You’re not sleeping well.
You wake up and do the bare minimum to survive.
At work, you’re just going through the motions. Smiling with tired eyes.
You get home and you can’t wait to get to bed.
Not before you berate yourself for not cleaning the house. Again.
Rinse and repeat.
We’ve Got Clutter on The Brain
Our brains love order and organisation. So it can be overwhelming when we are faced with piles high of clutter every day.
A national survey was conducted regarding clutter in Australian homes.
21% of respondents agreed that clutter made them feel anxious.
A total of 42% of respondents said clutter made them feel either anxious, guilty or depressed.
Unsurprisingly, clutter tends to accumulate over a lifetime. Those who had children or those who were older in age were more likely to have at least one cluttered room in the house. Younger people were likely to feel anxious about doing something about their ‘stuff’ whereas older people had a sense of resignation and acceptance about their clutter.
1 in 5 Aussies said they built a shed to store their clutter. On the other hand, 1 in 8 Aussies moved to a bigger house or apartment to fit the stuff into their lives.
32% of survey respondents agreed with the attitudinal statement, “I wish I could deal with clutter in my home but haven’t been able to”. More women agreed with this than men.
But what can we do about something so rife?
How do we clean when we feel anxious, overwhelmed and exhausted?
1. Manage your feelings of overwhelm and exhaustion
A clean environment has many benefits but we must take our health seriously in all aspects.
Clutter can exacerbate and trigger emotions that are already there.
It is important to find ways to manage our anxiety and feelings of overwhelm.
Trying to eat regular meals, getting enough sleep and exercise can help with emotional regulation. Seeing people that you love and that love you back can also be a great way to lift our mood.
Note: if what you’re feeling does not go away after 2 or more weeks, please seek advice from your local GP or health professional.*
Your health comes first. Always. No ifs or buts.
2. Enlist some helping hands
I’m not saying you need to call every person you know (although that would speed things up). What I’m saying is, put on a cleaning video on YouTube or read blogs about how other people have decluttered their home.
A helping hand isn’t just physical but it can come in the form of emotional and mental support too.
Knowing that others feel the same way you do about clutter can be freeing.
What’s better, is when even just one person steps in and helps us do the hard work.
3. Tackle one problem at a time
Have you ever bitten off more than you can chew? In this case, have you tried to declutter way more than you can handle?
That’s a sure way to make us feel overwhelmed or exacerbate the feeling.
Remember, our brains function best with order and organisation.
So write a list. On each line, state one clear task.
For example, ‘Task 1. Tidy dining table’. ‘Task 2. Sort first drawer in kitchen’.
By tackling one problem at a time, we are able to focus with ease.
Keep it simple.
4. Don’t be so hard on yourself
In this day and age, many people find themselves inundated with responsibilities like work, running a household and raising children.
There’s no wonder you’re overwhelmed and exhausted!
Don’t beat yourself up if you haven’t done the dishes or scrubbed your kitchen counter.
Tackle one problem at a time.
5. Balance your priorities
If you’re feeling overly anxious, take a break from cleaning. Or ask those you live with, to pitch in.
If the people you live with are unsure on what to do, find ways to teach them. This gives them an opportunity to practice their own independence. Plus, they just might learn a new skill.
Balance is the key here.
6. Distinguish where your habits stem from
Some of us learn our hoarding ways from our parents, grandparents, aunties or uncles.
Some of us go through a traumatic experience that changed how we view our ‘clutter’.
Some of our stuff is sentimental, but some of it we keep out of fear of letting go.
Where do your habits stem from?
7. Adopt new habits
Before I decided to declutter my home and my life, my habits were poor.
I left my clothes strewn across my room. I made excuses to avoid vacuuming. I loathed doing dishes, so I ate out a lot.
If you’re struggling with habits, know that they CAN change.
Like the above study found, elderly people tend to accept the clutter. But that’s where change comes in!
Adopt new habits.
Start clearing useless papers stacked on the counter. Start washing the dishes in the morning, instead of waiting until night time. Start sorting your laundry as soon as they’re washed.
8. Don’t be afraid to speak up
If you’re living in a home that is cluttered and you feel uncomfortable, speak up.You don’t have to be aggressive about it, but you have the right to raise your concerns.
Is there a new way to approach cleaning duties?
Is it time to sort through the piles of unused children’s toys, books or clothes?
When we become curious about other’s perspectives and speak with a solution in mind, we’re more likely to have a productive conversation.
9. Get creative
Do you have items that are unopened? Unused?
You can re-gift expensive items or re-purpose them. Who said decluttering only means throwing it away?
Be creative in how you dispose of things. You can donate, sell or give away the stuff that is no longer useful for you.
Instead of buying a new house or building a new shed, why not downsize your ‘stuff’?
You may feel like you’re not a creative person, but trust me, everyone is creative!
10. Remember that this is an ongoing journey
For some, cleaning comes naturally. For others, not so much.
When we’re feeling overwhelmed or anxious — regardless of why — it is not easy to ‘get on with life’ the same as others who don’t experience these feelings. There is nothing wrong with that.
Some days you’ll have a pep in your step, ready to conquer the world. Some days, you’ll struggle to get out of bed and eat breakfast.
Maintaining a home does not end with this list. It continues.
Life happens. And that’s alright.
Get clear about what your ideal home would look like. Find ways that you can make it happen, with what and who you’ve got!
Clutter doesn’t make a home, people do.
*This blog provides general information and discussions about mental health and related subjects. The information and other content provided in this blog, or in any linked materials, are not intended and should not be taken as medical advice. It is not a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment.