Decluttering is fashionable now, isn’t it? Everyone is doing it in some form or another. But let’s be honest, how many of us have noticed the connection between clutter and our mental health? And if you have noticed a link, how do you end the clutter and protect your mental health at the same time? Decluttering is stressful in itself! This post will guide you through the methods I’ve found most helpful.
Clutter and my mental health
It’s only recently I have found the courage to own up to my anxiety issues. Before this year, I used to blame my anxiety attacks on external issues – I need to move house, I’m homesick, the kids are stressing me out, I don’t do things I enjoy anymore, etc. You get the idea.
But since I have acknowledged my battle with anxiety, I have also noticed something in my house which seems to influence it one way or another – the clutter!
I’m a Work At Home Mum, and I used to keep my desk in my bedroom (the only place I was guaranteed privacy and silence to work). But the sheer amount of papers, books, post its, unfinished projects, and deadline calendars were the last things I saw when I went to sleep and the first things I saw when I woke up in the morning. I hated it. When I was supposed to be relaxing, work was making me anxious.
I tried to have love for the “lived in” look my house had. I held tight to the Instagram poetry which claimed dishes could wait but fun with my children could not. But, slowly, I began to notice the more clutter that surrounded me, the more my anxiety bubbled in the pit of my stomach and my heart beat faster. It was making me physically ill on a regular basis.
As a result, I’ve been on a mission to get rid of the clutter in my house and still spend quality time with my kids!
What does too much clutter look like?
One person’s clutter is another person’s aesthetic ambience. But there are telltale signs your house is becoming overrun with clutter:
- You or family members struggle to close the dresser draws when getting changed.
- Everyone has junk drawer/spot. But if you have more than one junk area scattered around the house, there may be a problem.
- You find yourself regularly sifting through piles of papers looking for that one item that was “just right here, I swear!”
- Your kids’ toys don’t have a particular home per se, and you often find their belongings in any and every room in the house.
- You have a number of storage cupboards you like to call “miscellaneous”.
Clutter doesn’t always mean your house is messy – just it’s harder to tidy up. For years, I operated on the principle: Out of sight, out of mind. Thinking that if I had enough storage cupboards to shove stuff in, it wouldn’t stress me out. But I was wrong. It was almost as if my anxiety was tuned in to the mass of clutter behind each door, niggling at me throughout the day.
Now, my first instinct was to go Marie Kondo crazy. I’d read the book and jumped straight into it, throwing every item of clothing I owned onto the bed. It was tough, but I got through it. Then came books, which I actually enjoyed – I’m a huge bookworm and used to work in Waterstones, so spending the day reorganising my bookcase was classed as relaxing Me-Time.
But, then came the papers. Yikes. With 2 kids in school at the time and all 3 children drawing on any scrap paper they could find, there were papers EVERYWHERE. It made my head hurt and took an entire week to get through. A week of being surrounded by mess, papers, and CLUTTER 24 hours a day.
By the time I got to the overwhelming “Micellaneous” category, I was well and truly burnt out. I couldn’t take the clutter anymore.
You see, the Marie Kondo method suggests getting EVERYTHING out in a particular category and sorting through it until you’re done. As a result, you end up completely surrounded by clutter for most of the process, which can take months!
If you’re like me and clutter negatively impacts your mental health and triggers your anxiety, this probably isn’t the best method to use.
15 Minute Clutter Timer
Instagram wisdom saved the day when I found a number of mums doing the “15 Minute Clutter Challenge”. The idea was: find an area each day which needs a declutter, set the timer for 15 minutes, and GO!
This method was a huge success. Not only did I not get overwhelmed with hours and hours of cluttering each day, but the rest of my house was able to stay relatively tidy during the process. This freed up my mind and helped my retain some level of peace whilst I worked.
With this method, you may not get rid of your clutter quickly, but you will maintain a healthy mental state while you do it. After all, that’s why you’re decluttering in the first place!
Once you’ve decluttered one space (let’s use a bookcase as an example), do your best to maintain it! Sure, the rest of the house still needs a little reorganising, but that bookcase? Flawless.
So, the next time you’re finished with a book and you feel the urge to put it on the coffee table – don’t. You’ve got a perfectly, wonderfully organised bookcase all ready and waiting. Maybe you’ve organised by colour, or size, or alphabetically. Or maybe you’re not a borderline psychotic librarian like me and you’ve just made it look neat and tidy. However you’ve done it, make sure ALL books go NEATLY back on the bookcase.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of cluttering up your areas again before you’ve finished the house, but stay disciplined and your house will begin to feel like a tranquil haven pretty quickly.
If you suffer with your mental health, you’ll know the road to recovery is not one tread alone. The same goes for clutter and mental health – this ain’t a one-man show. Everyone should be helping out. Incuding those darling kids who, let’s be honest, are responsible for most of the clutter!
During your 15 minute Clutter Time, either get your kids to help you (running back and forth from the recycling bins is an awesome way to tire them out, FYI!) or you could ask them to pick their own area in their bedroom to declutter as well.
Zone it out
Now, let’s combine my maintenance point and the group effort idea. I introduce to you – Zones.
Give each child a zone THEY are in charge of. When it’s Tidy Up Time in the evening, each child retreats to their zone to help get everything tidy for the next day.
Now, very important point – THEIR ROOMS DO NOT COUNT. Their rooms are a standard requirement. The zones count for communal areas. I split my zones like this:
- Umar (age 9): Bedroom and living room
- Khalid (age 7): Bedroom and office
- Layla (age 4): Bedroom and hallways
My husband and I also have our own zones to deal with which only encourages the idea that maintaining the house should be a group effort. We all live here, we all enjoy the space. And ALL of our mental health would be much better if the clutter was gone!
How do you declutter?
How does your mental health and clutter impact each other? Do you get the whole family involved? Let me know in the comments!