Visual Complexity

Minimalism, clearing space, and decluttering are all quite popular right now, and there’s a good reason for that.  Clearing away and decluttering your space can help to eliminate stress.

We have our detoxes; our spiritual cleanses, and if you haven’t already, there’s another cleanse you should consider with your customers.  There have been many studies that show that visual complexity has an effect on our feelings.

We react to sensory stimulation.  Sensory information comes from sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell.  Any of our five senses can be over stimulated.

The important thing to understand in your home is our stimulation threshold.  That is how much is too much or not enough.  Reaching a healthy balance is important.

We are limited to the amount of information we can process.  We can experience overload in a cluttered space.  This overload causes stress.

The tricky part is that we all have different thresholds. Under stimulation can cause anxiety.  If we have been living in an environment with high stimulation, then we may have adapted and enjoy the arousing and pleasurable environment.  It would take a lot to overstimulate us.


The following graphics illustrate the results.

Over Stimulation / Stress
Under Stimulation / Anxiety
Cathy Sykora

Cathy Sykora

Founder, The Health Coach Group

Cathy helps health coaches build and maintain successful businesses that improve the lives of others.

Visual Complexity

If we’re overstimulated in our workplace, we will probably relax better in a home that has less visual complexity.  If our career has us in a very sterile environment, we may look for more complexity to offer intellectual and spiritual stimulation.

People with attention deficit disorders will not have the same threshold as an individual who requires less time to understand and retain information.  There is also research and theory that an effortless attention can restore the capacity to pay attention.  The best example of this would be to draw ourselves to nature in our surroundings.

If you want to determine if you have a high threshold for visual complexity, look at the following homes.  Which one are you drawn to?

The first has a good deal of visual stimulation.  The second blends with the environment and would offer less visual stimulation.

Many elements add visual stimulation to space.  “Stuff” is one of our bigger problems, kids toys, mom’s books, dad’s video games, these all add to visual complexity when left out.  Furniture, accessories, window treatments and wall hangings, as well as lighting, can add to the visual complexity.


Now that we have looked at the importance of balance, we will offer solutions in achieving visual balance by eliminating clutter.  (next week).

I’m offering you a special Beta opportunity to go through our new Clutter Cleanup that includes practical daily action steps over a 14 day period to declutter and remove stress.

After you run through the course, you’ll be licensed and authorized to use it with your customers!   It also has a built-in business/list building strategy. 




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  1. Joyce Hansen

    Cathy, so true about all of our stuff. I like the way you describe it as “visual complexity.”
    I’ve been a campaign since late last year to start clearing things out. Some days, I can’t face it and other days I’m up for taking on a bigger project. It does make a difference in how productive you can be when you can quickly find what you’re looking for. Thanks for the good advice.

    • Cathy

      Good for you Joyce! It’s amazing how tossing something or donating it can give us such a lift – that’s a whole different post.

  2. Lori English

    A great article and yes decluttering is a great process that helps open up space and makes it easier to see what is in front of you. It Allows you to focus better and become mindful. Great article. Thanks Great tips!

    Lori English

    • Cathy

      Thank you, Lori!

  3. Alicia

    Great article and very much needed. This area is very near to my heart because I’ve seen and experienced how clutter can be a kryptonite to so many. People don’t understand the dangers of the pack rat or hoarders syndrome that starts out by just allowing a little clutter here and there, but suddenly they’re over taken.

    I loved all of the concepts that you’ve shared and the awareness that you’re providing on this topic. I will be sure to not only share this on multiple social media platforms, but to also use this as a featured article on my Harmonized, Simplified & Organized Series Blog to lead people back to your works.

    Thanks again for this. Keep up the amazing works.

    • Cathy

      Thanks so much Alicia. I appreciate your comments and your share.

  4. Reba Linker

    I love the emphasis you place on visual over-stimulation and the toll it can take on our health and vitality. As you rightly point out, this tied in to issues of clutter and over-consumption. So glad you are addressing this and awareness is growing.

    • Cathy

      Thanks Reba…yes, I think a lot of us over-consume (I love that description) and we don’t realize the repercussions until it’s overwhelmed us.

  5. Tamuria

    I love how you pointed out that everyone has different thresholds for visual over stimulation. One person’s treasure trove is another person’s mess. I know there would be some who would find my space visually over stimulating and it does, at times, get that way for me too. When I feel that way I immediately work towards clearing some space as I feel the stress right away.

  6. Beverley Golden

    As someone who apparently loves ‘visual complexity’ and loves visual stimulation, I thrive in a beautiful environment that is filled with what others may call ‘stuff’. I love plants, artwork, my elephant collection etc. to surround me in my home, which is also where I work. I agree that being overwhelmed by stuff around us, can make us feel very overwhelmed. I’ve been consciously giving away things I never use, clearing papers and working to keep the spaces in my home open and welcoming. One thing I find has really helped is having lots of colour…each room is a different colour in my home and the room I work in is a very relaxing blue with a big window to look out. Having worked in very sterile, neutral offices in my younger years, I seem to thrive in an environment of my making, one that is filled with beautiful things everywhere I look. Thanks for all the insights in this post, Cathy! Yes, we are all very different in the type of environment in which we thrive!

  7. Cynthia

    This is FANTASTIC! I notice when I accumulate too much stuff and my surroundings are cluttered, I am overwhelmed and I FEEL it – body, mind and spirit. I am really looking forward to this, not just for myself, but to introduce to my clients as part of my Holistic Five Senses approach to true health and wellness. Thank you!!

  8. Candess M Campbell

    The visual images of an office were fantastic Cathy. It really shows the stress that comes from our environment. I remember when I bought my house, I kept painting the living room colors that fought with each other. Finally, my friend Nancy told me to buy a color I love and go lighter and darker. It was perfect. Now I have a relaxed space to enjoy that is three subtle shades of gold. Love your website!

  9. Apolline Adiju

    I must confess that I always feel this sense of relief and normalcy each time I declutter my home, especially my basement! I totally agree with you when you said that ” we all have different thresholds. Under stimulation can cause anxiety. “


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