Clutter troubles grip Australian homes: poll

Overstuffed junk rooms are linked to feelings of anxiety and depression, according to a survey that found clutter is causing considerable anxiety for four in 10 Australians.

The survey, which was released in January by the left-leaning think-tank the Australia Institute, involved 1,002 respondents polled in December 2007. Researchers found that 88 per cent of homes polled contained at least one cluttered room – typically the spare room. Participants reported stashing clutter in their cupboards, garages and bedrooms.

Women were found to be particularly troubled by their clutter, with one-third admitting the mess caused them feelings of embarrassment. By comparison, 23 per cent of male respondents said their lack of organization caused them feelings of embarrassment.

Some participants reported buying sheds and moving to larger homes to accommodate their growing stash of stuff. One participant in the study revealed the contemplation of a far more drastic approach: "At one stage I actually wanted my home to burn down in a bushfire – it was that cluttered," the unnamed respondent said.

Researcher Josh Fear said the clutter phenomenon is in part linked to the perception of shopping as a hobby.

"In Australia, as elsewhere, non-grocery shopping is increasingly undertaken for its own sake, regardless of whether the goods purchased are needed or wanted; indeed, modern shopping centre designs encourage consumers to linger as long as possible," Fear said in the report.

"Spending money is now, strangely, its own form of entertainment. This obviously has a significant impact on the environment and [in a different way] the economy, but it also affects our homes."