How Clutter Affects Your Life & Your Pain

You’ve seen the social media memes that suggest clutter is good because it’s a sign of creativity. For a few minutes, the memes make you smile and let you know that you aren’t the only person with a clutter problem. However, the truth is that clutter is not a sign of creativity or of productivity. It’s a sign of disorganization, procrastination, lack of control, and sometimes a lack of value or respect. Clutter can even worsen you pain and your health.

Maybe you think it’s just not that bad, it’s just a little clutter, and a little messy but it’s not hurting anything. The fact is that clutter can wreak havoc with your physical, mental, and financial health.

Increases Mental Problems

You have pain. You take pain medicine. You’re already mentally foggy from the pain and the medicine. Did you know that clutter and disorganization also ruins y our focus?  It becomes hard to concentrate due to having to deal with the mess and thoughts that are continually popping up interrupting your flow. The exciting thing is that science is discovering that in some cases the clutter came before the mental illness. This means that there may be a cure.

Anxiety Inducing

Has this happened to you? You wake up and you know it’s going to be a bad pain day. You feel your anxiety creep up because you know you’re not going to be able to do what you had planned. You look around your house and notice that the clutter is causing anxiety too because you may be worried about someone coming over, or wondering how you’ll get everything done, or concerned that you cannot find an important document. You may have many other things going through your mind that can be classified as mind clutter. Worry, anxiety, circular thoughts are all increased when surrounded by clutter.

Risk of Becoming a Hoarder

While not all people who have clutter become hoarders, it can happen. I worry that I’m going to have several bad pain days in a row and the clutter is just going to pile up! What if I trip over my own junk just trying to go to the bathroom? It’s a valid concern. If you have clutter but it’s not blocking your walkway, and you still have some clean surfaces, and you can take a bath without removing the garbage you may be safe from being a hoarder. However, if you are starting to cross the line, you may want to get some help.

Chicken or Egg

People with lots of clutter physically also have lots of clutter mentally (depression, insecure, etc.) that makes life, in general, feel messy and out of control. When you remove the physical clutter, your outlook improves, and your mind becomes clearer. That kind of blows the idea that mental illness causes clutter – it’s really the other way around in a lot of cases.

Ruins Your Diet

When the house is dirty, your car is dirty, you’re tired and just running on fumes. You don’t have energy to pick up the clutter – much less cook a meal. You go to the closes fast food restaurant or have dinner delivered because you have no food in the house. Pain + clutter = poor food choices. It seems too hard to plan grocery shopping, cooking time, and so forth when it’s all so cluttered that you cannot find your kitchen table and your oven is full of books.

Junk & Fast Food Seems Easy to Grab

Eating in a disorganized environment will make it more likely you grab the easiest things without a lot of thought. There is even a book about it called “Lose the Clutter, Lose the Weight”  by Peter Walsh. It’s a useful book with scientific fact to back it up. And we all know that less weight on our joints can lead to less pain.

Is Not Safe

One of the saddest and most preventable injuries among the elderly and those who live alone is falling. Most falling can be prevented if you keep the paths clear and clutter free. The other danger that is prevalent when there is a lot of clutter is fire. Fire is also usually preventable, and one way to do that is to get rid of clutter regularly.

Falling Risk

One problem with having things in your path is the risk of falling. Pain medicines, loss of sensation in your feet or even a few papers in the wrong spot can cause a person to slip and fall. If you’re alone, you may be stuck and unable to call 911 – you could be stuck there for hours…laying there with all of your stuff! Not only could you fall, but anyone who visits you is in danger too.

How to Know if You Have Too Much Clutter

It’s clear that you want to avoid having clutter around if you can help it. Do you wonder whether you have too much clutter? Answer these questions honestly. It may help if you look at things from the perspective of highly respected people, such as your in-laws or landlord. They should help you decide if you have become “clutter” blind and need to take action.

  • Do I Have Any Clear Counter Space or Table Space? – If you must clear surfaces before you can do anything that adds a lot of extra work to your task. You should have clear surfaces that are designated for doing specific tasks each day.
  • How Long Does It Take to Find Things I Need? – If you spend a lot of time, more than five minutes, searching for items that you need such as your shoes, wallet, keys, hairbrush and so forth you may have too much stuff piled or cluttered together.
  • Have I Ever Bought a Replacement Then Found the Item Later? – If you’ve done this, it’s likely due to poor organizational skills and an excess of clutter. This is such a waste of money and can cause a significant amount of anxiety, stress, guilt, and more.
  • Do I Know Where Things Should Be? – You’ve heard the phrase, “A place for everything and everything in it’s place.” Everything in your house should have a “home” of it’s own, whether it’s a specific drawer or in a particular room. You should be able to tell someone where most items can be found in your home. If you can’t picture where the item should be, you probably need to make some changes to your setup or methods.
  • Does Your Family Know Where Things Should Be Kept? – You’re not the only one who should know where things are. If you have things the entire family uses, everyone should know where those things live. In addition, a firm rule should apply regarding returning items to their proper place immediately after the task or project is finished.
  • Do I Feel Embarrassed to Invite Company Over? – If your house is so messy and cluttered that you don’t have company over, due to the vast amount of work needed to get things ready and presentable, you definitely need to make decluttering and organizing plans. However, you need to make both plans part of your daily routine to achieve and maintain your success.
  • Is my Family Embarrassed by the Home? – Has your family expressed feeling embarrassed about their home? Is there an “understanding” among you that guests should be kept away from certain rooms or areas because of the clutter? Does your family play “hide the junk” by hiding things in closets, drawers, or unused rooms rather than putting things in their correct spot on a daily basis? This is a sure sign that the whole family need to make changes, which will probably include mindsets and habits.

These signs of too much clutter may not be cause for concern if you only have one or two of these issues. However, if you have three or more, you probably should do something about confronting the clutter in your home or place of business, as soon as possible. You’ll improve your life, decrease your pain and think more clearly!

~ Until next time!  Dr. JB Kirby



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