Depression and Clutter: The pile of newspapers gets higher and higher. The number of favorite mugs in your cupboard increases monthly. The books in your bookcase are starting to fall off their shelves. While these seem like easy fixes and signs of simply a cluttered house, sometimes clutter can be much more. Is there a link between clutter and depression? Here’s what you need to know.

Clutter vs. hoarding

At its most extreme, clutter can be described as hoarding. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, “Hoarding is the persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions, regardless of their actual value.” This leads to both physical and emotional effects on both the hoarder and his close family and friends. Where you may look at a magazine and want to throw it out after reading, a hoarder may save that magazine and believe there is a special reason for needing it. Hoarders commonly collect food, clothing, cardboard boxes, newspapers, plastic bags, photographs, and other items. There are many reasons for and causes from hoarding, one of which could be depression.

Disorders associated with hoarding

The ADAA mentions that depression is one of the reasons a person may have a cluttered house. Other disorders associated with hoarding include obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Hoarding can also cause depression for the loved ones of the hoarder. The ADAA warns, “Unlivable conditions may lead to separation or divorce, eviction, and even loss of child custody. Hoarding may lead to serious financial problems, as well.”

The link between hoarding and depression

A study conducted by David Tolin, a psychologist who specializes in hoarding, confirmed a link between hoarding and depression, a stronger link even than with other disorders. “Hoarding participants also reported higher levels of depression than did OCD and control participants.” While it’s normal to have some sort of clutter in your house, notes Tolin, obsessing about keeping items and refusing to throw anything away becomes a psychological issue quickly. He also notes that clutter is not a problem of organization – it’s a personal problem. Changing the behavior of the person is what is key to changing the clutter. Hoarding is not the same thing as OCD, as brain scans have discovered. While there is a link between that disorder, and depression, and the clutter in a house, they are not the same.


Many people have written about their depression and anxiety as well as their tendency to clutter the house with unnecessary items. While depression may cause the clutter in the first place, it can become a cycle, with clutter then causing deeper depression. How do you de-clutter then? Professional organizers give plenty of tips on how to clean up, including taking it one day at a time, keeping lists, and challenge yourself to use less. Tackle depression by speaking to a healthcare professional, who can give you ideas on medications or therapy to help you to better deal with your depression. Taking care of yourself first is necessary before you can take care of your house and your family.

Thanks to Web Psychology for this great article

Want to know more? Need Help?