Outer Order Inner Calm: How Decluttering My Surroundings Helped Me Reduce Anxiety

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I’ve always been a very anxious person–easily overwhelmed and stressed; consumed by worry; overly sensitive; and prone to outbursts and panic attacks. And I’ve always been extremely sloppy and disorganized–constantly losing and misplacing things; a bedroom floor made out of shoes and laundry; a car full of trash and forgotten items; and forever procrastinating. The two qualities perpetuated one another for years.

Every once in a while I’d actually be motivated by my anxiety over school, work, or my toxic social circle that I’d find myself upheaving my pigsty of a bedroom for hours on end until it was transformed into a somewhat liveable human-grade room. The process was always surprisingly restorative, but never enough to do it more than absolutely necessary.

I’m not sure what exactly sparked my desire to attempt a more organized lifestyle–maybe it was out of pure disgust, maybe it was the fact that I felt uncomfortable in every single corner of my home, or maybe it was just because I could never find my favorite shoes. Whatever it was, I started. And by started, I simply mean I started to attempt to be less messy and be more organized. Instead of cleaning my room twice a year, I managed about 4-6 times. I cleaned out my car every few months or so. I started using a planner..sometimes.  I folded and hung up my laundry…sometimes.

Over the course of a couple years I started picking up my room more, and putting laundry away more, and I even enjoyed using a planner on a daily basis. Yes, it took years to institute these actions into habits, but I wasn’t aiming for habits. I was simply trying to be a little better–a little bit at a time.

It’s only been about a year or so that I’ve noticed how significantly an uncluttered room, bathroom, closet, and car has contributed to feelings of tranquillity. Coming home and putting my purse on a coat rack, placing my tupperware in the dishwasher, and walking into a *relatively* clean room with a neatly made bed provides a sense of relief after a long day at work or a busy day running errands. Waking up and hopping out of bed onto carpet instead of clothing, and walking to the bathroom without dodging obstacles really does have a calming effect.

What have I implemented to maintain at least a decent level of cleanliness and organization?

Picking up after myself immediately (or close to immediately). If I try on multiple outfits, instead of leaving clothes on my bed and shoes on the floor, I put everything away before going out. After cooking and eating, I put everything in the dishwasher or wash it by hand. And after coming home from a trip, I put dirty clothes in my hamper and put all my clean clothes, toiletries, and supplements away. Each of these tasks only takes a few minutes. And not only does this prevent immediate clutter, but it’s also much easier to tackle one mess at a time rather than leaving it all to collect into one giant mess. Organization creates ease, and ease creates organization. And both organization and ease contribute to lower levels of stress and anxiety! And less time anxious means more time being happy, productive, and present.

Coming home to a clean(ish) space is restorative, as I mentioned previously. Instead of coming home to a mess and wanting to simply make my way to my bed for some serious binging on Netflix and tuning out of my surroundings, I now feel liberated by my space and comfortable with my surroundings. They say what you see is what you get… I’ll use it in a slightly more obscure way here. If you are constantly seeing chaos and mess, it is only natural that your thoughts will mirror the chaos and mess before you. To be present (to fully experience life’s greatest gifts) and to be productive (to strive for growth) are practically impossible feats when you are bombarded with not only your own naturally anxious mind, but also the madness that is your surroundings.

Since I began intentionally being more organized and less cluttered, I find that I have more motivation to adopt other new habits to maintain and strengthen a calmer and cleaner lifestyle. Good habits beget more good habits. And good habits help to create a better and happier you.

If you find yourself overwhelmed, stressed, worried, or anxious beyond your control, then take control of what you can–your surroundings. Create a safe haven; a comfortable, clean, and calm space where you can escape outside expectations and triggers. Give yourself the gift of coming home to a welcoming place where your shoes are easy to find and your bathroom doesn’t look like a warzone. And it doesn’t have to be all at once. What habits have you cultivated to help contribute to outer order inner calm?