Decluttering? Science says you should always start with this space

There's now scientific research that suggests you should declutter certain spaces before others to make the most of your organizing efforts.

declutter your hallway
(Image credit: Ikea)

If you don't know where to start with declutter, always declutter your hallway first. And if you're lucky enough to have a garden or backyard, tidy that up next. Only once the hallway and garden are done should you tackle the lounge, bedroom, and the rest of your home, especially if you're also making home improvements at the moment. It turns out there's a very good reason for decluttering your home in this order – and it's got nothing to do with the Marie Kondo tiyding up method.

declutter your hallway

(Image credit: Getty / John Keeble)

Researchers Darby E Saxbe and Rena Repetti conducted a fascinating study of how people talk about their homes while giving a home tour. They looked for correlations  between subjective feelings we have about how tidy or mess our homes are and our cortisol (stress hormone levels). 

The results of the study are fascinating. It's not just that perceiving a home as cluttered or unfinished raises our stress levels and makes us depressed (especially if we're women), but the researchers also found that 'focusing on those features of the home that are restful or that incorporate nature may ease the transition from work to home.' People who immediately focused on 'piles of clutter' or 'a long list of to-do projects' had higher stress levels and lower mood than those who, upon entering their home, were able to focus on areas that were clutter-free and/or had elements of nature. 

decluttering your patio

(Image credit: Getty / Indy)

The first thing you see when you step inside your home sets the tone for how you talk about it, and how you talk about actually changes your feelings about a house. Just uttering words like 'calm', 'soothing', 'backyard', and 'patio' makes people, especially women, less stressed. Even if it is unfinished and you are in the middle of a home improvement project, having areas in your home that put you in an uncluttered mindset is crucial. Our hallway ideas and garden design ideas should set you on the right track for creating oases of calm. It turns out it really doesn't matter that much that your whole house is perfect and clutter free – does anyone ever have that? – but that you have a couple of uncluttered spaces that make you feel better about the mess elsewhere. 

Anna Cottrell
Anna Cottrell

In 2018 Anna moved into the world of interiors from academic research in the field of literature and photography. She is the author of London Writing of the 1930s and has a special interest in city life, decorating small spaces, and urban gardening.