It’s a vicious circle*. When you’re depressed and/or anxious you don’t make the effort to clean or declutter your spaces. But having cluttered and messy spaces can actually make you more depressed and/or anxious. In fact, there are studies that link clutter to an increase in the stress hormone, cortisol, along with other mental health issues.
Does this scenario sound familiar? Your house is a mess, but when you come home from work you’re so exhausted all you can think about is eating a pizza, drinking a glass of wine, and watching Dead to Me on Netflix. Which is a great show, but if you do that every night, because you think that’s a healthy way to cope with your stress and exhaustion while ignoring your surroundings and not making any effort to change them, then you do end up trapped in the vicious circle.
It’s similar with anxiety. You feel overwhelmed by the amount of clutter in your space and don’t know how or where to start so you don’t start at all or you start and then declare it’s too upsetting so you quit and never actually make any progress. Then every time you look at the clutter it’s a reminder and a trigger for more anxiety.
You feel helpless even though you KNOW in your heart, mind, and soul that it’s not magically going to change on its own.
So how do you break the circle?
You change your clutter habits.
In my last post, I talked about habits you may have about clutter (that you aren’t even aware you’re doing). Slowly changing those habits (not using up what you already have, taking free things you don’t need, and keeping things for the wrong reasons) can lift the overwhelm and connected mental consequences of clutter.
You start developing a healthier mindset about your spaces.
Your home should be your sanctuary, the one place you want to go to at the end of the day to recharge and relax. If your home is a place you dread going then making changes to create your sanctuary can vastly improve your mental health.
We all should have a place where we can hide away from the rest of the world and be content. Small changes like cleaning off the spaces you see when you first walk in the door or making a habit to clean off the kitchen counters before you go to bed each night can motivate you to keep decluttering and cleaning so your sanctuary space slowly materializes.
The motivation to work on it isn’t going to just show up. That’s not really how motivation works. Motivation comes from doing. Pick just one area you want to declutter or clean and work on it every day, no matter how small, and make sure it gets done. Having that one cleared space WILL motivate you to do more.
You adopt healthier ways to cope with stress.
Keeping the clutter in your home can contribute to depression and/or anxiety, but so can using “retail therapy” to numb or distract yourself from your reality. Buying things you don’t want, like, or need just to get the temporary rush is a dangerous behavior that can lead to so many issues from excessive debt to a hoarding mentality.
When I was emotionally numb on Paxil, I bought things (clothes, nail polish, body wash, shampoos, etc.) I didn’t really need trying to feel some moment of (false) happiness. I thought that the latest color of nail polish was going to make me feel better even though I already had close to a hundred bottles at home. I thought the shampoo that smelled good was going to help me feel something even though I already had at least thirty bottles in the linen closet.
If you’re using “retail therapy” to cope with stress, try to look at the bigger picture. What will be the future consequences of that? More stuff to worry about and deal with. More debt that stresses you out. Spending time and energy shopping that you could be spending on decluttering what you already have.
The goal is lasting change.
You aren’t going to declutter an entire house in a day (and you shouldn’t). So you aren’t going to feel the depression and/or anxiety related to clutter lift instantly. It’s going to be a process, but you have to start now.
I know that removing physical clutter can also clear out the mental clutter. I’ve done it and it’s so worth the effort.
* I can’t ever remember if it’s vicious circle or cycle so I looked it up … it’s circle.
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