When I was a new teacher (in a public school) there was a movement in my school towards minimalist classrooms. I was so excited to staple up alphabet lines and silly posters in bright colors- I just didn’t get the point of skipping the cute decorations. But one teacher in particular led this movement to clear the walls of posters and words that fought so hard to steal a student’s attention.
Now that I’m planning to teach my own children at home, I often think about those barren walls and the learning atmosphere I want to establish for my children. I understand the desire to clear out the stuff. My children’s minds get overloaded with all of the colors and designs around them. The problem now is not cutesy posters on the wall. The problem is toys, books, clothes….
The environment of our homes affects the learning atmosphere. Environment and atmosphere are not the same, but they are dependent on each other. Over the past few decades, clutter has become the new normal. Outside forces constantly tell us to buy MORE, making the insides of our home stuffed to the brim with things we don’t need. But these cluttered environments can affect the learning atmosphere of our homes, and can have a negative impact on our little ones.
Like that teacher many years ago, I want to inspire others, a movement of sorts, to simplify their homes for their children’s sake. Clutter can have a big impact on a child’s ability to learn: and on your health!
Clutter and the Learning Atmosphere
Impact on Mom
The atmosphere in our homes is set by us, the mothers. When we are stressed, a feeling of stress emanates from the walls. When we are peaceful and happy, joy fills the air. When our homes are cluttered, moms are impacted the most. We often bear the weight of cleaning and organizing,, and with so much stuff to take care of, it becomes a never-ending job. Becoming the Stuff Manager takes precious time away from our families. Also, clutter raises our cortisol levels, making us more stressed (source.) We end up spinning our wheels because we are overwhelmed by the chaos in our homes.
One study showed that women with clutter issues had similar cortisol levels as people with chronic fatigue, PTSD, and higher-mortality rates. It was suggested (in jest) that clutter come with a warning label like cigarettes. (source). This doesn’t seem like a peaceful home atmosphere to me! Learning requires the presence of joy and the absence of stress. When we are so overwhelmed by the extra stuff in our homes, our children’s ability to learn is sabotaged.
As if these findings aren’t scary enough, too much stuff can also lead to anxiety, something that this mama fights tooth and nail. When my home is less cluttered, I feel more peaceful. I don’t want to add stress to this precious season or to miss out on making memories with my sweet little ones all because of stuff.
Impact on Kids
Besides affecting the way that we set the learning atmosphere, clutter takes its toll on children, too. Being constantly bombarded by talking toys and colorful things can produce sensory overload in our children. And if I’m being honest, I feel the weight of this sensory overload when my pantry is teeming with colorful, wordy labels and the desk is piled high with bills. Why wouldn’t my children experience this too?
Loads of clutter decreases the ability to focus. As I work with my children on the habit of attention, having piles of stuff around the house sets us back. Clutter competes for our attention. When we start formal lessons in a year or so, I don’t want clutter to distract my child from what is good, true, and beautiful.
Beyond the educational aspect, I don’t want my children to value their stuff most of all. Raising children who value Jesus and family and learning about worthy topics are my most important jobs. Bowing at the altar of too much stuff is something we should avoid for spiritual and physical health.
When the goal often seems to be to buy the most and buy the best, fighting this cultural phenomena can be so difficult. We have to retrain our brains to see stuff in a different light. We can avoid the messages that tell us what we have isn’t enough. We’ve been on the decluttering journey for about two years now. Decluttering just little bits at a time, makes a dent, improving our home atmosphere and reducing the amount of time we spend managing Stuff.