid of something, the stronger the brain activity in those two brain regions. Like their brains were saying, “Hey, wait a minute! What is wrong with you? Why would you EVER try to get rid of anything?!”

I can relate, so does that make me a deep-down, secret hoarder? Just don’t check my closets, okay.

In another study, scientists determined that the longer you physically hold something, the more value you assign it, and the more difficult time you have letting it go. That’s why the brainiacs at Apple let you come into their store and fondle all their technological goodies, or so I’m told.

So, to summarize, the reason that stuff piles up in your house is because getting rid of it actually hurts. I am not going to let this scientific fact stand in my way, however. I will overcome! I will continue to fight this battle over stuff.

I. Will. Win.

 10 Minutes A Day Decluttering Challenge--The Peaceful Mom


If you want to fight this battle of clutter with me, join my 10 Minutes A Day Decluttering Challenge and gain support for your decluttering pain! Just leave a comment on this post saying that you are joining in, and click here for the details!



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Thanks to Mikael Cho at Life for cluing me in to these studies.

 photo credit: koratmember;


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  1. Jennifer says

    We decluttered quite a bit before our big move, but old habits die hard. Guess we have a “scientific” reason for our problem, but my hubby and I don’t want it to define us. We will put decluttering on our daily to-do list.

  2. Mary says

    I am so glad to know that there is a “scientific reason” that I do this! I am determined to declutter, but you are right…it hurts! I like the 10 min a day. I will take you up on this challenge! I like the idea of only causing my brain stress for 10 min a day, rather than take a whole day and try to get a lot done at the expense of much pain and agony. 😉

  3. Charmaine Mankey says

    It really does hurt to let go–my mom’s things, my dad’s things…all those things cluttering my garage and cabinets in my house! I did go through two boxes and a huge bag yesterday of old paperwork from my parents. Mind you, my mom has been gone more than 10 years and Dad, over 7. It feels like I’m tossing away their lives. It really does hurt.

    I’d like to organize myself in just 10 minutes a day, but that would take a few decades, I think. I’m at least going to follow what you do, since you have been very inspirational and have gotten me to do things I thought would never get done!

    Thanks so much for your blog, pinterest additions, and emails!

    • says

      Going through items that belonged to family members who have passed is an entirely different matter, but good for you for finally facing that task. One of the tricks of using the 10 minutes a day decluttering is that you may find that you spend a few extra minutes past the initial ten. I just have to make the number really small to get over my procrastination. :) I am glad that I have encouraged you.

  4. Ginny says

    I’m in real trouble. I really need help. My husband was in the Army for 20 yrs. We moved about every 3 yrs, therefore we had to go through stuff or pay for the extra weight. He retired from the Army in 1989 and we haven’t moved since. We really haven’t gone through much either. It hard to know where to even start.
    I’m in but I will need lots of help.

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