Last week I talked about lifestyle change as far as looking at your machinery; the food, the exercise, the sleep and the attention to good moments. This week I’ve hit you with the latest No Smoking Field Report, which dealt a little with the ways an addictive mind can try and play tricks on you. But what we sometimes forget is that the surroundings can play a part in our well being too. It depends from individual to individual, of course, but for some or many of us, the state of our surroundings matter. This post will deal with the micropart of our surroundings; the interior of our home.
This post is a part of DANCING JANUARY.
With DANCING JANUARY I chose to celebrate new beginnings and make breaking bad habits (if you’re on that wagon) a little more fun. So at the bottom of every post in January, you will find some music that is supposed to invite you to dance UGLY in your living room (or dance amazing, if you are a pro) – our goals, no matter their focus, are always more easily achieved, if we are having fun. So, no smoking, increasing confidence, be better at saying no, weight loss, gaining followers on Instagram – no matter your goal – or if you even have one – I hereby invite you to come and dance with me.
I dance like I’m being attacked by wasps!
Clutter and Mental
I will dare say that anyone with depression, anxiety or any mental break down for that matter knows how it infects every single aspect of our every day life, routines and chores.
It is no longer “just” doing the grocery shopping or “just” doing the dishes. Things like that suddenly takes incredible ressources that maybe you just don’t have right now. In fact, odds are, if you have been building up to a break down of sorts, the every day things have probably been neglected for some time.
What few people either don’t get or remember is that our human lives consists of four aspects: work, social, home and me.
Building up to stress or a break down, what happens is usually that we start prioritizing. So we cut down on the “me” time, because hey, taking time to go for that run isn’t as important as the other tasks on your list, right?. Then that proves to be insufficient, so we cut down on socializing, our chores at home and family. Until eventually, we cut down on work, meaning, we start making mistakes, forget things etc. This is the usual path due to the fact that most people suffering from these break downs tend to be extremely dutiful towards their work and their boss. To many of us our jobs even equals our self identity.
I am no exception to this. I could drag myself to work with high fever and still get the work done, because I prioritized that over my own health (and sometimes safety).
So this means that cluttering, messiness etc. is usually not a foreign matter to most people dealing with mental issues. The energy, the executive functioning and the strength simply isn’t there! And you know what?
It’s perfectly all right!
It’s all right that you haven’t vacuumed for three weeks. It’s all right that you skipped the shower, because the very thought of towel drying exhausted you. It’s all right that you ordered in, because you couldn’t deal with the dishes. It’s all right to ask someone to do your shopping for a period of time or buy online. It’s all right that you haven’t gotten around to sorting the closets and cupboards, while on sick leave.
You’re still good enough and no one should tell you any different!
And you are on sick leave, not to be a housewife, but because you need to heal.
It’s Called Babysteps For a Reason
But this is not going to be about that. If you have just faced a break down, I must emphasize that what I write here is not something you should worry about just yet. You can tag along of course, for some tips and ideas for the tool box for when you are ready, but once a break down has occcured, it takes time. Whether we like it or not. Rushing things only comes back to bite us – trust me, I’ve been there. So please remember; no stress. If you feel any stress or any pressure reading this – stop! Before I dive into the de-cluttering, I will – now that you are here – give a very quick peak into, what I did to build myself back up again.
After having had some weeks of doing absolutely nothing, I started to want some kind of activity going, some sort of progress I could be proud of (although taking the time to heal is to be proud of too). Then I used a white board, a week planner and some magnets, to try and get some system into all the things that needed attention (having suffered a break down in 2015, rushing too fast back to a job, just to face another huge break in 2017, that were building up since autumn 2016, there was a lot that needed attention).
It didn’t work out the first time around, so I changed it up a few times until I found something visual that worked for me.
The very first goal I set, was literally just getting outside my own door and sometimes doing the grocery shopping.
From the social system I had a mentor connected, that basically helped me get outside for a short walk once a week and followed me to do the shopping. It was that bad.
This evolved into one chore, three days a week up to one chore a day – and me finally being able to shop on my own in wee hours of morning where not a lot of people were there.
Once you’ve reached the first small goals and it doesn’t drain you too much, you can start making daily scedules with more than one task – and then building up from there. There is no time line, no “right” way of doing it. In my case, as said, I had my last break in September ’17, was admitted to the psych, schizophrenia ward, for a month (until they discovered and diagnosed the Aspergers), and got home in October ’17. So from October ’17 ’til now I have built myself up to doing the most important chores regularly, then I got some work via the social system at Special Minds (a real life work preperation place for neurodiverse people, incl autistics), where I first went from once a week for 3 hours, then to twice a week and soon, this January, I will raise the bar again to three times a week, four hours each. Downside is, there is not much energy left for the chores, so they are standing still again. And you know what?
I’m not having guests over anyway!
It would be nice with a little help getting things done, but my family doesn’t live in the same part of the country, I’m not disabled enough to receive help from the system and I don’t have the cash to pay someone professional to help. So it’s gotta be, what it’s gotta be.
I’m on sick leave for a reason!
Be kind to yourself. You won’t be thanked for the extra effort, because people rarely get that it actually IS an extra effort! To them, you’ve probably “had all day, so it’s not a big deal”. Well, yeah – to you – and me – and people like us – it is. To us, having scarce ressources, it’s a very big deal.
So acknowledge your own efforts and achievements. Write them down and put a smiley face by it or something. Find an online support group that can cheer for you. Peers, who’ve been through the same shit, rarely – if ever – forget how the rationally simplest tasks can overwhelm and throw you of your game.
But remember not to blame; this is no one’s fault or result of ill will. There are just life circumstances that the human mind can’t fully comprehend, unless it has been there itself.
And this concludes my very quick tour of the progress up until today, where I’m staring at my home and wondering:
Who the fuck let in the monkeys!?
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Build the Strategy
If you have a home like mine, the clutter and mess have been building up for a while. I hadn’t yet gotten to the bottom of it, by far, when I started at Special Minds, so right now it seems rather endless. There are plenty of places, I’d like to get my hands on, but I know that my ressources are limited. So I have to make a strategy.
You see – and maybe this is familiar – I get affected mentally by the state of my surroundings. Mess stresses and confuses me – occasionally it pisses me off too. Clean lines and minimalism soothes me. Sound familiar? Then welcome to the club.
Knowing that my ressources comes with expiration time, I also know, that I have to be careful with the bigger tasks.
I’ll show you how I organize it:
|The spare room||x|
|Basket w beauty prod||x|
|Cupboard living room||x|
|Cupboard hall way||x|
Make a full list of the things you would like to get done. It’s doesn’t mean you are going to do it all, but you need the bigger picture to be able to actually prioritize.
I chose to divide the headlines into levels of difficulty. This way I can see which tasks I can take on, without too much effort and which tasks might require some subgoals.
For instance, when I get to doing the DVD’s (medium level) I can make subtasks: 1) cleaning area in front of tv, 2) sorting by genre first to clarify amount of drawers to use, 3) then by alphabet to organize them in said cupboard, 4) write a list of missing DVD’s in series collections to avoid further dublicates, 5) throw out or donate dublicates.
The trick is to divide tasks that initially takes your breath away, into little, overseeable tasks, that you can slowly work yourself into. I did a similar thing, when I got myself going with the chores again. The first time the dishes were piled up (we haven’t got a dish washer), so instead of setting a goal of doing the entire thing (which nearly made me cry just thinking about it), I told my self to on one day just do the cutlery. Next day, all the glasses. Then dishes the third day etc. And yes, it took a few days for me and my recovering break down to get on top of the dishes – but I fucking DID it!
From the list you might also be able to see or plan out, if there are some of the tasks, that are dependant on others to be done first. In my case, I need the cupboard in the hall way to be done with first, because I need that fresh and clean space for the things I keep from the basket of beauty products. I need somewhere proper to store it.
My biggest problem is that I should in fact, before anything else, get the spare room done – but fuck and shit no! Not even when I break it down to little pieces, is that something I am up for right now. This is because I would like a few easy successes before I take on something bigger – I need to get my chin up!
I spent the morning taking photos of all the things on the list, so when I get to write a post about that freaking spare room, I promise I will show you how bad it is. Why would I display my clutter, some might think – because for a long time, I thought it was just me. Then I realised, through support groups, that this is actually really common. So, showing my clutter, hopefully makes someone out there feel a little less ashamed and a little less alone. And maybe even taking the first baby steps to make little changes themselves. Stigma thrives on secrets, remember?!
So – the spare room will have to wait – and things that I know will go in the spare room in the end, must be put in bags or boxes for now. Unless I throw it out.
Let’s talk about that…
Chop a heel and kill a darling
The key to de-cluttering is throwing OUT!
Otherwise you are just moving things around.
For that I have very specific rules, when it comes to anything else but photos and important papers. Granted, there is a gray area with postcards from certain people or items from an important event – or like my trip to Scotland, where I have some stuff from. I have given my self TWO boxes to keep those things. Memory boxes. They are okay to have. But you should not have more than one per decade. Well, that’s my rule, to keep it under control, you’ll find your own.
The de-cluttering rules are:
- Anything that hasn’t been used for 6 months – OUT!
- Anything broken – OUT!
- Anything you can’t see yourself using within 6 months – OUT!
- Anything that hasn’t been used for 2-6 months – ON HOLD
- Anything used the past 2 months – KEEP
- Are you sure, that everything in this pile is meant for keeping?
- Perfectly and honestly sure?
- Are you going to use ALL of it within the next 6 months?
- Depending on the items and your living arrangements, it will be very different how to approach, but essentially – put the things were they belong – or in boxes for when there is room to put them said right places.
- Get someone else to take a look.
- What do THEY think?
- Give their thoughts some credit – remember that their opinion is not coloured by sentimental feelings or memories of events.
- Sometimes it can be helpful making a box. Write a date on the outside of the box. Save for 6 months. What you need, you don’t put back in the box. After 6 months, throw the box out without opening it.
- Make a pile of throw outs and a pile of donations.
- Sort throw outs in e.g. plastic, metal, cans under pressure etc – check your local regulations.
- If donations go to different places, sort these and set an up-coming date for delivery, so you don’t forget.
- Valuable items? – if you have the energy – you can attempt to sell it, either in specialized stores or online.
The point to all of this of course being, that when we get a little too sentimental about stuff, we rarely make good decisions. This is how rules can help you. In my cases it makes sense with a 6 month limit, because I have a lot of creative things that I don’t pull out every other week, but that are still essential to me. Also, I have four things that, regardless of crossing a 6 months limit, never goes into “OUT”, because I know I’ll get back to them and they are expensive purchasing again; sowing machine, over locker, my guitar and my easel for my painting.
What makes sense to you, is entirely up to you. Maybe you know that anything above 3 months should go – or maybe you have more hobbies than me and need 8 or 10 months?
Just be honest to yourself.
And if you know that you can be sentimental about things, I’d even say this: if you choose 8 months – go with 7!
And trust me, if you have never done this before, there WILL be darlings to kill. I have killed a few over time (moved around a lot and have used moving to do the exact same thing) – and quite honestly, I don’t miss a single one – because up until that moment they were in my hands, I’d forgotten about them. And I have forgotten about them now.
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The Benefits of De-Cluttering
I think most people have this odd sensation of cleaning up on several levels, when they clean up or sort some physical things and places in their homes.
In many ways, de-cluttering can feel like a good run (and sometimes you actually might work just as hard); it’s cathartic and it leaves you with an excess of energy after the fact.
It may seem odd, but think about how many thoughts daily, that goes to that pile on the shelf or the disorder of the closet or the DVD cupboards. When you look for something, it takes a few seconds or minutes extra (I for one can’t find my light therapy lamp, which really sucks because I desperately do need it), maybe there is irritation, maybe even anger – once the de-cluttering is done, all those thoughts will be gone and they wont take up space or energy from you – meaning, the extra energy is yours to spend on something you care about. Playing with your kids, do a date night, not having an anxiety attack while shopping, having the energy to do the laundry and get to the bottom of the next thing.
This is similar to when you stop smoking. The thoughts you spend on remembering something to light the cigarettes with, do you have money for them, how many is left in the pack, you just shut the front door and “fuuck, did I remember the smokes?” and you frantically go through your bag and pockets, sometimes twice, until “Yup! Got’em!”. All of that vanishes, when you quit smoking. You get ready faster, your mornings are shorter, because you don’t have to smoke three cigarettes before the shower, no stress in the lunch break because you have time to eat and don’t have to worry about reserving time for 5-7 minutes smoking outside (plus the walk there).
Or it’s the same thing that happens, when you suffer from excessive thoughts and you start writing down those thoughts. Slowly but surely some of them just don’t come back. It’s free space!
Just like the effect of your cupboards, shelves, spare rooms, garages and what else you might have, after a good de-cluttering.
It’s FREE space; physically AND mentally.
So to sum up benefits from de-cluttering:
- You know where your things are
- It takes less time to find them
- It reduces irritation and anger
- It frees up space to think about more important things
- YOU choose when to have guests – not your surroundings.
- You might actually donate excess to people that have less
The Bonus Feature
When all of this is said and done, there is one thing I need to say, before I let the curtains drop on us this time:
I started this by speaking to those of you, who have not yet the energy to pull this off. Circumstances hasn’t changed – don’t worry – it’s still perfectly all right that you take care of yourself and don’t push yourself too hard. I am willing to bet, you are pushing hard enough as it is.
But there is a little trick I forgot to mention that to some of you might be the key to turn things around (in whatever pace suits you):
I talked about cutting bigger task down to smaller tasks and how I started with a few days a week and building up…..
There IS another way around it, though and that is focusing on time spent, rather than tasks done.
For instance if doing just the cutlery when doing the dishes seems like too big a task, then go for 5 minutes of dish washing instead. Break things down into overseeable time frames – the benefit here of course being that you can set your alarm clock to go off, when time is up.
This can especially be helpful, if you are in a state of not knowing or having a sense of how long something takes. It goes without saying that any task can seem inapproachable in that state. You have no chance of knowing which tasks you can overcome.
So go for time spent, start low. If you find out after a few tries that you can do more than 5 minutes of dish washing, then bump it up to 7 minutes. If it’s too hard then make it 6 minutes and keep it there until that feels comfortabel and doable. Then you raise the bar a little more. And vice versa; if 5 minutes proved to much, then lower it to 3 or 4 and build from there. We all started out with baby steps – literally!
Again, there is no right time frame and no right order. What matters is whether you experience progress. It can be slow or fast, usually that depends on the combination of your personality and how hard you have been hit. The point, the true goal, is progress.
Progress comes in many shapes and sizes.
You’ve got this!
My De-Clutter Gallery, part 1
for inspiration, curiosity (though it killed the cat) and because I’m so glad and proud I actually DID IT
And with this, it has yet again come to the point where we must do a little dancing and having fun, getting a smile on our faces with Dancing January.
OR: you can put the music on and do one of the smaller de-clutter tasks on your list, while singing along – loudly… we are going a little old school today…
Remember these two, from way back when MTV was about music videos?
Have fun – luv ya <3