The Clutter-Depression-Anxiety Cycle: How to Stop It

The Clutter-Depression-Anxiety Cycle: How to Stop It

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.

Sign up here to get my free routine building checklists:

Jumpstart Your Decluttering1

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!

Related articles:

About the author, Rachel

Hi there! I’m the Joyful Space Specialist. it’s my desire help others create a joyful space of their own and enjoy their time spent at home.


  1. Stacy on 05/28/2015 at 4:02 PM

    I have found that the thing that makes it hard for me to pitch stuff is that it was once something I really wanted and I spent money on it…which makes me feel guilty. But still, it feels so good to let it go. And it’s making me MUCH more thoughtful over every purchase. Great post.

    • Rachel on 05/28/2015 at 5:47 PM

      Thanks Stacy. I know that is hard, and I think the reason it feels so good to let it go, is simply because when we see it daily, we feel that same guilt of “I’m not using it, but spent money on it.” So we get rid of a whole lot of guilt when we let those items go. But they do serve a purpose, don’t they? I love that it’s coming around and making you a more thoughtful consumer!

      • Cathy on 05/28/2015 at 5:58 PM

        I think you also once said that sometimes we get our enjoyment when we purchase something, so to let go of the guilt when we have lost enjoyment of it. I have actually decluttered some clothes I’ve never worn on the basis of this idea.

        • Rachel on 05/29/2015 at 12:41 PM

          Yes, that’s it Cathy! And now you can let the item go, knowing that it already served it’s purpose. 🙂 Marie Kondo talks about that in her book- I love it!

          • Karla on 04/28/2017 at 11:58 PM

            I used to be a very near and organized person until my accident and chronic pain and nerve damage prevented me from being as active. Then my son died suddenly in his sleep in 2010. He was 29 with 2 children. My depression, anxiety and chronic severe pain have kept me almost immobile and my home is building up clutter that I hate but cannot do it alone. It makes me sick that it’s piling up and I feel overwhelmed. I also have so much of my son’s possessions that he kept here and I can’t part with even the smallest thing. His son visits us often and feels comfort with his dad’s room and his possessions close by. I don’t know what to do.Thank you.

        • Angela @ GroceryShrink on 08/26/2015 at 8:10 PM

          Rachel, this is a great article. Growing up my grandmother was a hoarder and it affected our family so badly that any amount of mess makes me feel depressed. So fun to find my friend, Stacy’s comment here :). I have the same problem of feeling guilty for the money spent. Cathy has a great perspective on it. I definitely think it will help.

        • Rebekahj1 on 08/29/2016 at 12:47 PM

          I don’t understand the first part of your comment; could you re-write it, pls.

          • Cindy on 03/05/2018 at 4:47 AM

            I too have a problem with clutter. I fell and was paralyzed. It was a long struggle and I became depressed when everything finally caught up with me. Not only do I have clutter, I have piles of clothes all over my bedroom. I just can’t seem to get started on the piles. But I am gonna try the timer thing to work on it 15-30 minutes a night. Thanks for your post!!

    • Tj on 05/13/2017 at 7:46 PM

      The issue for me is waste. Are we filling the landfills or sharing with people that want our unwanted items?

      • Jen on 02/25/2018 at 6:31 AM

        This is exactly my struggle!

      • Ruthann on 02/26/2018 at 4:48 PM

        thats why i do freecycle! lessens my guilt

  2. Cathy on 05/28/2015 at 6:00 PM

    I am also being much more thoughtful when I spend money – even on food! I have reached over 900 items decluttered in 4 months (started at the beginning of January) and there is so much still to work through. I definitely have a ‘clean’ feeling when I’ve taken another box to the charity shop. Happy days!

  3. Laura Eickstead on 05/28/2015 at 10:28 PM

    I am so happy to have found this. I had no idea this was a real “thing”! This describes me perfectly! I’m looking forward to learning more! Thanks!

  4. Michael John Bertrand on 05/29/2015 at 4:07 AM

    I know exactly why I clutter, and it’s not just because depression drains my energy. It’s because emptiness bothers me. Makes me feel like something is going to come out of me, something I would do anything to keep suppressed.

    I need the sensory noise of clutter to keep things under control.

    Dunno what the hell it is, though.

    • lynski on 06/10/2015 at 11:55 AM

      I gotta say I find your comment fascinating. We are opposites, clutter suffocates me. No kidding. I’d love to hear more on your perspective, though. Can you, will you elaborate?

      • Teresa on 08/29/2016 at 10:13 AM

        I feel the same. Clutter and mess make me feel claustrophobic and anxious. I’ve been working on getting to a minimalist frame of mind. So many outside influences seem bent on hindering me, like my teenage daughter, my ex has his stuff still here, etc. But every step I take forward in this direction lifts my spirits. Sometimes it’s a step back but that’s the way of life isn’t it.

    • Katie on 02/11/2016 at 9:14 AM

      It’s probably enlightenment Michael. Most people are scared to sit and be still with nothing to do. We are scared to look at our true selves. Mostly what is found there, after some time looking, is silence, peace and love.

      • Kim on 02/15/2016 at 8:23 PM

        I think you are possibly spot on here. Makes complete sense. Being alone is very difficult for many.

        • Cynthia on 08/18/2017 at 3:30 PM

          I’m always alone and it hurts, this is why I sleep with the tv on. I’m afraid of the emptiness inside of me. This is also the reason I can’t walk in my room because of all the clothing I have bought.

          • Paula on 02/11/2018 at 2:57 AM

            Me too!

          • Cindy on 03/05/2018 at 4:50 AM

            I have the same problem too!

      • Teresa V on 08/15/2017 at 1:11 AM

        This is me as well!

    • A.S. on 10/30/2016 at 11:39 PM

      Hi, Michael John Bertrand. I used to subconsciously feel the same way. I figured out it was because I lived in a house where I was never good enough. I figured out iF I lived in Clutter, that my parents’ criticsm was directed at the stuff, not at me. It took several years of leaRning that criticism is not the end of the world, that my value is not How others feel about me or think of my decisions, and how to be vulnerable that I truly began to conquer clutter as a coping mechanism. Now I am just ridding myself of the obligation I feel Toward the stuff that has been given to or purchased by me. I owe objects nothing, and When they do not serve me any purpose, they in fact serve to harm my life. I am done being harmed by inaNimate objects, so they are out!

      • Cindy on 03/05/2018 at 4:51 AM

        Good for You! I too grew up in such a home.

    • Joanne Thompson on 03/15/2017 at 4:12 PM

      Great insight Michael. CLutter can often be a sign of unresolved Grief. It is not much different than when some people stuff their emotions with food for example or any addictive behaviour which is used to avoid pain that is too unbearable to feel. In the case of clutter some are suppressing deep, painful emotions from their past (often very early childhood) under Stuff. Much of that pain is pre verbal and before the time of our conscious memory. The Stuff is also a way to distract us from feeling our emotions. So yes indeed….that something that you are aware might come out of you is possibly some very deep unresolved grief. (My comment is showing up in all capital letters and I have no idea why as my caps lock is NOT on – I’m not yelling lol. hopefully this posts in lower case)

      • Lyla McLean on 09/22/2017 at 12:07 AM

        Thanks for that insight. I wasn’t allowed to have anything I wanted as a child. I could get a coat but it would be an awful, old lady coat, not the stylish one I craved. Now I treat myself but only at the thrift shops. Lately I can hardly breath and I believe it’s the idea of letting go of all the things I wanted and bought for myself.

  5. Lisa on 05/31/2015 at 1:32 AM

    Hi, Rachel. I am so glad I found your website. Reading your articles awakens a deep longing within me that has been little more than a dream for many years. A goal, yes, but a very elusive one. Hearing about what you have accomplished makes me wonder if maybe, just maybe, this really is an attainable goal, even for me.

    One thing perhaps you can help me with… I’ve tried to get a copy of your 2015 in 2015 Decluttering Chart, but seem to be having some difficulty. I’ve checked my email several times, but haven’t received a response.

    I look forward to hearing from you. In the meantime, I’ll be tossing as much stuff as I can get the guts to get rid of. Thanks for sharing your journey.

    • Rachel on 06/02/2015 at 12:28 PM

      Just emailed it to you Lisa!

  6. Lisa on 06/04/2015 at 1:10 AM

    May I please also have a copy of your 2015 in 2015 de cluttering chart?

  7. Meryl @ Simple Family Home on 06/08/2015 at 5:32 AM

    This is so timely for me. Our family has recently increased our focus on minimalism and decluttering, and one of the reasons we chose to do this is because I suffer from anxiety. Clear, clean spaces are so much more calming and soothing to look at compared to piles of junk nobody needs! The stats about toys are crazy. This has given me a lot to think about – will post my own experiences with anxiety and minimalism on my blog next 🙂

    • Laura on 01/18/2016 at 3:27 AM

      Minimalism and decluttering need to be actual cognitive behavioral solutions for those with anxiety or depressive disorders. At the very least, clinicians should be inquiring about the patient’s living situation and exploring it as a possible interference in the person’s ability to function or cope. This is especially true in the U.S., where we are responsible for the bulk of the consumption and “retail therapy” is used as a coping mechanism in itself. You also can’t discount buying stuff as an (unhelpful) antidote to the alienation (baked into capitalism) that people experience.

      There is no antidepressant or anxiolytic med that would have helped me more than the simple act of getting rid of 75-80% of what I owned!

  8. Heather on 07/03/2015 at 6:52 PM

    Hello! I have a family of seven with the possibility of growing. We currently can barely squeeze into a 7 passenger van. What do you think a minimalist family of our size should do for transportation?

    • Mary on 05/09/2017 at 11:21 AM

      I hear a pair of draft horses can carry a wagon of about 20 people! Just kidding. I guess you will have to figure out whether driving a bigger van or 2 cars will work better for you. We are a family of 7, too. We were always able to fit in the minivan. The Montana (no longer made) had 8 seats. But we have aged out on the possibility of growing and some of the older ones are moving out so we no longer have to consider this. Some of my friends with more children have the big vans.

  9. Stacy on 07/11/2015 at 11:00 AM

    Thank you so much! This article is how I’ve now discovered your website & such. All I can say is, “Where have you been my whole life”? I’m starting right now… on the road to recovery. Going to declutter and not feel bad about it. I have let go of things in the past only to sit and feel bad about it later on. I’ve got a lot of healing to do. Thank you, thank you!!

    • Rachel on 07/13/2015 at 3:22 PM

      Thank you Stacy! <3

  10. Jen Slack on 07/20/2015 at 5:42 PM

    Hi Rachel. I am a professional Organizer and would like to link to this article. Is that ok? I think the article rings very true. Thank you for writing it.

    • Rachel on 07/21/2015 at 2:03 PM

      Absolutely Jen- please feel free to link to it! Thanks so much.

    • Elizabeth Sharp on 03/13/2018 at 3:52 AM

      Thank you Rachel. My daughter sent me your link. Soo happy. I write articles for the family young teens and married couples. Always writing enjoy doing so. Need to decluder my small round glass table. I decluder and goes back. My apartment is a one big bedroom living room, one florida room, 1 1/2 bathroom. Don’t feel depress as I am also a missionary reaching homeless, families with needs all the times, all of my life. Always busy doing something different. Reaching people in their spiritual needs. Happy doing so. 🙂

  11. Caroline Bok on 11/22/2015 at 4:37 PM

    Hi! I love having certain things around me and I do regularly declutter. My major problem is my husband’s cluttering or rather major hoarding. He has two rooms in the house, a garage and two outside wooden houses FULL of stuff and keeps promising to get rid of it but when we try doing this he gets an anxiety attack. What can I do in this situation? Caroline

  12. Rachel on 01/24/2016 at 6:47 AM

    Every time I declutter, i replace the clutter with more clutter. I think I need this and that, something to cure every ailment. Its beginning to look like a supermarket. Half of it I just don’t use but its always a thought of just in case. I’m not sure what to do because its good on one level and costrophobic on another. From Ra

    • BEE on 04/04/2016 at 3:39 AM

      Possible Discontentment and collecting mashed together! Look inside your heart and mind for cures rather than collecting products to fix this and that, which may not even exist. I have found honest self reflection to be the key to solving this and it is a day by day challenge for life, no end goal set, just taking it as it comes in small increments and situations to control any overwhelm-ment. I am myself breaking the collecting habit by constantly being aware of and being honest with myself… “if I could live without it yesterday why do I want it now, and do I NEED it for today??? Live in the present, not some unknown future.

  13. Melissa on 02/05/2016 at 4:35 PM

    This has been very helpful for me. I now know that I’m not crazy and that it is an actual proven difference in me and my husband regarding clutter. We are both very analytical people which makes us a bit “OCD” mine has to do with my living environment and his is pretty much everything but living environment to the point he is what I call a hoarder. We live in a rather small house under 1100 sqf and I can count at least 8 empty shipping boxes in just the main living area alone that he is keeping for un-acknowledge able reasoning’s. He just needs them… while I’m having to take an anti-anxiety medication because of it. I will review the webinar and forward him this information. He is receptive to information based on science so hopefully this will help our situation.

    I at least have my perfect “sanctuary” bedroom so when I get too overwhelmed I just go and meditate.

    • Rachel on 02/09/2016 at 4:28 PM

      Glad you have a sanctuary bedroom Melissa. We all need a place to be safe and calm in. <3

  14. Jan Ramsey Brick on 03/22/2016 at 4:07 PM

    Wonderful post Rachel. Everything’s connected isn’t it? The first thing I do when I get up each morning is make the bed. It just starts the day off right! 🙂

  15. Vickie on 05/12/2016 at 2:13 PM

    Help! I am an empty nester that has struggled with anxiety/depression most of my life. Right now I am excited that I found you, because I feel you put me and my cycle into words. I want to be obedient to God, and I know that at this time in my life that involves being a homemaker, I just don’t think I know how. I am going to study your information, I like the idea of breaking it up into morning and evening routines. Any encouraging words would be appreciated.

  16. Cadence on 09/06/2016 at 12:50 PM

    I found this post to be very encouraging. There are a couple of things I do to make the process of de-cluttering less stressful: I don’t think of it as “removing the junk” but rather “How can I bless others?” If I have something that’s just collecting dust, that is an item I can use to bless others. I can give it away fully assured of two things 1: God loves me and because he loves me, if I ever have a need for that item again, He’ll make sure I get it. 2: God loves other people, and I become his hands and feet by giving away something others can use. IN the act of decluttinering, I will listen to a sermon or a podcast on a subject I’m interested in. This makes the process a stimulating experience rather than a burdensome chore.

    • Susan on 10/30/2016 at 6:05 AM

      I love this approach because it is completely and thoroughly selfless. The konmari book talks about the “negative energy” contained in the stuff we no longer like, want, or need, and how that weighs us down emotionally. Release it! Let others enjoy it and use it!

    • Rita on 10/07/2017 at 2:03 AM

      Great outlook and approach! I have been stuck in my clutter for so many years. Your comments are a great encouragement to me! Rachel, thank you so much for this post and your newsletter! I’m ready to get started!

  17. Lynn on 09/09/2016 at 3:17 AM

    This article was like reading a summary of the general information put together by marla cilley which she has shared with hundreds of thousands of people over the last 16 or so years through her books and web forum – Flylady

  18. Liz on 11/22/2016 at 9:18 PM

    I was sitting at Starbucks when I read this, and everyone turned to look at me when I shouted “YES!” Not only is this one of my biggest struggles, but it is exacerbated by the fact that I never successfully trained my kids to keep the house tidy, either. I hope you are doing this challenge in 2017 as well!

    • Rachel on 11/23/2016 at 8:19 PM

      Definitely!! 🙂

  19. Linda howell on 12/15/2016 at 1:28 PM

    Love your idea of ” nourishing minimalism”. I have a difficult time organizing all my “stuff” and letting Go of the sentimental items”! All of the SUGGESTIONSand responses have been encouraging…please KEEP up the good advice! Thanx!!

  20. Kathy on 01/14/2017 at 11:41 AM

    I feel like the clutter in my environment is a eeflection of my inside. When I try to do something about it, even if it is just going to be for 15 minutes, I become paralized and can’t do it. It is an emoyional and physical blo. What can I do? It makes me feel out of control and anxious because I know it is a problem but I am unable to do anything about it.

    • Rachel on 01/17/2017 at 8:13 PM

      It may help to box things up and set them aside so it clears your main living spaces for the time being. Talking to a professional can help you figure out what is happening emotionally and give you some tools to move forward. <3

  21. Alising on 02/18/2017 at 10:35 PM

    This is a lot like me. I can actually feel the mess in the house. Even when stuff is behind the sofa and so out of sight i can sense it is there. I find it very stressful as our family of 3 is all very untidy, quite lazy (there. I admitted it!) and also prone to hoard. I am the most ruthless of the 3 but i still keep a lot and my boyfriend is a paperwork hoarder which drives me potty. My daughter develops a deep bond with any toy i suggest donating to charity. Or…she agrees to donate but changes her mind last minute. We have so much ‘stuff’ too that we do need to keep but we have nowhere to store it…it is like shovelling snow in a blizzard in this house. I will definitely check your links out

  22. anduarto on 04/04/2017 at 5:04 PM

    I can attest that “Men aren’t affected by mess” line is completely untrue. I’m convinced my cluttered spaces, both at work (I’m a creative Type) and At home are making me Ill.

    • Damien on 10/18/2017 at 6:47 AM

      I agree,I am so sick of the mess my wife makes,built her organisers,extra shelves/presses everywhere, even moved to a bigger house so she could have a room dedicated to cluttered to no avail.

      Specifically searched to see if there’s a link between a messy house and depression because of how this is impacting my mental health. Imagine my relief to find as a man I don’t mind a mess at all.

      Whew, all in my head, that’s a relief!

  23. Denise Pass on 06/25/2017 at 5:45 PM

    Nice article! Decluttering is so important. God bless you!

  24. margie peterson on 06/27/2017 at 12:07 PM

    Hoarding or cluttering can happen to anyone. I read a wonderful book written by a social worker that it is a way with coping with “failed relationships” or a situation that has not been resolved. I can’t remember the title, but the best instruction was to put sentimental things that you (or a loved one) in a box. Revisit it 6 months later and remove the items that you aren’t still attached to.

    This helped me tremendously. I can’t throwaway my writing homework. That makes sense because I want to be a published novelist. My husband remembers the story from every box of his parents. He is an historian. Now I ask him is it your history or your family’s history? Last month we were able to bring three boxes back to the family farm in Wisconsin.

  25. Alex on 06/28/2017 at 7:42 AM

    Why do I have this problem am a
    Guy??? I don’t like to admit it but I am very feminine, physicaly (not as strong or beefy as my brothers) (more estrogen and less testosterone )) is it a cortisol thing? Why don’t other males have this? Do I have a female brain??? If I was a girl I’d more than likely be a tomboy, outdoor adventurus, not saying that i want to be a girl although.
    I just have too many similaratys with females. Any help is appreciated.

  26. Katie on 07/15/2017 at 8:44 PM

    Rachel mentions the book THE LIFE-CHANGING MAGIC OF TIDYING UP and it completely changed my philosophy on clearing clutter and all the shame around it. The biggest thing I learned was to sort first, store second– we tend to have this idea that if we have space, we should keep things. Nope.

    Another issue I had was getting so caught in just CLEANING my house that I never got to the sorting, organizing, etc. I know it’s not a reality for everyone, but I hired a a house cleaner– four hours, once a month. I buy less crap (less clutter) and use that $25 a week to stay out of the anxiety slide that lands huddled in front of my Netflix– not cleaning or sorting and avoiding my life.

    • Minnie on 10/11/2017 at 3:16 PM

      That’s the way to go, you did what works for you. I have been telling my husband this for years and he still doesn’t believe me so the clutter keeps rising.
      But, today is the first day of the rest of my life. If I throw away 2 or 3 things (knick knacks, clothes I can’t wear, paper (maybe 10 of those) it’s a beginning). I have to start somewhere.

      • Rachel Jones on 10/11/2017 at 6:27 PM

        That’s right Minnie! Each small step is forward movement. ❤️

  27. Cat on 07/17/2017 at 8:13 AM

    Flylady can help with this!

  28. Kristina on 10/27/2017 at 1:26 AM

    I’m starting to realize I have material bulimia. I binge and purge. I feel like I have nothing in my life, or I don’t feel like I measure up to others, so I go on a spending spree to make my house beautiful with a bunch of stuff. Then I feel stifled by all the stuff, so I purge. Then I go to someone’s house, and the cycle repeats. How on earth do I break this cycle?

    • Rachel Jones on 11/10/2017 at 4:32 PM

      That is a great description, Kristina. It takes a fair amount of self-work, where you have to ask yourself what *you* really want to be and how *you* want your life to look. It will be a process, but I think there are some great self-help books that walk you through embracing who you are and how to stop comparing yourself. I personally have learned a lot from Brene Brown: Many of her books will help you start. ❤️

    • Jessica on 03/07/2018 at 5:18 PM

      Wow! I’ve never heard it described quite this way, but I have many similar behaviors. I know there must be an underlying root cause, but have perhaps been too afraid to address it. I feel anxious just typing this reply.

  29. Michelle Willis on 11/14/2017 at 4:59 PM

    here’s my problem. I have always been very organized, clean and able to find things without much effort. Three years ago, I lost my mother tragically and married a man whose house, can never be a comfort or place of no anxiety. I can’t relax because of all the mess and have a hard time trying to cook meals or function as a human. My children are grown, but will not visit because the house is in such disarray. My husband feels that everything is fine and that clutter and mess. He honestly refrains from taking a shower once a week or not at all, I can’t deal with that. My house looks like a paper bomb went off and I have no help at all to get it clean like I want it to be.

  30. jennie hickman on 11/14/2017 at 5:14 PM

    would like some information about depression,anxiety and address is 4612 robinhood cir straw plains tn 37871.thank you.

  31. Priscilla on 12/27/2017 at 4:30 AM

    My 3 children are the ones destroying my home day in and day out. They are of ages old enough to clean up after themselves- they are not little toddlers. My house is a constant mess. I have no usable couch because the one we do have they have destroyed, literally it is nothing but the frame of a couch. I am very depressed about the state of my home and I KNOW that if I just follow them around cleaning I will resent them even more than I do now. I also do not want them to grow up thinking that a woman is going to clean up after them. I cannot have any guests over not even my own mother because I am so embarrassed by their mess. I have to threaten them with spanking in order to get them to move an inch and even after they claim things are “spotless” in their eyes, that is far from reality. I feel almost constant anger toward them, I don’t have it in me to be “nice” when I am surrounded by their filth which they refuse to fully clean up. I understand that I am the mom, the only parent, and I am willing to do things I should like clean dishes and do laundry and tidy up a bit. But I refuse to clean their messes that literally look like a tornado hit inside the house. I can clean my house to the point of spotlessness and less than an hour later they will have it ravaged. I am completely sick of it. I just want to stay in my room with the door locked to get away from them and their messes and I’m so angry over it. I feel like a prisoner and a slave in my own home. They have no respect for my desire to live and function in a clean home.

    • Rachel Jones on 12/30/2017 at 5:52 PM

      Oh Priscilla, I’m so sorry, that must be extremely frustrating. I’ve told my kids many times that if they leave their stuff out, I will dispose of it as I see fit. I’ve had to follow through with that threat a couple times, which has been difficult, but it helped them take me seriously. If they can’t take care of it, they must not need it. When I was young, an older mother told me if I wanted respect, I’d have to out-right demand it, which meant I had to change the way I parented. Parenting is hard. ❤️

  32. Mylinda E White on 01/10/2018 at 1:22 AM

    I have clothes. Probably a dump truck full of clothes. Clothes that different people have given me; some fit, some don’t. Some are my style, others aren’t. The issue with me is: If I give them all away, I won’t have them anymore. I want them all to go away but when I start going through the clothes I look at a piece and think, “if I lost 5 pounds I could wear that” or I could wear that if I had a certain shirt or shoes or something”. I come close to having an anxiety attack. I have piles of clothes in every room and most surfaces in my house. AAARRRGGG!!!

  33. Dawn Mustread on 01/24/2018 at 6:13 PM

    After my late husband died, I had a very difficult time getting rid of things, decluttering, and managing the basement full of his things. It took me over 4 years to do. Your I information here is vital to helping folks going through anxiety snd depression to manage their homes and lives. It is also helpful to use the “Countdown Method.” Tell yourself what chore you want to start, countdown from 5, and when you reach 1, move. If it’s difficult to move, imagine a crane lifting you up out of your position.

  34. Whitney Cotton on 01/30/2018 at 12:59 AM

    My husband became a hoarder several years ago, I can’t stand all the clutter, I used to try to fight it but the harder I cleaned the more he hoarded. I work Mon.-Fri. and I would clean all weekend and go to work on Monday and by the time I would get home from work in the afternoon there wasn’t a clear surface left. I would try to set boundaries, and he would start raising his voice and throwing a fit. I’m already embarrassed by his hoarding then he raises his voice so the neighborhood hears, I’m a very private person and don’t like attention. I’ve reached my wit’s end, I don’t know what to do, they have been threatening eviction, I own my mobile home so I can’t just walk away, everything is in my name, so legally the house is my responsibility, he has already incurred city fines of about $3000. For junk around the outside of the house. All the utilities are in my name so if I left he would have nothing, he hasn’t worked in 8 or 9 years, he doesn’t see anything wrong with his ways. 20 years ago I said till death do us part?? I guess now I wait.

    • Nancy on 03/11/2018 at 4:06 AM

      Till death do us part does not mean till death do I enable. Maybe it’s time for you to get some counseling to help you help him. If helping him is not possible you may have to set boundaries with space or money. If he hasn’t worked, how does he get all his stuff?
      I don’t say this lightly. I am a “till death do you part” believer, and sometimes parting is not with divorce and only for a season, but sometimes people don’t change without consequences. I hope you find answers other than waiting.

  35. Buffy Yelle on 02/03/2018 at 7:38 AM

    Thank you, reading this has helped me so very much. I have so much clothes , shoes , purses , etc. Getting older I don’t use 70 % of my clothes . I’m really trying to give them away . HELP

  36. Elisabeth on 02/28/2018 at 12:43 PM

    This article has changed the way I look at clutter! I struggle with anxiety, and now I know I’m making my life worse by having all this stuff. By the way I’m giving you a shout-out on my blog 🙂

  37. […] to this Pinterest article for making me aware of the fact that clutter can actually cause anxiety.  All the stuff triggers […]

  38. Teresa Rutledge on 03/02/2018 at 10:05 AM

    My mother, who had undiagnosed mental illness, was a hoarder. It got so bad that my father, only half jokingly threatened to clean house with matches. Only because she didn’t have enough time, the piles didn’t reach the ceiling, but my father, on a walker, could barely get around the house. I have been trying to fight those tendencies for years, meds and therapy have helped. Also the realization that, just because I bought a dinner set for 8 doesn’t mean I have to keep the set for 8. I pared it down to a set for 4 and donated what I didn’t need. Being homeless, then not retrieving all my belongings from storage made me realize what I could live without and be happy.

  39. Sue on 03/03/2018 at 3:15 PM

    This article describes me perfectly. I’m tired constantly, I feel disheartened, hopeless and helpless. My three children seem to have only one aim every day, and that is to make as much mess as they can. I don’t have the strength to follow them around all day and tell them to clean up. To make it even worse, I have a tendency to leave stuff where I used it because I’m so absent-minded and always rushing to the next thing on my list. I’m just so tired of the constant clutter and mess, I just want to get away from it all.

  40. Penny Davidson on 03/07/2018 at 8:51 PM

    Today I’m working on a blog post entitled “Spring Works in Mysterious Ways” and since I mention the connection between clutter and mental disorganization, I wanted to link my readers to more on the subject. My blog, Life Over Lunch, which my sister and I co-write is written from a Christian perspective to the religious and non-religious so I am thrilled to find this article and your site! My article will post on March 22, 2018, if you’d like to check it out!

  41. Holly Whiteside on 03/20/2018 at 12:26 PM

    There are so many wonderful comments already, but speaking as someone who continues to make progress every year, I have another suggestion. This, for me, is the power behind letting go of clutter: to have a clear vision of what you want your life to be. Very clear.

    My father was a Hoarder. I also, experienced much loss, of people, and some things… memories… that were kept from me. And I experienced real poverty. So when I had a chance to in my younger life i started collecting things, new and old, giving myself what I wanted, until there was too much stuff.

    The problem was, I gave myself whatever i wanted when I wanted it, without any regard to a bigger picture…. how it would fit in my house and fit in my life. And it wasn’t just “valuable stuff,” right? Im sure you know what i mean… scraps of paper, old mail, unfinished craft projects, even robin’s eggs, lol.

    Then I decided what i actually wanted my life to be like. It started one day, and continues to be fine-tuned. This was hard at first, but I came across things that inspired me and that got tailored into my own vision. As the vision became more clear it became easier to edit my current life to make it match the life i wanted, and easier to refuse purchasing or bringing home anything that didn’t fit the very specific vision! I had a real want (the vision), to replace all the little wants, soothers, and impulses (the clutter).

    It works to this day. In time, just like it was mentioned above in the article… mostly doing a tiny bit every day… a drawer here (I have my underwear in a basket on the floor right now, it goes back in the drawer after used and washed… the rest gets tossed)… the clutter has gone down, down, down.

    Just as important here is changing my shopping/acquiring habits!!!!!!!!!!! I don’t feel this has been emphasized enough. Just like it isn’t just exercise, but diet AND exercise, it can’t just be de-cluttering and still shopping/acquiring without limit, but must be reducing what comes in, also. And most hard-core clutterers here know it isn’t just from shopping… it’s also what we get for “free.” Sometimes the free stuff is the worst part.

    I’m starting to go “zero waste.” My family thinks i’m crazy for this, but it is helping me a great deal in avoiding my “innocent” clutter sources. We are now using up the stockpile of soaps, shampoos, school and office supplies, and so on. ALL picnic supplies are getting donated to a charity. I have a permanent “Out of My House” pile by the door, that is constantly changing as things get put in it and then go out the door to some source that will take it. There right now are our not-working fire extinguishers that need to go to the hazardous waste drop off point. I will not purchase something we “need” until what we have is completely used up what we have, and then I look for a more environmentally friendly product. It works with the vision. I tossed all of my hairbrushes and combs (dozens), and three quarters of my makeup, lotions, etc, and rewarded my progress by purchasing one really nice wooden hairbrush and comb, the only ones I have now.

    Only going ‘away’ from clutter will often feel like deprivation. The vision works because you start to go ‘towards’ something you really want and that gives you pleasure.

    So what I personally recommend is:
    1) Start clarifying your own vision of what you wish your life to be. Keep it simple, but make it clear in your mind and write it down.

    2) Use your vision as the measuring tool of what you purchase and what you don’t keep. It becomes literally a matching game. Does it fit the vision… no? It goes. Yes? it can come in.

    3) Become thoughtful in what you bring in your house. I also limit my shopping now to one day a week (just part of the day), for groceries, clothes, everything. I shop online more, but I wait… and reconsider… for a lonnnng time before purchasing… sometimes months… sometimes years! Delay, delay, and you’ll help yourself and become more choosy. Choosy is good!

    4) Follow this wonderful article, and do a little every day. There are a number of tricks you can do… like removing everything from a drawer and putting back only what you use in a month. Or taking a small pile of papers and insisting you’ll get rid of half of them.

    You will LOVE this. Editing your life is a deeper joy than lots of stuff!

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