Children learn better without visual clutter

A study published in May 2014 in ‘Psychological Science’ has confirmed what some teachers have known for years – that an uncluttered classroom makes a much better learning environment for children.


Anna V. Fisher, Karrie E. Godwin and Howard Seltman of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania conducted a series of experiments to find out what effect visual clutter has on children’s ability to stay focused. They discovered that ‘children were more distracted by the visual environment, spent more time off task, and demonstrated smaller learning gains when the walls were highly decorated than when the decorations were removed’.

But if you search for “kindergarten classroom” on Google images, you’ll immediately see that this knowledge is not common practice. Not by a long way! Photo after photo shows that the the brighter and busier the better seems to be the motto in most schools.

The rationale for this seems to be based in the fact that babies’ eyesight at birth is in the range of 20/600 to 20/400, which means they are legally blind. For the first few years of life everything looks foggy and dull, so manufacturers create toys in primary colours to attract a child’s attention. However after full sight has developed, which happens some time between the ages of 3 and 5, too many bright colours can be distracting and over-stimulating.

Teachers who have taken the initiative to declutter their classrooms tell me that the children become calmer, better behaved, and much easier to work with. And I have seen similar effects in clients’ homes after I have recommended toning down brightly decorated children’s bedrooms and reducing visual clutter by storing toys in closed cupboards rather than on open shelves. I’m not saying this is a cure-all. But removing visual clutter is an aspect that’s often overlooked and can certainly help.

Copyright © Clear Space Living Ltd 2014

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About Karen Kingston

Karen Kingston is a leading expert in clutter clearing, space clearing, feng shui, and healthy homes. Her two international bestselling books have combined sales of over three million copies in 26 languages and have established themselves as "must-read" classics in their fields. Her best-known title, Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui, is now in its fifth edition. She is best known for her perspective-changing insights and practical solutions that enable more conscious navigation of 21st-century living.
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2 Responses to Children learn better without visual clutter

  1. Viva la clutter-free classrooms! I was constantly called to “edit” teacher’s rooms as we called it so that we wouldn’t offend the teachers at my children’s former school. A few embraced and maintained the clutter-free atmosphere, however, some would jam pack other areas of the school with their “stuff”. It was a constant task for me and I noticed how drained those teachers were and how difficult it became for them to keep things even their emotion under control in the classrooms. It mad me sad. We eventually moved so our days at that school ended and I am so impressed by how organized and happy teachers and staff our at their new school–not much clutter there! It feel happy arriving at the school for pick-up and know that my children are not only being loved by teachers but are hopefully less distracted and able to focus on their studies.

  2. This is great news for me. I am a kindergarten teacher, and I like to keep my room simple and clutter free. When I came back from maternity leave last year the sub had put up paper and visual clutter on my walls and I immediately felt a negative feeling. As soon as she was gone my room was back to how I feel best. I noticed the students are calmer too, and low light and natural light helps too. This years class will experience a calm room.

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