Clutter! It is everywhere nowadays. Our brains are cluttered with too much information. Our emotions are cluttered with too much fear and anxiety. Our homes are cluttered with too much stuff. Our cars are full of clutter for the same reasons. Yet, our hearts remain beating in our chest, our breath moves in and out and our eyes choose to avoid looking at the messes we are leaving in our wake as we make our way through this pandemic and all of the negative emotional and mental turmoil it has brought with it.
Our spaces reflect our inner well being. Holy crap! The truth of that slapped me in the face as I looked at my office and realized I have been avoiding coming in here to do any work. It is, in part, why I have not written very much over this past year, but there is a lot more to it than just avoidance.
Depression played a huge part in the background. It was not enough to keep me in bed with the blanket over my head, but it was enough to keep me from getting things done, or, rather, from staying on top of the things that bring me joy. The clutter from Covid really reflected in my living spaces while the depression kept me from caring enough to do much about it other than cursory pickup and occasional cleaning binges when it got too over the top for me to ignore.
I just let out a huge sigh. There. I admit it. I fell victim to Covid Clutter. And I see that I am not alone in this. A quick search on Social Media for help with clutter gives you groups with hundreds of thousands of followers. With some light on the horizon of governments around the world starting to wake up to the truth of what does and does not work against a constantly mutating virus, the relief of taking responsibility back for our own health and well being also lifts the depression over lock downs.
When people step back into their power, regardless if they willingly gave it away or chose instead to not follow faulty science, aka the money, and do what we know is best for our own bodies, it still boils down to the same thing. We are responsible for ourselves. We have to make choices and then live with those choices. When others force their fears and choices upon us without consequence, we fall victim to the same fear and control whether we want to or not. For me, it was to a much lesser degree but I still felt the impact and hurt for those who have been so fearful of their own body.
If only there was a way to help when I too was starting to not care about my environment. Life is overwhelming! Absolutely. But in making choices, we get to decide how overwhelmed we have to be from it. Going back to our home, car and office reflecting our inner state of wellness, I knew I had to find a way to get back on track. I skated this past year, for a number of personal reasons I won’t go into here, but I did skate. I knew it when I was doing it and I didn’t really care, and that was the depression talking. I made the choice to let it. For a while, it was ok not to have to care about much. I needed the break.
Is It Hoarding Or Stocking Up?
I did the minimal amount of things around the house, I did dishes daily, emptied my dishwasher every morning, did laundry weekly, cleaned bathrooms, emptied litter boxes, brushed the dogs, but dust balls in the corner….yeah, I saw them…..and I ignored them. Every once in awhile I’d grab the handheld vacuum and go after them, but meh…..it was more so I wasn’t breathing it in while the fireplace was blowing air around…..I still didn’t care enough to keep it up regularly, so I hired someone to come in once a week to do it for me.
That helped me feel better. But I was still not taking responsibility for it myself. I needed to get in this office and start purging, clearing, cleaning and decluttering. I just couldn’t face it, until I could. What made the difference?
Partly reading the stories on Social Media people are too willing to share. The hoarding they were doing, the depression they clearly suffered, and the sad life experiences that lead up to them stopping caring enough. One post shared to get motivated they watch the tv program Hoarders while they purge. I didn’t even know there was such a program and still have not tried to find it. It is enough to know there are so many people struggling with clutter that I began to ask myself why am I allowing myself to stop caring enough?
If you have a serious hoarding concern, this article may help you decide if you need mental health support: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/17682-hoarding-disorder
There are a million reasons I could come up with, none of them valid. Not a single one. As you know, I am always about choice. I knew I was making a conscious choice not to care, and in my fashion, I also knew I could make a different choice. I just needed a reason why, to justify in my depression the one thing that would get me going again. In my meditations, and my journaling, I discovered something I want to share with you all.
Oh that is really a thing. But first, let me share why that is a thing. When someone has a traumatic event in their life, be it the death of a beloved, a physical injury, especially a head injury (I suffered 2 of them), chronic pain or a mental illness, there is still the awareness that things need doing, but the motivation to complete the task is missing. We start with good intentions, drive and motivation, but the overwhelm of what we are facing becomes too much. So we put things into boxes to deal with later and later never comes. We start another box and the pattern repeats.
I had boxes in every room of the house. Death boxes. Why are they called that? Because once you place your clutter in there, they die, never to be seen again. You might be able to see your desk or kitchen counter again for a while, but you will never go back into the box and finish decluttering from it. Out of sight, out of mind. Rinse repeat over and over and over. Soon, boxes are piled up in the middle of the room, or in the garage and you can’t park your car in it anymore, or walk into your guest room because you shoved all the boxes, extra gym equipment you never used and all the kids toys they don’t play with anymore that you just didn’t know what to do with……the clutter clutters itself up with more clutter. And the isolation and depression of this forced pandemic just makes victims of all of us.
It is no accident there are millions of people now on these sites looking for help. Myself included. After my 2 brain traumas from 2 major falls I took over the years, my ability to stay focused decreased as Attention Deficit Disorder took over. I could force myself to do things but as my caregiving duties became full time 7 years ago, my ability to focus on more than that became less and less. Hence the death boxes appeared.
There Is Hope
During this pandemic, it exacerbated the hoarding tendencies for everyone, or else it triggered Obsessive Compulsive Disorder to make sense of what was going on in the world. Who will forget the toilet paper shortages? Now food shelves are empty in some areas and the doom and gloom reports are that if we don’t grow our own food and have a way to filter water, we will all be left without much. So people started hoarding food and water supplies. As someone who lives in a very rural area and does not make it town often, stocking up on supplies is a normal way of life out here for all of us. But at what point does it become a problem? That is up to you to decide. For me, it was when I went looking for a container of crackers and discovered they were so old they tasted like cardboard. I’d been stocking food supplies for years and when my husband was healthier and willing to eat, that was fine. What I was mindlessly doing was continuing to buy larger quantities of food he no longer wanted to eat. I don’t even want to count up how much money I have had to throw away in expired foods.
Then there is my office. When I had to close down my office in town to be full time caregiver, I brought all of my supplements home and made room on shelves I put up in the closet. But, like with the food, I didn’t have a need for a lot of the products I had kept on hand for clients in person, so they expired. One cabinet alone netted a garbage bag full of supplements that expired between 2012 and 2018. I have a lot more to go through but you see why I kept putting it off.
The hope came in lieu of 3 women I discovered on YouTube. All 3 come from different methods of dealing with their own clutter but more importantly, to me, is they focused, not on cute but useless organizers that never worked for me, but on how to declutter when you have ADHD or tendencies to hoard out of fear, no matter the reason.
You Have Permission To Let It Go
It was a big revelation when one of the women said it was ok not to have your drawers stuffed to the top with ‘stuff’ or that it was perfectly fine to have a blank wall with nothing hung on it, covering it up or blocking it……..whoa? You mean not every wall has to be filled with ‘something’? News to me! Covid clutter had cluttered my thinking processes. It all made sense, but I needed a stranger to remind me that I used to be organized and happy with less ‘stuff’ and that was a huge relief.
Alzheimer’s causes one to forget what they have, so they buy more because who knows where they put the first brand new one. In the decluttering process I have discovered so many brand new and multiples of things I don’t need which my husband bought for that reason. 5 sets of tow hitches. 3 drills. 30 toothbrushes…..wish I was kidding…..multiple razors and the 30 blades that come in the packs, shoe polish…..who uses shoe polish much these days? He hasn’t worn a dress shoe for so long. But Alzheimer’s visited us 25 years ago now, so he’s had plenty of time to hoard and avoid and I let him. It brought him joy. Now, it is all outta here.
So I say to you, if you are struggling with Covid Clutter, it is ok now. You can let it go. You don’t need your kids 50 pounds of Legos they don’t play with anymore. Bless someone else’s child with it through donation. Those ten sets of bed sheets you bought in every color of the rainbow when you saw the ad on tv, let those go. Even if they are still new in the bags. You might consider you really only need 2 sets max. One on the bed and one to switch out seasons or colors. If you don’t have so many choices, you begin to organize your life a little better.
Shoes! You have 2 feet. Why do you need so many pairs of shoes? I have narrowed it down to 2 sets of each type, 2 pairs of hiking boots, 2 pairs of dress shoes, 2 pairs of yard work shoes, 2 pairs of running shoes (not that I run, but they have great cushioning), 2 pairs of slippers, 2 pairs of summer sandals and last, 2 pairs of slip ons for switching out from the yard shoes to inside shoes. 14 pairs of shoes/slippers is still a lot and I’m sure over time I will hone down even more. In the meantime I blessed others through donation of warm winter shoes, tennis shoes, boots and dress shoes I haven’t worn since 1997……and I remember the date because it was a cruise I took and I never wore them since…..but they were so cute……..
You Are Not Your Fantasy
Most importantly, let the Covid Clutter mind release you from the fantasy self. That person you wanted to become that would be the crafter, or the quilter, knitter, canner, woodworker, mechanic, baker…….whatever your fantasy of yourself thought you could become during Covid, it is time to let that all go. You are not letting yourself down, you are freeing yourself up to become a better version of who you truly are.
Letting your fantasy self go is not all that hard to do. You just need to have the tools in place to discover what you really need in your life and how having less actually allows you to have more. Such a concept!
Dana K Smith from A Slob Comes Clean has amazing insights into how to declutter and clean up your space without making more of a mess. 5 steps! It is how I was able to get through one garbage bag of expired supplements without feeling overwhelmed. Amazingly simple.
Dawn from The Minimal Mom – took her out of control household/farm and her family from chaos to minimal with the kids homeschooled and a part of the process. While becoming minimalist is not my goal, her tips and tools in how she did it and keeps her home clear and clean is inspiring. I have applied many of her ideas to my home with super results that do not hurt my heart in letting go of things.
Cas from The Clutterbug and HGTV show A Hot Mess. Find your clutterbug style by taking her free quiz, watch her videos on how to declutter and organize based on your results and start changing your life. And here’s a great tip. Watch her youtube videos all the way to the end. She gives funny, often hilarious real life examples of her experience from the topic of that episode that will often leave you cackling at her candor and real life antics. I love watching her, all 3 of these ladies in truth. They all have great insight into the cluttered mind and cluttered lives we find ourselves living.
You Have Permission To Beat Covid Clutter
Permission to let it all go and live a life filled with enough is the greatest gift I could give you right now. So grab a garbage bag and pick a room and start filling it with all the garbage you can visibly notice without making more of a mess.
Trust me, that one book case or kitchen cabinet will be enough motivation to get you going. If you are unwell and barely have energy to manage making your bed, use a small trash bag or grocery bag to start.
Just start. That is how you beat Covid Clutter. One garbage bag at a time. Soon, you’ll be ready to tackle your own office or closet clutter like I did.
Love yourself enough to care. That’s really what it is about. Big hugs. Thanks for reading with me.