For introverts, a clutter-free environment can promote a sense of calm in a world that often overstimulates us.
When I was in my early 20s, one of my roommates told me they could tell how stressed I was by how clean our apartment was. They’d come home, take a quick look around, and, if confronted with an empty sink, spotless floor, and pristine bathroom (a combination that’s hard to come by with three people, a dog, and a cat all sharing a small space), they’d gently ask me if everything was all right.
Since then, I’ve lived with others, including more pets. But while my living situations have varied, one thing has remained the same: I stress clean. I never understood why I was doing it, besides thinking it was at least a vaguely productive way of managing stress. But recently, I realized that while relieving stress may be a catalyst, ultimately my need to keep my space clean and clutter-free is about preventing that stress. And the less stress, the better.
As I’ve learned more about myself and embraced who I am, I’ve accepted that the state of my environment has a far larger impact on me than I ever knew. And while that’s true for everyone to a certain extent, I believe it’s especially true for us “quiet ones.” So here are four reasons a clutter-free environment may be especially important for introverts.
4 Reasons a Clutter-Free Environment Is Important for Introverts
1. A clutter-free environment is a distraction-free environment.
Seeing the table covered in mail or the sink full of dishes immediately makes me feel anxious and distracted. I know that until I fix it, I’ll have that nagging voice in the back of my head telling me I need to stop what I’m doing and clean. While I couldn’t always pinpoint the level of anxiety it brought about, I’m excruciatingly aware of it now.
When our environment is cluttered and messy, it creates additional stimuli for our brains to work through. There’s more to look at, more to process, more to dig through, and more items on our to-do list. And since the definition of an introvert is someone who prefers calm, minimally stimulating environments, it’s easy to see how being surrounded by clutter can make us feel stressed and overwhelmed.
A clutter-free environment gives our minds the freedom to focus fully on the task at hand — whether it’s work, socializing, or relaxing. And being able to look around your space and feel good about it is powerful. In fact, the time I spend cleaning every week, although not exactly exciting, has become a time of self-care for me. I turn on a podcast, open windows, and declutter my home and my mind — all while giving my future self permission to be fully invested in the moment.
If you don’t have time for a full cleaning routine, clearing off tables and countertops, doing the dishes, and making your bed are easy and quick ways to get your living space to a more peaceful state.
2. Our physical environment is our way of telling the world who we are.
Let me preface this by saying I absolutely love hosting and having people over to my home. While that may seem like an unlikely thing for an introvert to say, I can explain. First, I’m just simply more comfortable at home. I don’t have to ask where the bathroom is or worry about whether to take my shoes off or not. If I’m cold, I can grab a sweatshirt. And, if I really need to, I can excuse myself to another room (like my “introvert zen zone”) with my less social dog, and we can recharge without drawing attention to ourselves.
Second, my home is a visual display of who I am. I’m usually the quietest person in the room, and usually feel misunderstood. But in my home, I can display my favorite pictures of my husband, me, and our pets. I can choose my favorite textures for blankets and my favorite colors for the walls. And when people see that, I feel like they also get to see who I am a little clearer, even if I can’t express it in words.
Because introverts are so observant of the world around them, we are likely to pay close attention to details in our own homes and the homes we are invited to. We know every book on the bookshelf contains more stories than the one written on the pages. We know every soft, threadbare quilt has been touched by loving hands. We know each and every color says something about the person who chose it. The ambience is our own creative space.
When our environment is clutter-free, it can be a true reflection of ourselves. Private, perhaps, but with the perfect amount of space to welcome in those we care about.
3. We search for deeper meaning in our lives — and decluttering our environment can help us find what truly matters.
When my husband and I got married and moved into our home, we found ourselves facing the struggle so many couples have to deal with — what is our definition of a relaxing house? It’s been an interesting (and sometimes frustrating) experience, but ultimately it has helped us understand one another better. For me, tables should be completely cleared off at all times, unless they are covered in piles of books. (We introverts love reading, after all.) I could have stacks of books throughout the entire house (OK, sometimes I still do) and not think twice or feel like it’s cluttered at all.
My husband, on the other hand, would rather be surrounded by projects. Car parts, model trains, electrical trinkets, anything hands-on. I’ll clean up my paint-by-number every night, but he wants his projects to be within arm’s reach at any given time. He’ll put away manuals or books every time, but I want to set them on the nearest surface. Ultimately, that’s the strange thing about clutter — the definition is different for everyone. But, paying attention to how you define it can help you find what truly matters to you.
I absolutely love reading, writing, and learning about languages, so books hold a special meaning to me. My husband loves working on hands-on, mechanical things and learning about how those things work, so those projects hold a special meaning to him. Since introverts are constantly striving to find a deeper purpose in our lives, identifying those things you love to be surrounded by can give you clues about what that might be for you. (Our floors are covered in dog and cat toys — that’s one thing we agree on wholeheartedly!)
Take a look around your favorite room and identify why you love it. Is it a favorite picture that makes you feel close to loved ones? Coffee mugs from places you’ve traveled? Take note of whatever it is — it might be telling you something!
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4. Minimalism is a natural fit for the way our introvert minds work.
Being intentional about keeping my home as clutter-free as possible (I’m still working to accept the fact that it will never be perfect) gives me a sense of freedom and peace that I never would have expected. It really does seem like a small thing, but embracing a minimalistic approach helps me keep my mind clear and my energy at a higher level.
While the word “minimalism” typically brings about strong feelings from those who hear it, at its core, it’s about keeping things simple. And that’s a natural fit for the way our quiet minds think. We prefer one-on-one conversations to group settings, a calm calendar to a hectic one, and one task to focus on versus five to juggle. The world we live in is often at odds with these desires, and we are bombarded with an overwhelming amount of stimuli every day.
Keeping our personal environments simple in ways that speak to us gives us space to recharge and decompress from that onslaught. The important thing is that we listen to what truly speaks to us. It might be stacks of books and coffee cups, knickknacks and projects, white walls and minimal furniture, or various collections, but all that matters is that it feels like home.
This goes beyond our walls, too. We can declutter our minds with meditation and by spending time in nature. We can declutter our social life by choosing to spend time cultivating meaningful relationships. We can declutter our calendar by setting aside time to relax and allow ourselves the alone time we need.
Our environment affects us “quiet ones” far more than we may realize. But being mindful of how it makes us feel — and maintaining a clutter-free, calm environment — can help us carve out our own place in this loud world.