• jondab

End the Fatigue/Clutter Cycle



I was working virtually with a client Sunday in her kitchen. We had been slowly making progress and were both feeling pretty good about it. I asked her if she was maintaining keeping her floor clear and got an affirmative answer. As she moved her phone so I could see the floor I saw a huge pile of what appeared clean pots and pans stacked on top of her stove. We had just found a home for all her pots and pans a couple of sessions ago so I knew she knew where they should go.


I asked her to show that to me and asked, “What happened?” She told me that between work and a sick cat she was just too exhausted to take care of putting things away. I accepted that as I know that life happens, and things can get out of hand.


But after we finished our session, I started to think more about it. We know that science says that clutter triggers the production of cortisol. So, the more cluttered your physical surroundings are, the more stressed you’ll be, and prolonged stress can cause fatigue. A Princeton study found that clutter suppresses the brain’s reaction time, making it harder to focus and leading to fatigue. Clutter makes it more difficult to relax and constantly signals us that our work is never done.


So, clutter can cause fatigue and fatigue can shut you down so you don’t keep up with household maintenance – hence clutter.


How can we break this vicious cycle? With my client:

1. Recognize and acknowledge what is happening. Verbalize that the clutter is adding to the fatigue.

2. Accept that many nights you will be too tired to put away the cleaned dishes and give yourself credit for cleaning them.

3. Set aside 15 minutes in the morning to quickly put everything away.

4. Take a few minutes to congratulate yourself for clearing the clutter as you truly enjoy that first cup of coffee.

And for the rest of us:

1. Notice where clutter is piling up. Verbalize that this will add to our stress and fatigue.

2. Analyze why the clutter is building up in this area? Is it deferred decision making? Perfectionism – if you can’t do it perfectly now it will wait? Ran out of energy before the job was complete?

3. Brainstorm ways to reduce the clutter. Attack it in 15 min. segments in the morning? Ask for help?

4. Schedule times to eliminate the clutter and times to maintain the area so clutter does not return.

5. Reward yourself and praise yourself for each small victory!


One of the questions I ask myself is “Did I finish the day with some resource of energy?” My goal is to always answer, “Yes!” but it doesn’t always happen. And sometimes to make that happen, I do walk out of my office with papers scattered on several surfaces. If I am to be effective and rested the next day, it is imperative that I handle those papers first thing the next morning.


Let’s all become aware of the impact of clutter in our lives and do our best to keep it under control. Here’s to a good night’s sleep!

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