Just recently I shared my personal journey from clutter and depression and I was blown away by the number of people who are in the same place or came from that same place of clutter and emotional turmoil.
It's a vicious cycle: anxiety or depression can lead to a cluttery home and a cluttery home can lead to depression and more anxiety, and we tend to do less about the house, which makes it even worse yet.
- Overstimulates our system (visual, olfactory, tactile), causing our senses to work overtime on stimuli that aren't necessary or important.
- Draws our attention away from what our focus should be on.
- Makes it more difficult to relax, both physically and mentally.
- Constantly reminds our brains that we still have a huge to-do list.
- Causes anxiety because the idea of sorting piles is overwhelming
- Creates feelings of guilt and embarrassment, particularly when someone drops by unexpectedly.
- Frustrates us by making it hard to find anything we need- keys, bills, checkbook, etc.
The clutter in our home not only makes our homes look bad, it makes us feel bad, as well.
In Life at Home in The Twenty-First Century, anthropologists, social scientists, and archaeologists found:
A definite link between an over-abundance of household objects (what they called "stressful" home environments) and the homeowner's health. Definitely affecting the woman's long-term well-being. Men, apparently, aren't affected by the mess. As they measured cortisol levels over a number of days and in cluttered or messy homes, there was a higher rate of depressed mood toward evening.
With our 3.1% of the world's children, U.S. consumers purchase more than 40% of the toys consumed globally.
In the United States, they found we have "child-centered homes", with the children's belongings spilling out into living rooms, dining rooms, kitchens and even parents' bedrooms. Parents purchase more for their children because they work more to maintain their quality of life and therefore feel guilty about not spending time with their children. Feelings of guilt (and also knowing deep down that material goods are a poor substitute for time together) add to depression and anxiety.
We simply have too much surrounding us.
An average room has over 2,000 visible objects, particularly the office, or computer area that we tend to spend the most time in: emailing, browsing online, children doing homework, etc. It's no wonder we're over-stimulated and anxious! Which is one of the reasons my yearly decluttering challenge is not too hard to complete! Generally, we don't realize just how quickly things add up and just how much of an abundance we have.
Getting rid of things is emotional work.
Even when the family is ready to declutter and be rid of items, they tend to get paralyzed by emotions- either with sentimental attachments, guilt about the value of the items and believing they should sell it, and having such a cramped schedule, they don't have time to declutter.
The schedule is so cramped, in fact, that people have very little leisure time- the actual "leisure" time these days, ends up with people being plugged in, which doesn't give our brains adequate time to unwind and relax. Click here for ways to simplify your schedule.
Organizing is not simplifying.
We simply can't purchase enough coordinating storage bins, boxes and shelves to calm our environment. Putting things in bins just means that our stuff is now semi-controlled. It doesn't address the core issues you have with collecting or being unable to part with the items, which means you will just continue in with more of the same. To make a difference in your home, you must purge the clutter- and not just a small amount. You must declutter enough so that it is easy to assign places to every single one of your possessions.
Life at Home in The Twenty-First Century is great at documenting the clutter problem, and although fascinating, doesn't offer any solutions in the book. Don't worry though there is hope!
Start small, commit to developing a morning and evening routine of washing the dishes and tossing trash.
I know it seems too small a thing to matter, but when the dishes are done, life doesn't seem quite as overwhelming. Seeing the evidence that you accomplished something gives a great boost to your self-confidence.
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Then, pull out a timer and work on one drawer, for 10-15 minutes tops.
Stay focused on the one drawer until it's done (even if it takes a couple days, it's ok- progress is still happening!). I recommend starting in the kitchen- it's the heart of the home. Keep your focus on it for at least a month before moving on to other areas.
Talk positively to yourself.
When you find negative self-talk going on, change it to reaffirm yourself: "I'm too tired" needs to be "I have enough energy".
"I hate dishes" needs to be "I love having dishes done".
And "I don't deserve a nice house" need to become "I deserve a nice house".
Tackling the clutter is hard to face when in the midst of depression. But little steps can add up to big accomplishments. One small focused action every day creates a ripple effect, which will eventually lead to a complete change in your entire home. From clutter on all the counters to open clear surfaces in every room. It is possible, and you can accomplish it!