Looking for a one-and-done guide on how to reduce visual clutter for every space? Consider this your detailed support on just that!
Reducing visual clutter focuses on the proper approach to determining what clutter is.
- First, pick the space that you want to work on.
- Take everything (yes, everything) out of that space.
- Thoroughly clean the area for a “clean slate.”
- From there, add back in the essential things for that space.
- The rest that you have is clutter that needs to be rehomed.
The most challenging part of reducing visual clutter is keeping your space that way over time.
I’ve discussed that and the importance of clearing clutter below.
What is the meaning of visual clutter?
If you’ve read about clutter before, you’ve heard the term visual clutter. What does it mean when all is said is done? It’s simpler than most think. Visual clutter is the unnecessary things in your space. That’s it! It’s the extra stuff that doesn’t belong in the space.
Many feel that dirt/dust/debris is also visual clutter. This is the gunk in your space, preventing you from cleaning it properly. Your visual clutter creates dirt. When you remove one, the other disappears!
I’ll be focusing on the first definition rather than the second one that I gave since they’re directly connected!
What causes visual clutter?
Is there any one specific cause of visual clutter? If so, I don’t know it. There are quite a few causes of visual clutter in every home and lifestyle with every type of household. However, here are some of the biggest causes of clutter from one situation to the next:
- We have too much stuff
- We have busy lives
- Lack of communication in a house
We have too much stuff
This one is obvious but worth noting. Most of us know that we have too much stuff. However, we don’t realize that until we come face to face with it when clutter is overflowing in every part of our home.
The thing is, most of our “important stuff” is on top. Everything beneath that is going to be clutter that pretty much just holds the important stuff on top. It’s strange to think of it that way, but it’s true!
We have busy lives
After a day at work and/or looking after little ones and/or making time for food prep and a workout, you’re too tired to deal with things on your tabletop that just need to be put away. So, they build up, and after a while, you realize it’s been a month since you put anything away. Yet it’s not a lack of focus; it’s just busy life!
Okay, so you can also totally neglect visual clutter clean-up because you just don’t want to. There’s nothing wrong with admitting that; you certainly won’t be the only one. If this is the reason for clutter in your most common areas, don’t fear — you can deal with it in the same way as any other reason! We’ll get to it next.
Lack of communication in a house
One often surprising reason for clutter to linger is that one person in your world thinks another person will put it away. Or, they mean well because they think you will use the blender, so they leave it out. No matter what the intention is, a lack of communication can create clutter,
The 6 steps of how to reduce visual clutter
As I mentioned in the introduction above, there are some essential steps to reduce or eliminate visual clutter. Understanding how to follow those steps is essential to completing the task, so consider this your go-to support for getting to the bottom of your clutter with actionable advice you can put to work repeatedly. Here they are again:
- Pick your space carefully
- Empty the space
- Clean the space carefully and thoroughly
- Decide the essential items and put them into the space
- Rehome the rest
- Learn how clutter collects
1. Pick your space carefully
Don’t take on a space that you can’t conquer. Focus on one doable area — like a bedside table or a bathroom vanity. This will help you see it as a task you can get through in one sitting, making a huge visual difference!
2. Empty the space
First, take everything out of the space, from cords to trinkets to your secret chocolate stash (it’s okay, I won’t tell anyone!). If you leave a few things, it won’t look clean when it’s done. Take it all out so you’re ready to start from scratch and create a table you can love!
3. Clean the space carefully and thoroughly
Next, grab your favorite cleaner and give everything a nice thorough wipe-down. Take a moment to admire how nice that table is now. It could be like that all the time if you just remember how good this feels!
4. Decide the essential items and put them into the space
Now that your table is all clean, you’ll want to pick out the essentials that need to be on the table. Make sure it’s just the essentials. Anything that doesn’t absolutely have to be there shouldn’t be!
Tip: Clean every item as you put it back on for extra sparkle.
5. Rehome the rest
Next, rehome the things that you don’t need on that table. If you don’t have a designated area needing those items, re-evaluate their usefulness and literally rehome them. For example, do you need ten pens? You could get away with 3 or 4 and then donate the remaining ones.
6. Learn how clutter collects
This is an essential facet of decluttering. What drew your eye and attention to that area in the first place? Odds are, there was one thing that disgusted or frustrated you. For example, candy wrappers or a pile of clothes.
Those are most likely your “problem areas” that can be addressed by learning better habits. Those candy wrappers (putting them in the trash immediately) or the pile of clothes (hanging everything up as soon as you take it off).
See what you just did? That’s great! Now you can make that same approach with every other space in your home until you have a true, clutter-free home that will feel like an oasis when you come home next time.
Does visual clutter cause anxiety?
Yes, visual clutter can and does cause anxiety. If you have visual clutter around you, you’ll find yourself more exhausted just by being around it. Even if you don’t even try to address it and deal with it, physically being around visual clutter is going to exhaust you, and this will cause anxiety.
You also will find yourself more anxious because you won’t be able to relax and restore in your space. You’ll rest, sure, but you won’t restore yourself and feel worn down.
Does visual clutter cause stress?
Just like anxiety, clutter can cause an increase in stress. The Mayo Clinic explains that clutter in your home can cause stress to worsen. It doesn’t matter if it’s short-term or long-term clutter. Your space is an external reflection of you, and that means your inside will be as “messy” — which means “stressy” (see what I did there?) — as your outside space.
Does visual clutter worsen ADHD?
As this thesis study from Longwood University explains, kids with ADHD are especially likely to have worsened ADHD symptoms if they are in a clutter-rich space. This can impact learning, stress relief, and more.
How to consider visual clutter when designing a room?
If you’re in a situation where you’re redesigning a room. In that case, you’ll want to make it as considerate as possible regarding visual clutter. Or lack thereof. If you want to avoid creating a clutter-friendly space, here are some things to remember:
- Keep catch-all baskets small
- Simplify wall art (in the complexity and amount of art)
- Remove textures and loud colors from the space
- Have a unilateral color scheme throughout your home
- Hide cords and other essential frustrations
These will help you create the right kind of space for your clutter-free home (or clutter-minimal, anyway). Plus, it leaves room in your space for what’s important!
Visual clutter psychology
There’s a lot of evidence in something like visual clutter psychology. I’ve already spoken about anxiety and ADHD, but there’s also a connection between visual clutter and physical health! World Economic Forum explains that there is a strong link between clutter and poor eating habits.
Having too much around you could be part of the reason why you struggle to avoid fast food. Since clutter keeps you in fight-or-flight mode, your body will veer toward the high-calorie food just to keep it going. Clutter is linked to food temptations and the lack of “willpower” to resist them!
Ways to reduce The visual clutter
If you want to reduce visual clutter in your home, you’ll be able to address it by focusing on a few things.
Firstly, learn about minimalism. You don’t need to become a minimalist; being a minimalist doesn’t mean you never have clutter. However, it can help you understand minimalism and how to adopt certain concepts into your life.
Secondly, you’ll want to shop smart. This includes details like asking yourself if you “need” something or if you “want” it. This can expose your weak points, and then you can take that same approach to your lifestyle at home, too. Do you really “need” 20 coffee mugs, or will six ones do the job just fine?
Benefits of reducing visual clutter
There are a lot of benefits to reducing visual clutter in your home! Some of the top ones are below for you:
- Creating a calm home and energy
- Finding what you need easily
- No need to clean for company
- Promote family bonding time (via decluttering or due to lack of clutter to clean — or both!)
Risks of not reducing visual clutter
There are a lot of genuine risks to think about, too. Keep these in mind if you are considering making it a priority some other time:
- It takes longer to clean
- It makes your home’s air quality worse
- It can cause tension in yourself and your home
- It can worsen your health if it’s chronic
Realistically, reducing visual clutter doesn’t have to be a process that takes three months. It just takes focusing on one problem area at a time, taking everything out to clean the space, and seeing what you need to put back into it.
When you have those essentials back in place, you’ll want to rehome the rest of the clutter and then keep your space that way by remembering the mental, emotional, and physical risks associated with clutter.
Do you know someone looking for some help managing clutter in their home? Please share this with them to offer support!