Clutter Affecting Your Mood?

As recently seen on Living Healthy Chicago, we investigate how a cluttered home or office affects your mind or mood. Here is more information from Joyce Marter of Urban Balance.

Is a Cluttered Home Cluttering Your Mind?  

By Joyce Marter, LCPC, Psychotherapist & Owner of Urban Balance, LLC

Our environment is a direct reflection of our internal mental health and vice versa.  So, if our home is disorganized our minds may feel scattered as well.  By purging unneeded items from our homes, it is like deleting files to create disk space on your computer.  Suddenly, the whole operating system is more efficient.  There is less stuff to manage, tasks take less time because you know where to find things, and this decreases stress and increases your effectiveness personally and professionally.  Organization promotes serenity and wellness in your life. 

There are additional benefits to ridding your life of unnecessary “stuff”.  These unused items that are taking up your space and energy can be donated to charity or recycled, which is environmentally friendly.  In our counseling practice, we hear our clients shifting away from a focus on the material and consumerism towards living more simply by not buying or storing more than they need. 

It is important to note that major life transitions can cause changes in your identity, lifestyle and environment.  Such life events include moving to a new home, starting a new job, going through a loss such as divorce or death of a loved one, or moving on to a new phase of life such as college, moving in with your partner, having a baby, transitioning to an empty nest or retiring.   Our homes are a reflection of who we are and how we feel about ourselves.  Because life transitions are stressful (even if positive), we may need to pay extra to our homes and environment to create a healthy, restful environment. If we care about ourselves, then we take pride in our homes and take the time to keep them organized. 

Organization is a lifestyle that takes discipline, much like practicing proper nutrition or a healthy exercise regimen.  Nobody is perfect and there is healthy balance strive towards that is somewhere between messy and compulsively clean.  In our counseling practice, we do work with clients who are dealing with mental health conditions that affect organization and make it difficult to find that balance: 

Attention Deficit Disorder: People with ADD may have a difficult time keeping track of belongings, which exacerbates feelings of being distracted and difficulty concentrating.  It is especially important for people with this disorder to develop organizational structure, systems and rituals to achieve optimal functioning in their lives.   

Depression:  Some people who suffer from depression may feel apathy or lack of motivation to care for themselves or their homes.  This can be a downward spiral as not picking up your things or cleaning your home can exacerbate depression and increase shame and isolation, because you may not want to invite friends over if your place is a disaster area. 

Hoarding:  This disorder entails excessive acquiring of stuff, compulsive shopping or refusal to part with worthless objects.  These people may be filling an emotional void with stuff, but then feel overwhelmed with the crushing amount of belongings crowding their home. 

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: OCD is an anxiety disorder where people may have obsessions about cleanliness or organization and have compulsions to clean, organize or do other compulsive rituals.  We have treated clients who spend hours cleaning their home after work every day (straightening pillows, even scouring the floor with a tooth brush) before they could sit down and relax. 

If you suspect that you or somebody you know deals with one of these mental conditions, consider therapy.  Counselors can help people work through these conditions through techniques such as cognitive behavioral therapy and find a healthy balance with cleanliness and organization. 

Remember, nobody is perfect.  We all have some areas of our life that are disorganized, whether it is at home, the office or even our car (for me, it is my purse which is always overflowing with receipts and papers and everything but the kitchen sink).  We are all works in progress and are doing the best we can do.  It is about creating a lifestyle of discipline.  Just like with exercise, there might be times we do well and times we fall off the wagon.  When under stress, we may let our environments become more cluttered and disorganized.  It is a good idea to check in with yourself periodically and give your environment and your mind a good cleaning out.  You may want to start small or start with one area of your house (many organization experts suggest starting with your bedroom and closet because that is where you start each day).  Also, consider getting the support of a personal organizer or a therapist can help you achieve and maintain good organization, balance and wellness in your life.