The Power of Tidying Up: How a Clean Home can Transform your Life + Mental Health 🏠

During our recent Declutter your Home, Clear your Mind masterclass, we heard feedback and insights relating to how clutter was affecting participants. Perhaps you can relate:

“My purse is worse than my house, and my house is pretty packed”

“Can’t find the stuff I’m looking for”

“I have two extra bedrooms that were supposed to be guest rooms but now they are just full of stuff

It even applies to our body weight! “I’m carrying the burden of my house on my body”

For so many of us living in a home environment that doesn’t support our best selves, our mental health suffers. Our ADHD overwhelm ratchets up, and so often too does our anxiety and depression.

How does an untidy or dirty home affect our mental health?

Are you feeling overwhelmed, stressed, or just not like yourself lately? It could be time to take a look at your living space. Research has shown that the state of our homes can have a profound effect on our mental health and wellbeing.

Think about it: when you enter a room that has cobwebs, dust, clutter, and dirt, it often leads to the thought of wanting to leave immediately; however, if we live in this place, we can’t ‘escape’. What typically results then are feelings of stress and overwhelm; we don’t like the situation and we don’t even know where to start improving it. An untidy house can also lead to, or worsen, feelings of anxiety and depression…and then…

Distracting or ‘numbing’ techniques come in. We hop on social media to put our eyes on something other than the our field of vision within the house. We might work more to avoid how inadequate we feel about our home situations. Avoiding the home by shopping (which worsens the problem), frequently eating out at restaurants, or socializing late into the night are all coping mechanisms too. But all of these can contribute to fatigue, weight gain, and an even worse home environment.

Because the state of our homes impacts our well-being in so many ways, having this one area of our lives in better order can open us up to our futures, new experiences, and even being *gasp* company-ready for when neighbors or friends come by with little or no notice.

We need to acknowledge that clutter and disorganization can lead to feelings of stress and anxiety, overwhelm and a lack of productivity. On the other hand, a clean and organized home can promote feelings of calm, confidence, and relaxation. Here’s a 5-step tidying-up process to follow:

First, assess the state of your home by answering these questions:

  • For those of us working from home, what does a dusty desk full of papers do to our ability to be more focused and productive?
  • How do you feel when you go into your bathroom to use it? Are there yellow rings in the toilet bowl? Is it hard to see yourself through the water stains on the mirror?
  • The kitchen – does having a sink full of dishes or dirty counters have you, yet again, ordering takeout? Do the crumbs on the kitchen floor irritate you and get transferred to the rugs in the others rooms of your house?
  • Are you able to relax in your living room or are the many visible wires, toys, pet hairs on the furniture standing out and burdening your mind?

Change always begins with awareness. When we are done distracting ourselves from the state of our house, we can acknowledge that we need help in actually decluttering and cleaning.

Second, start small. It’s essential to lessen overwhelm by focusing on one small area of your home. It could be a single kitchen drawer that gets decluttered or organized, a shelf, linen closet, or even a pantry makeover that can have us feeling much better in almost no time. As yourself if the item serves a useful purpose or brings you joy. If it doesn’t, it’s time to let it go. Consider donating or selling items that are in good condition, and recycle or dispose of anything that can’t be reused.

Third, create routines that work for you. It’s just like diets. What works for your mother, best friend, or celebrity on Instagram is probably not going to work for you. Why? Because your life situation is different, so are your challenges and obstacles. It’s like trying to make a size 6 shoe fit when you really wear a 9. You can probably be terribly uncomfortable for a little while, but eventually you’ll have so many blisters and be in so much pain, you’ll take those shoes off and throw them away. Same with others routines.

Fourth, and most important, a perfectly home doesn’t exist. The more you can release yourself from the chains of perfectionism, the better. A fulfilling, satisfying life awaits you, and you don’t need perfectly clean baseboards to step into a better, more expanded way of living.

Fifth, getting support and accountability can be a total game-changer. Playing ‘beat the clock’ and decluttering items with others, being able to share your challenges and get helpful feedback, as well as individual and group support, can be so helpful in implementing the plans you have in your head.

Does that sound like a dream? Oh, it’s definitely a reality. We’ve created the Chaotic to Clean Home Club so you can start reaping the benefits of a tidy space.

Remember, cleaning and organizing your home is not a one-time task. It’s an ongoing process that requires commitment and dedication. In the Club, we encourage you to set aside time each week to clean and declutter, share successes and challenges, decluttering and cleaning tips, and learn how to set up your own routines.

Joining the Chaotic to Clean Home Club can have a powerful impact on your mental health and wellbeing. By decluttering and organizing your home, you can reduce feelings of stress and anxiety and promote a sense of calm and relaxation. So, what are you waiting for? Start today and transform your life through the power of tidying up!

Is it Laziness or Rest?

Sometimes we can’t escape it either – the whispers of shame saying, “you’re being so lazy; you haven’t done _x_ in _y_ days.”

In the equation, “x” could be any activity and “y” can be any duration of time. Filled in, this could look like anything from “you haven’t vacuumed in over a week!” or, more recently and very apropos to this article, “you haven’t written a blog in over 20 days” and even “you said you were going to get started with daily yoga like over a month ago” (sometimes the shaming voice sounds like a Valley girl). Whether you call it “gremlin voice,” “inner bully,” or something else entirely, we all have it and oftentimes the negative voice has a loudspeaker and commands our attention, while our “inner best friend” voice gets drowned out.

We teach our clients all about this, and we practice awareness of these two forces ourselves. So, when the inner bully voice recently came booming into our thoughts, accusing us of being super-lazy by not writing a post in our usual time frame, we thought this was the best opportunity to explore the the truth and to let our inner best friend voice weigh in.

The gremlin voice will tell you all sorts of lies and typically either push you to over-compensate, over-perform, over-do anything (and consequently burn out) OR it will paralyze you with why-bother or ‘Eeyore thinking’, overwhelm and perfectionism.

The first step we take is to evaluate whether the accusations are true. In this case, we did an exploration into what “lazy” and “rest” actually mean. Here’s what we came up with:

The definition of lazy is “unwilling to work or use energy.” Laziness can look like staying in one’s bathrobe all day and watching hours of TV. Laziness can have you feeling stuck, mired, and doing lots of passive activities or staying ‘busy’ while ignoring the larger results you want or need to accomplish. This results in feeling like you’re not moving forward in your life (and perhaps even feeling like you’re moving backward). Laziness also drains your energy and can feel like giving up and quitting, avoiding the challenges in work or life. It is not useful to us and is not a characteristic you want to embody. Lastly, laziness also does not not help us produce desired results in our life.

Rest is not laziness; it is to “cease work or movement in order to relax, refresh oneself, or recover strength.” In a word, it is restorative – and when you’re done resting, you feel energized and revved up to go. Adequate rest can help prevent burnout and will help you move forward in a ‘juicier’ state of being. Rest is useful, necessary, helps you recover from illness and produce desired results in your life. Here’s the rub…HOW you rest, and whether the rest occurs BEFORE or AFTER an important activity, matters.

Not wanting to do something is normal – and is part of the human condition. The feeling can exist; however, the difference is whether we still proceed to do the hard things in our businesses and our lives, or lay around watching Netflix and not produce the results we want in our work and relationships.

One of the best things we’ve done in recent years is calendaring our week with REST first. After that, we schedule the activities to get us the RESULTS we want. We desire to be proficient with our time and work against Parkinson’s Law. The alternative, we’ve found, is that we get distracted with Facebook or social media, only to find that we spent 8 hours on something we could have done in one hour. Keep in mind too – procrastination is the result of perfectionism and produces stress as we make ourselves do something.

Produce or create, then rest. Repeat and harvest the results you want – whether it’s completing marathon training or writing a book.

Examples of rest:

  • finishing a blog post or podcast and then sitting on the couch to watch a favorite show
  • running a few miles and then taking a nap
  • cleaning the house and then soaking in the tub with a good book

What all of these have in common is that there is a sense of accomplishment and feeling of having earned a reward, this rest, after completing a task. The rest activity is enjoyable and restorative.

Contrast this with examples of laziness:

  • avoiding homework by watching YouTube makeup tutorials
  • shopping online instead of cleaning the house in preparation for guests coming over
  • playing video games for hours while your essay for business school is due tomorrow

What these have in common is that the activities aren’t truly a form of rest because there’s the background voice of “you should do your project/homework/cleaning…” and after we’re done with the YouTube videos or online shopping, we quite often don’t feel better or fueled-up for the activity we need to do. We might just act only under time-pressure of now having a few hours to write the essay before it’s due. This is common in people who claim, “I do my best work under pressure”; however, in this case, the end result is feeling worse and drained.

The best way to overcome laziness is to acknowledge that we don’t feel like doing the activity that needs to be done, and doing it anyway.

If we aren’t intentional with our rest, it can become laziness. The place to aim is somewhere in the middle of these two – work hard and rest (and play!) when we need to.

Bottom line: do you feel restored or drained after your version of resting? Do you feel like you’re producing your desired results? These will be your clues as to whether rest or laziness is involved. Commit to resting well – in a way that feels restorative, earned, and in a way that takes care of you.

3 Ways to Regain Life Balance ⚖️

If you’re feeling anxious, overwhelmed, pressed for time, and stressed, join the club! Only a minority of people report feeling peaceful, equanimous, and blissed out these days. The good news is that you can take a step in that direction and reap a bunch of benefits. Here’s how:

1. Identify what’s important to you, your mindset, and what throws you off balance. Once you identify your values and your non-negotiables, you can simplify and cast off the unimportant to-dos. Maybe rainbow-organizing your pantry and linen closets are a “nice to have” but family time is more of a priority right now. In terms of mindset – have you noticed how some people seem relaxed and carefree as they go about their duties while others seem rattled with the same amount of work? Leading a calmer and more peaceful life often has to do with our personal experiences, belief systems, and coping mechanisms…all of which influence our mindset and our thoughts. By changing those, we can change our behaviors and results.

Consider what throws you off-balance. Is it a last-minute request to participate in your child’s extracurricular activity? The pressure you put on yourself every year to balance not just work but with making each holiday or birthday ‘perfect’ for your family? Or does getting inadequate sleep cause you to feel easily rattled the rest of the day? There is a well-established link between our emotional state and our physical one. By adopting a more peaceful mindset, we can avoid chronic diseases and live longer.

2. Know the signs of an imbalanced life and burnout. Symptoms include headache, sleep disorders, anxiety, tense and stiff muscles, and digestive woes. The stress we’re under can contribute to poor immune function, focus and memory. It can also be detrimental to fertility and sex drive and even accelerate the aging process. Noticing these symptoms early in your life can help prevent you form sliding into burnout or into chronic disease states.

3. Add + subtract. We’re going to let our inner nerd out a bit as we reveal how much we loved stoichiometry and balancing equations in high school. Without complex chemistry and math, just imagine playing with weights on a scale – add another stressor to one side and notice how the beam shifts, especially if there aren’t enough restorative activities in the other scale pan. Here are some ideas to find your own balanced equation:

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❄️ Are you Frozen too? ❄️

areyoufrozentooperfectionism

One of the great joys of having young kids in the family is letting our own inner child come out to play. With the recent release of Frozen II in theaters, we thought this was the perfect time to relate this to being frozen in our own lives. Elsa the Snow Queen’s super-power is turning objects and people to ice. She can build icy bridges, stop an attack, and probably make ice cream whenever she wants (lucky). But her power has to be controlled. And while Elsa freezes things, we often freeze ourselves.

How we ‘Freeze’ ourselves

How do you relate with being frozen? In what area of life are you stuck? It could be around starting an exercise regimen, decluttering the basement or guest room, addressing the issues in your relationships, writing the book, updating the resume or asking for a raise. It could be in the area of health improvement, where we want to lose weight or become more plant-based, but we just can’t seem to begin or sustain our progress.

And because we are frozen, we just find ways to feel better about it. Sometimes we distract ourselves. Have you ever needed to study for a test and then looked at the messy state of your room and thought to yourself, “there’s no ways I can study in this environment”and then spent your study time detail-cleaning the room? We may distract ourselves with lounging in front of the TV, or spending hours on Facebook or Instagram. Numbing out with sugar, caffeine, smoking, or alcohol are also ways we try to make ourselves feel better about being frozen.

What makes this even worse is we put a layer of shame frosting on top. We start belittling ourselves and ‘wishing’ we were better. “Argh,” we think as we get up from the couch after 4 hours of watching Gypsy Sisters or Netflixing World War II documentaries, “I wish I had more motivation to have exercised today” or “I should have cleaned out the downstairs closet, it’s such a mess.”

Perhaps you can relate to unachieved goals, shame storms, and numbing out. Have you ever wondered what lies beneath?

What causes us to be Frozen

In a word: perfectionism. It sounds kind of beautiful, but it’s actually one of the worst words because of the meaning and effect it has in our lives.

It’s hard to say where our perfectionism comes from, but if you’ve ever grown up hearing someone say to you, “If you can’t do it right; don’t do it at all!,” that could be part of the origin. In essence, we are told that our actions, and even who we are, aren’t worthy unless perfect. What a toxic message to carry around with us in our lives.

Perfectionism tends to either paralyze us into inaction or cause us to go overboard and, consequently, burn out.

Why even start to clean the guest bedroom if we can’t do it ‘perfectly’ and we don’t have the five hours we believe it will take? Well, because you CAN make progress, even with 15 minutes of removing trash, clutter, and boxes. 

Perfectionism with our food usually looks like following a certain diet for a few days or weeks, then falling off the wagon and eating everything in sight. There’s an anti-dote to this that allows for sustainable weight loss; chat with us and find out more.

In short, perfectionism usually causes us to procrastinate, get overwhelmed, and shut-down or ‘freeze’.

What’s the cost of perfectionism? The cost is not getting things done at all, whereas we could have made progress. The cost is our inner peace; we don’t feel at peace when we feel stressed and frustrated by not having the time or ability to do something perfectly. Perfectionism can cost our relationships with other people. If you’ve ever yelled at a child or spouse because of a small mess or because they aren’t cleaning the ‘right’ way (your way) you can see the effect your perfectionism and words have on others. Also, and this is two-fold, if you value keeping your home environment museum-perfect over having your ‘messy’ grandchildren visit or if you feel like you can’t have visitors due to a messy, cluttered environment, your relationships with others will suffer.

Check yourself: next time you find yourself frustrated or overwhelmed by a challenge, look underneath that feeling to see if perfectionism is the undercurrent.

How to get Un-frozen

The power of un-freezing ourselves comes from realizing that progress > perfection. Initially, your belief in that statement will recoil. How could progress be better than that which is perfect? Well, considering the high costs and knowing something will never, ever truly be perfect….progress starts looking really good, right? Excellence, according to dictionary definition is, “the quality of being outstanding or extremely good.” If excellence means that we can take action, feel good about ourselves, and not get stuck, why would anyone choose perfectionism instead? 

A small step, taken consistently and continuously reaching toward our goal is better than no action at all. Perhaps you remember My 30-minute Morning Routine about how many people create obstacles for themselves to workout when 6 minutes of strength-training in your own home can still help you feel better and see results. But if you don’t learn to change your way of thinking, perfectionism will keep you hog-tied and frozen.

In Frozen II, Elsa’s sister, Anna, seems to display and embody more of the element – fire – in this movie. Here’s where we have an answer to thawing ourselves out and taking action. Fire motivates, it stirs passion, and, if uncontrolled, it will burn everything in its path. So the key here is to find your motivation and use it as the fire to propel you towards your goals, but without going overboard and burning out.

Motivation isn’t usually enough though, so consider other ‘hacks’ such as scheduling your workout. The 4 Tips to Fit in Fitness blog is a great place to start. When it comes to decluttering, check out our experience with the Konmari Method for inspiration and ideas to make it easier.

Want to write a book? Just start writing, imperfectly. A typo is not the end of the world; besides, there are opportunities to review and make edits (or have others do it!). Allowing perfectionism to rule in this area of your life means your story is never shared, in-print or online.

What’s one area of your life where you’re willing to become ‘unfrozen’ and warm up your ‘fire’ to take action?

Trauma: An Awakening to Resilience

trauma an awakening

No one is free from trauma, even those who eat goji berries. One need not look further than the biblical story of Job or into the Buddha’s insights with the Four Noble Truths to see that suffering is indeed part of the human condition. Avoiding confronting painful events is like holding a beach ball under water. Sure you can do it, but it takes a lot of energy and it’s still likely to fly out of the water anyway (usually when you least expect it). It takes courage to examine these painful experiences and to follow a healing path, knowing that recovery is possible.

Dr. Peter Levine defines trauma as a result of instinctual resources of self-protection being overwhelmed, possibly as a result of perceived life-threatening experiences. We often think of trauma relating to soldiers returning from war, victims of severe abuse (including neglect) and violence, or those who’ve suffered catastrophic loss, accidents, or injuries. However, Dr. Levine suggests that trauma doesn’t have to originate from a single, major catastrophe; in fact, routine invasive medical and dental procedures, illness, birth stress (for mother and baby), natural disasters, or even minor car accidents can be traumatizing.

Childhood Trauma

Research shows that adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are strongly correlated with the development of a wide range of health issues throughout a person’s life. Even if not a major event- for small children, just their parents yelling, thunder, or even a toy that scares them (i.e. a jack-in-the-box) can overwhelm their self-protective resources. Each person has their own resources and experiences that will influence whether something is exciting and fun or horrible and fear-inducing.

Effects of Trauma

Trauma can have debilitating after-effects in both mind and body. Unresolved trauma can be devastatingly life-altering and affect our thoughts, beliefs, habits, relationships, and decision-making abilities. For some, it can trigger physical pain and symptoms, even years later.

One of the wide-ranging ways trauma can effect us is by loosening the connection to ourselves, family, and even the outside world. We constrict our choices as we avoid certain places, people, and feelings. This can cause us to feel less energized and to lose opportunities for fulfilling our dreams and goals.

Begin your Healing Path

A gradual healing process can be helped by body-workers, therapists or psychologists, friends, family, life and health coaches, and more. This is a time to treat yourself gently and engage in extreme self-care. You may feel weak upon beginning your path, but your strength and your resilience will slowly build.

The good news is that we have within us the ability to master and transform trauma into triumph. May your inner journey help you recover a deeper sense of wholeness.

Emotional Ice Cream

sad-strawberry-ice-cream

It starts at a young age with associations we can’t remember making. But by this point in our short lives, we have engineered quite a few if-then connections.

If I throw my food on the floor, then mommy will be upset.

If I behave while at preschool today, the teacher will give me a sticker.

Perhaps there was a time where you fell, scraped your knee and began to cry because of the pain and shock. Maybe an adult offered you a lollipop to help cheer you up. Bam! Neural pathway made: “okay, so when I feel hurt, eating sweets is an acceptable solution”

Fast-forward decades years later and it’s still going on. A difficult conversation with your boss or spouse become an excuse, albeit mostly unconscious, to indulge in some ice cream. A night out drinking with friends is a ‘reward’ for a hellish, stressful week. And it’s OKAY to treat ourselves, but there’s a distinct mindlessness involved in emotional eating. Very few people think to themselves, “boy do these feelings hurt, perhaps I’ll eat enough chocolate chip cookies to squash them down.” And yet that unconscious belief can be at play, creating patterns that are deeply ingrained.

What to do?

The first step is awareness.

Perhaps the next time you find yourself reaching in the freezer for ice cream, ask yourself why you think you’re doing it. Perhaps you’ll reflect upon your day and remember that your boss assigned a short deadline for your next project, you’re completely overwhelmed by responsibilities, or that your mother-in-law criticized your parenting. Ice cream can seem like a balm for these ‘ouch’ moments, but there is more shame than comfort at the bottom of a pint of rocky road. Even if you find the answer to your question, you may not be able to change the behavior just yet. That’s okay. It’s something we can work on together; schedule your complimentary 20-minutes Discovery Call to get started.