Clutter and Anxiety

Over the last few months, I’ve had this recurring dream where I’ve moved out of our home to get away from the “stuff”.  Sometimes, it’s a small apartment.  Other times, it’s a perfectly designed house with smart storage.  At the heart of it though is a desire to live a less cluttered life.

I know some folks, including a few family members, who don’t seem to be bothered by clutter and disorder.  If we’re being completely honest though, clutter and disorder impacts productivity, but more importantly, it can provoke anxiety that isn’t fun for anyone.

As most of my readers know, I’m legally blind.  This presents me with some interesting challenges in life, most of which I’ve worked around nicely, but mess is one of those things that really causes problems for me.  In navigating my home, I rely on muscle memory.  I know just how many steps it takes to get from one place to another.  I know just when to zig or zag for furniture placement or design elements in my home, and I usually do a pretty good job at making the whole process seem painless.  Add a new element to the mix though and things can go sideways fast!

A few years ago, I was tidying up my kitchen.  I started loading my dishwasher, and something called me away from my task.  When I came back into the kitchen, I had forgotten that the dishwasher was open, and I smacked my shin hard enough to require a trip to the ER.  I was the one who left the dishwasher open, but since I had been distracted, my muscle memory hadn’t accounted for the obstacle.

If I could cause that kind of drama for myself with a momentary lapse of concentration, imagine the chaos that can be caused by the rest of my crew.  It’s something that we’ve been working to improve around here, and my family are definitely making progress.  I’ve decided though that it’s something that has to be a priority not only for my physical well-being, but for the whole family’s mental health.

Tripping over things provokes anxiety for me.  Bumping into things frustrates me.  Not being able to find the things I need to finish a given task annoys me.  Other family members are starting to experience the same feelings, so I’ve decided that I’m going to facilitate some decluttering and healthy habits to help the entire family succeed.

I suspect that my feelings aren’t unique.  And with the start of a new year, I’d imagine that others are trying to declutter and establish healthier habits as well.  That’s why I thought I’d share a little of my perspective here.  I’ll tell you folks what I plan to do, and I’ll share my progress along the way with the hope that I can inspire others to get their own poop in a group and start living more effectively.

For me, the key to handling the clutter and managing the anxiety that’s caused by said clutter involves baby steps.  After Thanksgiving, we removed everything from the dining room that didn’t belong, and for the most part, we’ve maintained the space.  Yes, we just up and moved everything that didn’t belong there into a different room, but that’s one of the strategies that works really well for me.  By moving everything that didn’t belong out of my dining room, I could see some immediate progress.  Also, by getting everything out of there that didn’t belong, it made it easier to keep up with things like vacuuming and the other weekly chores that go along with keeping a house cleaner and neater.

Eventually, I’ll have to deal with everything that’s been moved to our family room, but my strategy for that will be quite simple.  I’ll deal with things one box, bag, or item at a time, and I’ll make certain that everything has a place whether it’s another part of the house, a donate/sell pile, or the trash.

By starting with rooms that I spend the most time in, I feel the effects immediately, and it encourages me to keep going, both with the decluttering and the maintenance of the spaces that I’ve considered “done”.  For that reason, my kitchen is next on the “high impact” list.  Because our family is focused on healthy eating, I’m spending a lot more time in my kitchen, and I need to be effective and productive there.

I’m actually very blessed in the kitchen department.  It’s laid out well with lots of cabinet and counter space.  I need to do a purge though so I can use the space efficiently instead of wastefully.  I’m not sure I’d know what to do if the majority of my countertops weren’t cluttered with one thing or another.  Obviously, there are certain things that stay on the counters all the time.  My stand mixer, coffee maker, coffee grinder, toaster, and electric kettle need homes on the countertops, but I can arrange those items in a more workable way, I think.

Because of everything that’s involved, the kitchen won’t be a quick or simple project.  I’m probably more excited about that room than any other room though, and I’ll be happy to share my progress with my readers.

If you take nothing else from my ramblings here, consider this.  Take baby steps, maintain what you’ve already accomplished, and before you know it, you’ll have your house and your life in order too.


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