For those of you who don’t know me, I am a neurotically well-organized and clutter-averse human. Some of you may have children and may laugh at my inability to handle a few strewn toys. I realize I’m incredibly fragile when it comes to that stuff, but I want to make a case for becoming a little more organized collectively. Hear me out.
I’ve had all kinds of anxiety for as long as I can remember. Social, general, phobic, panic, separation, agoraphobic, future-telling, sleeping, bathing, email, whatever you name, and attach anxiety after, I have it. This means I learned a lot of coping mechanisms to survive life. One of those coping mechanisms happens to be cleaning like it’s Christmas tomorrow, and all the A-list celebs are coming over.
Not to completely get Marie Kondo on you, because she’s doing a fab job without a sidekick, but I found that cleaning is one of my primary ways to significantly reduce anxiety daily. Simply put, sh*t scattered on the floor does not bring me joy, so I put it away! I instantly feel accomplished, productive, and like I can move on to the next task, which I can undoubtedly conquer. I kid you not, I pick up dog toys after my dog daily. I swear he is so messy!
I’m on to something with the cleaning. According to a 2015 study published in Current Biology, ritualized and repetitive behavior serves as a locust of predictability and helps relieve undue stress. In other words, cleaning gives a sense of control when life is particularly unpredictable. And what do you know, my life is particularly unpredictable right now! Between juggling freelance writing, running a website, hosting Airbnb and wondering when my family will ever stand on two feet again without a financial pit-fall beneath us, I tend to clean a lot. In fact, I took a break writing this in order to vacuum the entire house. It allowed me to take a breath and collect myself instead of stressing over whether my writing is good enough and whether my experience is valid.
I Want to Organize Your Life, So Please Just Let Me
Another study by researchers at UCLA points to higher stress levels, depression, and dissatisfaction in women who perceive their home as disorganized and cluttered. The study controlled for factors like neuroticism and marriage dissatisfaction, to directly link the stress to environmental factors. To me, that makes perfect sense. I’m no stranger to walking into someone else’s home and secretly organizing and cleaning their space bit by bit. It may seem odd, but simply knowing I wiped off some fridge dust and am now in an environment with no visible dust makes me happy. I’ve also been known to organize random wires and put away dishes.
A friend of mine was doing a renovation a couple of months back, and she had absolutely no idea where to start. I could feel her overwhelm drowning me as we stood at the entrance of her cabin in the woods. In a matter of minutes, I told her to start hauling everything out, place all the miscellaneous scattered items into clear bins and large trash bags, and start dismantling the large furniture. In a matter of hours, we were inside an empty home painting her walls. Her response? She felt like everything was falling into place! I guarantee you it’s because we cleared out all the bad joojoo and got rid of all the items she didn’t need cluttering her life.
So, here’s the deal, next time you’re feeling like you’re suddenly underwater and can’t breathe, walk away from your current task and organize something physical in your life. Maybe go through a drawer or your bookshelves. Throw out anything you don’t need or use, and put anything worth donating aside in a bag. Just tackle one little area of your space. You’ll find it easier to focus on whatever you need done when you get back to it. Plus, there’s the added bonus you’ll actually look forward to coming home and lighting a candle. Make your space sacred, and your mind and soul will thank you.
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