How Does a Messy House Affect a Child?

How Does a Messy House Affect a Child

Whether you’re alone, living with your family, and raising children of your own, it’s normal to have a messy house. Especially when you have children! Expect to have a ton of toys, baby products, and even spills around the house by the end of the day.

I know how tiring it can be cleaning after you and your children all day long. It causes stress seeing clutter in your home when you just want to relax in a clean and peaceful area. And sometimes, it’s tempting to leave things messy since “it will happen again the next day”.

Well, did you know that a messy house doesn’t only affect your mental health and stress levels, but it can also affect your child? Read on to learn more about how clutter affects children.


The Psychological Effects of a Messy House on Children

Yes, your children do get affected by the mess and clutter in your home. Unfortunately, it isn’t the positive effects one would hope for, as children feel similarly to adults when living in a messy house. Here are a few studies to back up the effects of a messy house on children:


The Connection Between Cleanliness, Behavior, and Development

A study from the University of Sussex in November 2006 took an in-depth look at more than 100 English families with children. The researchers, using puppets, interviewed children of working-class families without a maid or nanny cleaning after the family.

Through deep conversations with the puppets with children, along with interviewing parents, they found a connection between cleanliness and order with well-behaved children! The study shows an “additive” link. This means that if there are shortcomings in parenting methods used, the messiness would worsen it!

A recent 2016 study in the Journal of Environmental Psychology also shows how cluttered environments may harm one’s subjective wellbeing.

When in a cluttered area, it may cause the mind to mirror its self-worth, matching the space. Meaning, a cluttered area is a cluttered mind, which can’t function as well as it would be compared to clean spaces. This study can be applied to children, too!

There is another study that discovered similar results when they studied messy classroom environments. It showed that the area where children learn has a huge effect on their concentration and abilities to complete their work successfully.

So if your kid’s play area is cluttered with toys all around and uncleaned spills, not only will they feel unhappy playing in the room, but they won’t be able to learn as much with educative toys.


The Relationship Between Mess and Stress: Too Much Clutter!

A study conducted by psychologists at UCLA showed the relationship between mess and stress. Researchers observed the lives of multiple families from different neighborhoods in Los Angeles, coming from various demographics.

During the observation, the researchers noticed that most families obsessed with possessions would simply pile the items around areas of the house, making it more cluttered. This showed that America has a clutter culture, with Americans finding joy in rewarding themselves with materials.

However, the piles of rewards and possessions are linked to increasing their stress. With the lack of time to sort through and organize their possessions, this causes unaccomplished work, which can increase their stress levels. This was proven through measuring participants’ levels of diurnal cortisol, one measure of stress, using saliva provided by families.

Another interesting fact from the study was that families with dual-income parents are more distant from their kids. Since they spend less time together, parents would also most likely make the time up by purchasing toys and gifts for their children. This actually ends up stressing children out more as most of the toys and gifts would flood their rooms with mess.

And with added stressors from school, work, social media, and more issues, the clutter ends up stressing them out further, even causing anxiety!


Reasons Why Clutter Causes Stress and Anxiety in Children

According to this psychologist, components are contributing to how clutter causes stress and anxiety in children.

  1. Clutter would fill up children’s brains with a lot of stimuli from their environment, causing their mind to work harder to process the information it receives. This would distract children from what they are supposed to be doing, as their focus shifts to the clutter. So if your child was doing homework on a messy dining table, they would have a difficult time processing any information from their books, focused more on food crumbs, the smell, or items laid about.
  2. The clutter won’t only limit their productivity, but the creativity of children, as they brainstorm and solve problems better in clean, open settings.
  3. Clutter would also make it hard for children to relax, as most children find it better to relax in cleaner settings. It would also cause their brains to think that their work isn’t done despite the productive day. Adding to this, because they don’t know where things are from the clutter, it can cause anxiety and frustration.
  4. Lastly, just like us adults, children also feel insecurity and embarrassment if they were to bring their friends home. This can affect their social life in the long run.


The Physical Effects of a Messy House on Children

The household’s physical health would be affected in a dirty home, with children most likely getting sick. The thing about it, if you leave the dishes in the sink, the floors unclean, and items laying around, the dust builds up, causing germs and pathogens to stay in the air you breathe. This puts everyone at risk of various sicknesses.


Parental Influence and How You Can Lead by Example

As you can see, the link between clutter and your child’s mental health is quite apparent. You wouldn’t want your children to feel like this in the long run, which can also affect their attitude and behavior towards clutter. Because children tend to mirror their parents, they may most likely follow suit, keeping their own homes cluttered once they grow older and move out.

That’s why it’s time to make a change and lead by example, making sure your children live in a clean home. This can help them finish their tasks successfully while feeling more relaxed in their own home.

Here are tips you can follow:

  1. You should start by cleaning all the clutter at home! It’s time to throw, donate, or sell any items you and your family don’t use anymore. Let your child participate as you sort all the cluttered items, which can show them that they should be organized. This can also prevent them from being too materialistic to the point they hoard things as they grow up.
  2. Once you got rid of unused material possessions, make sure that you disinfect your home. Wipe down countertops, sweep the floors, and make sure that your entire home is free from dust and germs. You can hire professionals for deep-cleaning services, taking care of parts of the house that are difficult to clean.
  3. When everything is clean and organized, prevent clutter and dust build-up from happening again through regular cleaning. Give your older children easy household chores to do so they can keep the house clean as well. Also, make sure that they learn to clean up after themselves as well, whether they just finished homework or playtime.


What Should You Do to Encourage Your Children to Clean Up?

Not many children appreciate being given chores or having to clean up after a fun playtime session. Here’s what you can do to encourage them to clean up and contribute to keeping the home clutter-free:

  • Keep the tasks short and simple so they don’t feel overwhelmed and discouraged to do it. Frame household chores in a positive light, showing the benefits cleaning has to offer for them and the entire household.
  • Make the process fun, playing games, and providing small incentives. You can make household chores into a game, especially when you’re teaching them to clean up after themselves in the playroom.
  • Be flexible when your children are performing household chores. Your children won’t be able to clean the same way you do, so don’t be angry! Instead, teach them how to do it and avoid negative emotions, which would have them feel worse.
  • Work together rather than expect them to do everything themselves.


Wrapping It Up

When we talk about clutter issues in the house, we usually think about the effects it has on our spouses, family members, and other visitors. However, it’s now time to also think about how it can affect your children as well, especially since it can affect their future! That’s why cleaning up and setting a good example to your children is recommended over leaving things cluttered.

Hopefully, I answered your question, “how does a messy house affect a child?” and helped you teach your children to lessen the clutter. Do follow these tips and keep this information in mind as you raise your children to become clean and happy!

Do you have questions or want to share your insights on how mess and clutter affects children? Share them in the comments section, I appreciate all of your thoughts!

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