Reducing Visual Clutter

Melissa Martin, Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor, Certified Pilates Instructor |

Each New Year brings a fresh new beginning to wipe the slate clean and start fresh. Minimalism and decluttering become national pastimes during this time of year. Once all the holiday decor is taken down and trees thrown away, it’s a great time to reevaluate our spaces and decide how we want to spend the next year, especially how we want to feel in our homes. One of the best ways to get started doing this is by reducing visual clutter.

Research from Princeton has shown that a cluttered environment, or many objects creating stimuli in the same visual field, causes stress- particularly for women. Clutter and excess things affect our focus, cortisol levels, and makes it hard to mentally shut off and relax at home. It always feels like your place is messy, but you can’t quite fully clean it. If you look at the surfaces and countertops around you, how many single items are competing for your attention? You may see a single shelf stuffed full of many individual items, which creates more work for your brain to process the input of their shapes, colors, and labels. Conversely, it’s the same reason you feel calm and relaxed when gazing out along the horizon or far out on the ocean- it’s a wide and open space. This is actually one of the best and most effective ways to start improving the peacefulness of your home.


Ways To Reduce Visual Clutter

Luckily, the solution is relatively simple and easy to implement at any time.

  1. Declutter. You cannot begin the process of organizing without first decluttering and downsizing excess items in your space. My personal favorite way to declutter is to work though Marie Kondo’s book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. If you’re someone like me who isn’t naturally inclined to cleanliness and order, she makes it so simple and less daunting of a task to begin. Her step-by-step method shows you what to keep (things that spark joy for you) instead of simply what to discard. This is a great resource for both beginners and pros alike.
  2. Eliminate as many objects and “things” from all surfaces in your home and keep them as clear as possible. This includes the surfaces in more lived in areas, such as the kitchen and bathroom. Keep only the few things you use on a daily basis and contain the rest in cabinets out of sight with easy access for when you need them. Not only will this give your brain fewer things to process, but it will be so much easier to clean. Simply cleaning your space more frequently will make your home feel more welcoming and relaxing.
  3. Consider minimalism. Do you really need 12 appliances on your kitchen counter, or can you get away with just a couple multipurpose ones? Do you need to display all of your products on your bathroom counter, or can you organize them in the drawers or cabinet spaces? Neutral colors also help calm the mind as well as removing as many labels as possible. I like to transfer things like hand soap into a reusable clear pump that doesn’t have the visual stimuli and print of the container it comes in.
  4. Put it on a tray. If you do decide to leave certain things out, put it on a tray or dish. Simply doing so makes the act look intentional and less cluttered because it has something it’s contained in. This also helps to keep handy objects nearby, like dropping your keys or mail in a nice little contained vessel instead of leaving it strewn across your countertops.
  5. Remove labels. You can absolutely buy refillable containers, but if you lack the desire or budget to do this throughout your entire house, simply remove the labels and wrappers off purchased items you have out on display throughout your home. This makes them very neutral in your peripherals instead of adding to the visual stimuli throughout your home.


I encourage you to start doing this one room at a time and slowly make your way throughout your entire house. Your home will feel so much more relaxed, peaceful, and calm. You’ll be much more able to mentally shut off at the end of the day too without 900 things competing for your brain’s attention to mentally sort through or keep you distracted. I love and look forward to doing this at the start of every New Year and hope you find the same joy as well!