How your clutter could be impacting your children

Experts share the family benefits of decluttering

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BRIGHTON, Mich. – Just over a year ago, Mona Shand of Brighton, decided to get serious about her family's clutter. 

"I looked around, and I thought, 'You know what, the problem is not that I'm not organized enough. It's that we just have too much stuff,'" said Shand.

She started a project called "40 Days and 40 Bags." The idea is to declutter one bag of stuff from your home for each of the 40 days of Lent. Shand created a Facebook group and invited her friends and their friends to join in. 

As she went through their home room by room, Shand realized her efforts were about more than having a less cluttered place to live.

"I started to think about what message that was sending to my kids. If we put all our value in these things. If we spend all our time accumulating, maintaining, cleaning, moving, occupying ourselves with stuff.  What does that tell them? You know, it doesn't leave time for the things that are really meaningful," said Shand.

Beyond the larger life lessons, child health experts say clutter has a negative impact on kids' everyday lives.

A recent study published in the journal of Development Psychobiology found low-income children living in more disorganized, chaotic homes had more trouble regulating their emotions.

From a practical standpoint, clutter also makes it more difficult to clean, creating a more welcoming environment for germs or pests.

Likewise, a messy kitchen makes it harder to prepare healthy dinners and easier to rely on prepackaged ones.

Homework can also be affected.  Numerous studies find children have more trouble concentrating in rooms with too much visual stimuli.  Less to look at means more focus on the task at hand.

Back in Brighton, Shand quickly surpassed the 40 bags goal and kept going. She says clearing out her family's excess belongings has taught her children what really matters.

"I think its getting easier for them to understand that these are just things. They don't define us, and we don't have to hold onto them to be happy. They're not what bring us happiness."