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The Psychology of Clutter

I’ve recently become slightly obsessed with Sabine Kastner, professor of Psychology and the Princeton Neuroscience Institute, after wanting to find out more about the psychology behind clutter and how it really effects us.

 

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“There are so many objects in the world that you have to process when you open your eyes. This creates a bottleneck problem. There’s a resource limitation on what you can simultaneously process. Not only do our brains have to filter out many of the sights and sounds around us, but the fate of objects that get the cutting-room floor treatment is so severe that they may not even get a neural representation. In other words, as far as our brains are concerned, they don’t exist—and if those invisible objects represent tasks (say, a folder related to an unfinished project), it may mean they don’t get done.”

Her research findings explain common issues I come across in my day-to-day work life, themes that resonate with so many clients, including:

  • Children don’t play with all of the toys that they have because they simply stop seeing them
  • You only wear the same sections of your wardrobe because too much is too overwhelming
  • Being selective about the precious items you have around you means you are more likely to appreciate them if they aren’t surrounded by hundreds of others

Mentioned also is that an extremely sparse environment can have the effect of not stimulating us enough. Proving that a happy medium and what I always describe as ‘friendly levels of organisation’ are just right!

You can read more on this subject and Sabine Kastner’s findings in her study online if you google her name.