With Fall approaching, I began to get an itch. An itch to tear my entire house apart, reorganize, and donate things that do not bring me joy. Given my last day at my corporate day job was approaching, it seemed like a bad idea as I needed to focus my energy on booking clients, but it was uncontrollable.
As a human with ADHD, I find it difficult to focus and get work done when I don't have a clean workspace, and given I'm now working so much from home, my entire house has become my workspace. I had spent the last year or so (basically) working three jobs, and my home had officially devolved into a disorganized mess. I began to feel I couldn't do anything else until this was resolved. I was paralyzed.
"Clutter isn’t just the stuff on the floor. It’s anything that gets between you and the life you want to be living” - Peter Walsh
Officially moving into teaching and coaching full-time, I was finally doing what I wanted to do. Still, the idea of being unable to reach a pan under the counter because there was unnecessary sh*t in the way made me batty. It was like the final step in living my best life. It had to be done. But why was I feeling this way? When I tell you it was uncontrollable, I'm not being hyperbolic. As it turns out, there is a logical explanation and it has everything to do with our mental health.
According to a study by Princeton University, researchers discovered that our environment can positively or negatively impact our ability to complete tasks and overall mental health. If the physical space around us feels scattered, our mental space will likely feel the same. A study by the University of Connecticut found that by removing or controlling clutter, we can directly reduce the stress that stems from the mess, which can help us to feel happier, less anxious, and more confident in ourselves. Decluttering can also lead to the following mental health benefits:
Boost your mood and help improve your physical health. Completing physical activity while organizing can enhance creativity by allowing the mind to wander. Letting our mind go a little as we manage our clutter can help us relax mentally while our body stays active. Combining the two can boost our mood because we feel less stressed about what once was clutter, and we feel accomplished after seeing the progress!
Sharpen your focus. Clutter is very messy and chaotic, so it is no wonder we can struggle to focus. When your space is de-cluttered, it is much easier to obtain a sharper focus because what you see is in a specific place. The sense of organization helps your mind to be on track to complete tasks.
Energize you into productivity mode. When you are decluttering, you are problem-solving and getting things done. You gain energy from the visual accomplishments of decluttering. Your accumulated energy can also help tackle other items on your to-do list!
Relieve anxiety. When things are not organized or clean, it can bring fear. You may feel constantly stressed, worried, or afraid of more clutter accumulating. To allow our minds to find peace, decluttering can lift that weight and help us think clearly and feel calmer.
According to Psychology Today, It is estimated that 1 to 2 million people in North America are living with so much clutter that they can barely walk through their homes or find a place to sit or a surface to rest a plate. Although it is not classified as a separate disorder in the most recent version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM IV), compulsive hoarding is a debilitating condition that can destroy relationships and tear families apart.
In my case, it was the physical clutter of my home, but clutter can include everything from the mess in your kitchen cabinets to the digital clutter of unanswered emails and texts. Chaos can lead to a feeling of overwhelm and paralysis and, as I found out, is directly linked to past trauma. You can learn more here if you'd like to open that can of worms.
I've nearly finished my decluttering journey, and I can tell you I have much less anxiety and MORE focus. The relationship between clutter and anxiety is something that many people struggle with. Could clutter be standing in your way or causing (what I like to call) background anxiety? If you're someone who finds yourself constantly battling clutter, it might be time to take a closer look at how it's affecting your mental health. By prioritizing organization and minimizing unnecessary belongings, you can create a space that promotes calm and clarity. You can try these steps laid out by The Queen Bee herself, Marie Kondo, here.
Let me know what you discover!