Episode 4 – Clutter in your home? What does the science say?

Aleena and Janine open this episode by chatting about how physics may partly explain your messy house. They go deeper into the scientific literature about clutter in your home – how bad is it really? And what can you do about it? Do Marie Kondo’s methods really work? What does ‘sparking joy’ even mean?! They are well placed to chat about all of this as they recently (and finally) cleared their remaining stuff out of the childhood home (it only took them 20 years!). And of course they found quite a few items that speak to their longstanding inner squares…

Thermodynamics, order, disorder, chaos! What does it all mean?

Janine came across this cool article by the ABC Science team. It suggests that the levels of chaos and disorder in the universe, which are always increasing, might be partly to blame for the mess and clutter in your home. This got them thinking: what research has been done on clutter and mess – is it really that bad for you? And if so, what can you do about it?

Clutter really does reduce our wellbeing

Our homes are physical places, but they are also much more than that. Together with our stuff, homes are an extension of our psychological selves. But sometimes we may start to accumulate so called ‘clutter’ – an overabundance of possessions that increases chaos and disorder in our homes. How does this affect us? By surveying adults with mild to severe issues with clutter in their homes, researchers confirmed that clutter does reduce the connection we have with our home and our overall levels of wellbeing.

Roster, C. A., et al. (2016). The dark side of a home: assessing possession ‘clutter’ on subjective wellbeing. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 46: 32 – 41.

The KonMariTM method of decluttering – does it really make you happy?

In this qualitative study, 11 women who’d practiced KonMariTM were interviewed about their experiences using this highly popular decluttering practice by Marie Kondo. The women found some aspects of KonMariTM hard to comprehend, and they had differing interpretations of some of the KonMariTM ideas. What on Earth does it mean for an item to ‘spark joy’? Well it really varies across individuals… But even though it was challenging in parts, many participants still found decluttering with the KonMariTM technique (or their own interpretation of it) to be a pretty good experience, that made them happy. Bottom line? We think whether it’s KonMariTM or some other method, if you want less clutter, then it’s worth tidying up. But maybe don’t send it all to landfill?! (See here). And for other fellow Aussies keen to join to circular economy, check out the annual Garage Sale Trail).

Hsin-Hsuan Meg Lee (2017). In Pursuit of Happiness: Phenomenological Study of the Konmari Decluttering Method. NA – Advances. In Consumer Research Volume 45, eds. Ayelet Gneezy, Vladas Griskevicius, and Patti Williams, Duluth, MN: Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 454-457.

Wait, who even is Marie Kondo?

She’s an organising consultant from Japan. She has a book and a Netflix series. See here. Wait, have you really not heard of her?!

Unnecessary tangent…

Why do microwaves make the plate so damn hot instead of the food? Aleena wants to know. Janine hazards a guess about water molecules within the plate. On compiling these notes, Janine is found to be correct (see here). Microwaves heat up conductive materials, including water. If a vessel is heating up, it may have higher water content, or be made of highly conductive materials, and is probably not microwave-safe. Aleena needs to use a different plate!

What brought out our inner square?

It was a bit of a joint storytelling exercise this episode, as Aleena and Janine recently went to their childhood home to finally clear out stuff they had left behind. Sincere apologies to their father for taking almost 20 years to finally do this.

So… what did they find? Aleena’s obsession with housing every single university assignment in its own new plastic-bound folder, Janine’s mini-tape recorder which ensured she never missed a beat in lectures (there was a time before recorded lectures people!), and Aleena’s recollection of being dragged to university for the day by Janine “to experience how cool it is”, only to become stuck in a one-hour lecture about seagrass… which Janine found fascinating and absorbing, while Aleena was left questioning her future.

Image credit: Onur Bahçıvancılar on Unsplash

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