If this isn’t the perfect week to write about clutter and chaos, I don’t know what is. Originally, I was going to post about communicating with kids, then after some discussion with some very important people, I decided to postpone that subject in order to delve a little deeper into that subject. In its place, we will look at clutter and chaos. I have clutter. My home life feels chaotic at times. So does my work day.
I am constantly feeling overwhelmed at the amount of stuff we have, along with a lack of storage in our old house. This my friends, is a recipe for disaster. Clutter and chaos go together. One causes the other. Together they wreak havoc on an otherwise happy home life. We have a room I have dubbed the hoarder room. I’m sure you can figure it out. Everything that didn’t have a place got dumped there. It’s crowded, dusty and depressing. Personally, I’m tired of having to close the door when people come over.
On that note, did you know that today, Sunday November 15, is National Clean Out Your Fridge Day? It’s also National Recycling Day. Perfect! We can wade through the clutter and chaos that invade our lives, figure out why we have it, what it does to us, and where to put it.
A bit about me
Clutter drives me nuts! But…I have so much clutter! Doesn’t make sense does it? Here I am, wallowing in self pity because I have very little storage, too much stuff and always feel stressed about the mess. Clutter and chaos have been an issue for me on and off throughout the years. I think this is about control. Or lack thereof. When my kids were little, they knew the milk had to be put in the exact same place every time it was put back. They knew that towels had to be folded a certain way and placed in the closet with the folded side showing (the open edges are too messy looking). Labels on cans or boxes better have the English side showing. In the shower, shampoo on the left, conditioner on the right. Call me silly (or Sheldon) but I figured someday I won’t be able to read the fine print- or I’ll have soap in my eyes- so I need to know where things are without having to look for them. It’s pure logic to me. It saves time; it’s orderly. It’s something I can control. Even my closet is arranged in a certain way. Colour-blocked, lightest to darkest, sleeveless to long sleeved tops, pants, jackets. It looks good and it feels good. So why do I have so much clutter and chaos everywhere else? All I know is it causes me stress and sometimes I feel overwhelmed. After that, instead of working away at the mess, I feel hopeless and just give up. Clutter creates chaos; chaos in our day, chaos in our minds, and even more physical chaos.
As the pile grows, so does your anxiety
If tidiness makes us feel good, then why do things always end up messy again? For me, one thing; one thing out of place and sure enough, little by little, the pile of paper grows. That one dish that I don’t want to deal with becomes a pile of dishes. The dirty or clean laundry pile grows. Why? Because we have too much stuff. Physical and visual clutter causes clutter in your mind. It makes you upset and it’s mentally exhausting! Some of you may not even realize the psychological effect your clutter is having on you. I promise you it is affecting you. You may feel tense, mentally and/or physically exhausted, restless or lethargic.
Why we have clutter and chaos
We live in such a materialistic society and we get bored with our clothes, our cars, and our technology. Who can’t wait for the next phone upgrade? We buy more and more stuff, because new stuff makes us happy. Or does it? We might be trying to fill an emotional void. Alyson Jones, Writer, Educator and Therapist writes in Huffpost that “the more stuff we have, the less joy we feel.” https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/alyson-jones/more-stuff-less-joy. What about the old stuff? We hang on to gifts from someone special or keep things for sentimental reasons. Apparently as we age, we have a much harder time getting rid of things because they represent younger years and cherished memories. And let’s talk about clothes! Most of us have far too many clothes. You know you’re guilty. Hate laundry day? The fewer items you have, the smaller the pile and the faster the task of doing laundry goes. You likely have things in your closet that you haven’t worn in a while. If you put something on and it doesn’t make you say “wow, this looks good”, then you shouldn’t have it. I mean, we all have to have our comfy clothes, but you know what I mean. Don’t have clothes that don’t make you look fabulous. Stop buying the inexpensive trendy stuff. Buy better quality, less of it, take care of it and enjoy a less crowded closet and more free time on laundry day. Imagine less visual clutter and a less chaotic laundry day! Looking at this closet every day is not a good way to start your day.
What clutter and chaos does to you
According to Anne-Marie Gambelin, who wrote It’s Science- Clutter Can Actually Give You Anxiety, https://www.mother.ly/life/its-science-clutter-can-actually-give-you-anxiety, “Clutter creates stress that has major neurological effects on us.”
While writing this, I felt a sudden urge to get up and eat. While eating my egg and avocado brunch, I realized how my patterns fit exactly with everything I’ve been researching lately. I live in a cluttered home and regularly comment that clutter upsets me and we need to get rid of it. As I was reading about the psychological effects of clutter in the home I felt the tension rising, felt restless (to get to the purging) but also anxious because I knew I had to get my writing done first. Ugh…so I got up to eat. A) stress-eating, B) procrastination. Result=More stress.
Anne-Marie Gambelin also wrote on the website Motherly, “clutter affects us biologically and neurologically by:
- causing anxiety
- reducing your ability to focus
- reducing creativity
- increasing cortisol levels
- and surprisingly, increasing our experience of pain”
There is so much to learn about how your messy environment negatively affects you. You’ll benefit from reading the article by Anne-Marie. What struck me is that naturally, your body’s cortisol levels are highest in the morning, to get us up and moving, and are supposed to taper off as the day goes on. However, when you come home to a messy environment, your body stays in fight-or-flight mode. Not Good! Being in a constant state of stress is terrible for your mental and physical health. Worse, many of us don’t even realize that we are living (or should I say, surviving) in a perpetual state of stress and chaos.
For your brain to focus on what you want to do, it has to compete with itself to try not to see the mess or feel the anxiety. You want to relax, study, work in your home office, or work on a fun project, but your brain sees the chaos and it creates anxiety and an inability to truly focus. An interesting tidbit from a Florida State University study- “people with extreme clutter are 77% more likely to be overweight.” Read this article https://www.besthealthmag.ca/best-you/home-and-family/dangers-of-clutter/ for information on how clutter affects everything from your weight, to your allergies, to your sex life!
FOCUS ON THE FUTURE~
What to do about clutter and chaos
While you’re cleaning out your fridge for National Clean Out Your Fridge Day, listen to this poscast called Mind Your Home by Mia Danielle. You’ll find it at https://miadanielle.com/psychological-effects-of-clutter/. I loved it. She gives a lot of great information about clutter and chaos. And it doesn’t just affect you. Mia says that if kids grow up in a cluttered and chaotic or loud environment, it “hugely impacts their ability to regulate their emotions and behaviour.”
Mia has a FREE 4-Step Checklist on her website you can use to de-clutter your home. So, tidy things up. Chaos begets Chaos; Order begets Order.
If you take steps to de-clutter your environment, it will improve the following:
- self esteem
- feeling of relaxation
- ability to focus
- pride in your home
- and another benefit- no more embarrassment when people pop in!
So now what? Listen to that podcast, read the article, print off the checklist. Turn on the tunes and clean out your closets. And because it’s National Recycling Day, donate clothes and other items you don’t use, and recycle those items that aren’t usable any longer. Once you are satisfied and feeling a little less stressed and like you deserve to relax, you can start enjoying life.
Thank you for reading. Check back every Sunday afternoon for my next post.
Carol Paino~ Parts Of Ourselves