Messy Home, Messy Mind
Before I began my own journey towards a Tidy Life, I was deeply sceptical as to whether or not there was a link between physical clutter and mental mess.
Could my messy home really be a sign that my mental space was far from clear?
My mum regularly told me when I was a teenager that she could predict an oncoming episode of depression, low mood, anxiety or self-doubt based on whether or not I was picking up my dirty socks. Like an earthquake expert, she could see the signs before I even felt the tremors.
As a teen I tended to view her predictions as codswallop of the highest order. As an adult I view her as a genius Mystic Meg-type, with piles of dirty clothes and chocolate wrappers instead of a crystal ball.
My adult life has, at times, been marked by struggles with anxiety, depression and bereavement. Having experienced these difficulties in the era of the smart phone, I have a photographic record proving just how correct my mum was. It could not be more evident to me now that the link between a messy mind and a messy home is strong. Observe, the Claire in her two natural habitats.
The first, we shall call the Tidy Life Claire. Calm, cool, collected, confident and in control, she lives in a habitat like this:
Stressed, depressed, overwhelmed and out of control. The Messy Life Claire lives in a habitat surrounded by half-finished projects, rubbish, and miscellaneous detritus. It looks something like this (this wasn't even a particularly bad day):
The starkness in the difference between these two sets of photos - taken only days apart - really helped solidify my belief that getting tidy can be the vital first step to a tidy mind.
Having transformed my lived environment into a place of calm has been a game changer. Am I always happy as a result? Of course not. I'm still human. Am I always super tidy? Don't be ridiculous. I'm still human. But am I significantly more content and in control? Yes.
I am not alone in suffering from mental health illness. In fact, a quarter of British adults will experience mental health issues each and every year. Much like physical illnesses, mental health issues rarely get better on their own. We have to treat them and - again like a physical illness - early treatment is always best.
I am not a mental health professional. I am a professional organiser and declutterer - no years of medical school required. If you have concerns about your mental health, reading my blog is not going to be your best course of treatment. Talk to your GP or a mental health professional about your concerns and follow their advice. My advice is intended only as a supplement to professional medical help or as a preventative measure to help ensure continued mental health, much like we eat our greens and go to the gym for our physical health.
Are you unhappy because your home is a mess? Probably not. Is your home a mess because you are unhappy? Possibly.
The link between mental health issues and our lived environments, although well documented in numerous scientific studies, is not a simple one. It does not always follow that you are depressed, so you are messy. Nor does it follow that you are messy, so you are depressed. Maybe you're just messy.