What Clutter Does to Your Brain (and What To Do About It)

Clutter can make your home or office look like a disaster zone. Researchers say it can also be bad for your physical and mental health.

This ESL lesson will improve your English communication skills. You’ll also learn what clutter does to your brain and what you should do about it.

What Clutter Does to Your Brain – Part I: Let’s Chat about the Photo

What Clutter Does to Your Brain (and Why You Should Do Something About It)

1. How long do you think it will take her to find her document?

2. Is access to her keyboard obstructed?

3. What useful items should be in her desk cup holder besides pens?

4. How would you describe how she’s feeling right now?

5. What organizational suggestions would you have for her?

What Clutter Does to Your Brain – Part II: Take the Survey and Talk About It

1. What types of things do you collect or hoard? Choose all that apply

  • Books
  • CDs
  • Pictures
  • Shoes
  • DVDs
  • Stamps
  • Coins
  • Comic books
  • Stickers
  • Art work
  • Magazines
  • Antiques
  • Clothes
  • Baseball cards
  • Games
  • Recipes
  • Hats
  • Jewelry
  • Neckties
  • Other

2. For what reason(s) do you collect or hoard physical things?

  • They have sentimental value
  • I spent a lot of money on them
  • I think they might go up in value
  • I want to give them to my kids when they’re older
  • They will cost me money to throw out
  • I plan to use them later
  • They might come back in fashion (clothes, shoes, hats)
  • I’m too lazy to get rid of them
  • Another reason

3. Has your spouse or partner ever thrown out any of your collectibles?

  • Yes
  • No

4. What part of your house has the most clutter?

  • Bedroom
  • Bathroom
  • Family room
  • Kitchen
  • Basement
  • Garage
  • Shed
  • Backyard
  • Elsewhere

5. Who does most of the clutter in your home belong to?

  • Me
  • My spouse
  • My parents
  • My kids
  • My roommate

6. How would you describe the level of clutter in your residence?

  • Severely cluttered
  • Somewhat cluttered
  • Not too cluttered
  • Not cluttered at all

7. What types of digital clutter do you have?

  • Computer files
  • Notifications from Facebook and Twitter
  • Unused email accounts
  • Movie or music downloads
  • Other

8. How stressful is it for you to toss or delete something you’ve had for a long time?

  • Extremely stressful
  • Somewhat stressful
  • Not stressful

9.  How would you describe your character?

10. After taking this survey, what will you decide to throw out this weekend?

What Clutter Does to Your Brain – Part III: Share Your Opinions

What Clutter Does to Your Brain (and Why You Should Do Something About It)
Discuss the Photo

1. Is the man struggling to get the bag into the bin?

2. What items would you say are in the bag?

3. Would you toss out your clutter with the regular, weekly trash?

Discussion Activity

Below are 6 possible explanations why clutter is bad for you. Read through each statement below and select strongly agree, partially agree, or disagree. Be prepared to discuss and defend your choices with your instructor and peers.

1. Your brain feels the loss of a personal possession just like physical pain. 

  • Strongly Agree
  • Partially Agree
  • Disagree

2. Touching an item can make you feel much more physically attached to it. (Apple Store Strategy)

  • Strongly Agree
  • Partially Agree
  • Disagree

3. When you buy new things, your brain connects value to them. They become hard to give up. 

  • Strongly Agree
  • Partially Agree
  • Disagree

4. The more physical items around you, the more difficult it is to focus. Extra items compete for your attention. 

  • Strongly Agree
  • Partially Agree
  • Disagree

5. Physical clutter causes sensory overload. This stresses you and stifles your creativity.

  • Strongly Agree
  • Partially Agree
  • Disagree

6. The constant pings and vibrations of email, phones, and texts damage your ability to remember things, switch between tasks,  and filter information.

  • Strongly Agree
  • Partially Agree
  • Disagree

Did this lesson engage and inspire your students? Kindly leave a comment below and/or share this lesson.


Leave a Reply