Depression is a difficult mental illness to deal with. It comes with mental distress that is already difficult to comprehend and deal with, physical symptoms that add immensely to already existing stress, and can also cause changes in our environment and relationships that maintain the illness and sometimes even make it worse. It is estimated that 1 in every 4 Americans suffers from depression, and all of us will go through mild depression at some point of time in our life. While there are many things that can maintain and prolong this mental illness, a cluttered house is an important factor to consider when dealing with depression.
Life At Home
Researchers at the UCLA’s Center on Everyday Lives and Families explored in real time the relationship between 32 California families and the objects they have in their house. The findings led to a book titled “Life at Home in the Twenty First Century”, which took an in depth look at how middle class Americans use space inside their houses and interact with things as they accumulate over time. One of the key findings was that clutter has a profound effect on our mood and self esteem. The researchers found a link between high levels of cortisol (stress hormones) in women and high density of household objects: the more objects in the house, the more stress women felt. On the other hand, men didn’t seem to be affected by the mess. They also found that women associate tidy home with a happy and successful family, and their anxiety increases as the mess increases in the house. Surprisingly, even families that want to clear up the clutter felt emotionally paralyzed when it comes to sorting and throwing away objects. They have a hard time breaking the sentimental value in objects, even if they no longer serve a purpose, and also believe that some objects may even contain hidden monetary value. Americans consume 40% of the world’s toys even when they only bear 3% of the world’s child population, and these toys are littered in every room of the house. This means that most houses are constantly cluttered even if they are clean.
The space that we live in can become really difficult to live in when everything seems messy. When it comes to depression, we already feel beaten up, worn out, tired, hopeless, helpless, distressed and on top of it all, worthless. These feelings can make us want to never leave our bed, and sometimes, that’s what we end up doing. Clutter doesn’t just look bad, it also makes us feel bad. At the most difficult states of depression, we neglect cleaning ourselves as well as our house, and this can soon turn into a vicious cycle: each time we put off cleaning up, the clutter builds, and we end up feeling worse and more guilty, which fuels the depression even more, and we put off the cleaning again for later.
Clutter overstimulates our system and causes our senses to work overtime on stimuli that aren’t important or necessary in our daily functioning. It tends to draw our focus away from other things we need to be concentrating on. Moreover, clutter makes it difficult for us to relax physically and mentally because it keeps reminding us that we need to clean up. Moreover, the clutter can also remind us of other things in our to-do list, like paying bills or completing work that we have been neglecting. When we begin to think of sorting out the clutter, we can become too anxious to actually do anything about it, which then leads us into further guilt for not being able to clear up. It can also be extremely frustrating to find important things in a mess, such as keys and bills, and can sour our mood.
It can be extremely hard to get yourself to do anything during a depressive episode, but it is important that you address the mess in the house as a major contributor. One of the main reasons we don’t clean up is because we are daunted by the idea of doing so much work. However, there is a way around this: give yourself 5 minutes only. It might seem impossible to even move out of bed sometimes, but 5 minutes will be enough to get things started. You can even out a timer, and reach only for the nearest space, like a small table or a night stand. In that 5 minutes, clear away the stuff, throw out things that no longer serve a purpose, and maybe even dust the surface to make it more clean. This is enough, you need not do more, and you can crawl back into bed again after. This one tiny change can help you to feel a bit better and remind yourself that you can accomplish something, even if it is small. One small step can lead to bigger and better accomplishments. However, if you feel like your depression won’t let you do anything at all, it might be time to approach a licensed therapist or a mental health counselor to get professional help.