I have always been a little bit of a “neat freak.” In fact, while growing up, I shared a room with one of my sisters who wasn’t as diligent as I was about always making her bed and keeping things in their place. I remember as a little girl, walking into our room and feeling my breath shorten, my heart race a bit, and an overwhelming urge to see how fast I could clean it up. Sometimes, I would get a wave of inexplicable rage as I looked around the cluttered space we shared.
Like a lot of people out there, I have anxiety. And clutter can take my anxiety from manageable to out of control in less than two seconds.
But I also have three kids who want to enjoy their childhood, which means that my clutter-induced anxiety can be a bit of a problem. They like to eat snacks, get dirty, and play rough. I want them to enjoy every ounce of childhood and feel free to be kids, but I’d be lying if I said I was good at being relaxed and letting them dump out their toys and leave them on the floor for days, or drag home a bunch of junk from a friend’s house. Let’s just say I’m constantly reminding them to clean up after themselves. As gently as I can muster.
Goody bags full of dollar store junk make me cringe. The mere sight of a messy closet makes my anxiety flare up. And if I walk in the house after a busy day and feel like I am being swallowed alive by a bunch of “stuff” no one cares about, I freak.
When someone drops by and dumps a bunch of hand-me-downs off without notice, I clench my butt cheeks so tight, I am sore afterwards. If I am working or in the middle of a big project, and come downstairs to find a huge mess while my kids are on their phones or staring blankly at the television, I see red. Piles of papers, overflowing bins of toys, and clutter of any kind literally makes me anxious mess.
People use all different coping mechanisms to calm their anxiety and feel in control. For me, it’s keeping the clutter away from my eye balls. I try hard to be understanding that there are 4 people and a few animals living here, so naturally there will be an accumulation of “stuff.” Having kids means having toys, sports equipment, and random collections of rocks and feathers. Sometimes these internal reminders work, and I am able to turn off my churning brain and go about my day. Other times, not so much.
Because as soon as I’ve relaxed a bit, the mess and clutter multiplies. My family must think, Hey, Mom doesn’t give a crap and I don’t have to pick up my dirty socks, throw away my snot rags, or put away my dishes or toys. And I might as well empty the contents of the junk drawer and spread it out all over the floor since she doesn’t seem to care anymore.
And then the shit hits the fan real fast. A cluttered house that’s overflowing with shit we don’t need can make me lose it in a very short time. It stresses me out so much I’ve been known to take a garbage bag and toss in unopened bags of candy, their “favorite” toys they never take care of , and bags full of art projects.
It doesn’t just affect my head, either. It physically affects me. I don’t function as well, and because I can’t think clearly, I can’t get anything done. I run around in circles. I am uncomfortable. My muscles are tense. Because if there is stuff all around me, my eyes and mind fixate on that and nothing else. Sometimes I freeze, and sometimes I go on a rage-cleaning frenzy.
It’s not just because messes and clutter means more work or nagging from me, either. It shakes me to my core when precious money was spent on something that has been trashed by my kids and left to die on the floor, or not enjoyed a tall. What a damn waste.
Sometimes after the holidays or a birthday party my kids have gotten so much crap that even they are overwhelmed. The clutter and piles of “stuff” affects us all, and no one feels better until half the contents of our home has been hauled out to the dump.
Everyone has a trigger, and mine happens to be junk piles sitting around my house. People often ask me where all my stuff is, and how I keep everything so neat. I don’t do it to impress anyone. I put a lot of effort into keeping a clean home because it is necessary for my mental health. I am more productive and able to tackle the day when I wake up and feel like everything is in its place and we can start fresh.
Yes, there is going to be a mess made anyway, but I don’t give a damn. I’d rather have a new mess made in a clutter-free home then have a mess layered onto of another mess. I am getting hives just thinking about it, and no I’m not kidding.
We all want our kids to be happy and have fun. But people can easily go overboard (myself included), then hate themselves when they have to deal with the stress clutter leaves behind. It’s just not worth it. We need love, understanding, compassion, warmth, food, and water.
We don’t need a shit ton of stuff just laying around. Especially when that “stuff” comes at the expense of our mental wellbeing.