Health: Why a spring clean is good for you

A cluttered home does not just look terrible: according to scientists, it can damage your mental health.

'No, don't come over," said my friend, "the place is a mess." Having been locked out of my flat, I needed somewhere to go, so I pleaded. "Oh, don't be silly, I'm sure it's fine."

Once inside, I literally stumbled into the largest, most alarming mess of papers, boxes and "stuff" I've ever seen in human habitation. Items were heaped down the length of the hall, leaving only a precarious line along which to walk. Piles of papers spilled from every surface. Even the bathroom was being used for storage - shower stall included.

It did at least solve the mystery of why my otherwise very sociable friend didn't receive visitors or throw parties: he couldn't. The living space was a firetrap, filled with magazines, books and the sort of unnecessary detritus that a mother would lovingly pass off as "treasures", but the rest of us would send straight to the tip. I felt sorry for him. If his home reflected his state of mind, the poor man was surely in chaos.

Hoarding, I didn't have the heart to tell him, can be fatal. Remember the 59-year-old hoarder in Washington? She was found dead in 2006 after one of the mounds of clutter and clothes that filled her home had collapsed. It took two searches by her husband to find her body. Excessive cluttering can be symptomatic of a range of psychological disorders including attention deficit disorder, depression, chronic pain and grief.

A recent study conducted by David Tolin, founder of America's Anxiety Disorder Centre at Hartford Hospital's Institute of Living in Conneticut, confirms what most of us knew instinctively: clutter is not only bad for our physical health - breeding mould and bacteria - it also plays havoc with our mental health.

Source - Telegraph

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