“Three Rules of Work: Out of clutter find simplicity; From discord find harmony; In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity”

Albert Einstein

I have never been someone who is hugely organised. I used to find it so hard to find enough time in the day to include everything, and when it came to work I often procrastinated up until the point I was pulling all-nighters in order o meet my deadlines which often meant my work wasn’t the highest quality.

But when my mental health was at its worst, this lack of organisation spread. My room was a mess, I left dirty dishes in sinks or hoarded used plates and glasses in my room. It even got so bad that I’d find it hard to even do the basic things to look after myself like showering or brushing my hair. Even getting out of bed was a challenge. And wasn’t this wasn’t laziness, as is often misunderstood by those with no understanding of poor mental health. The best way I can describe it to those who haven’t experienced it is that I cared so little, thought so little, of myself and my everyday life, and assumed others didn’t care either, that I didn’t see the point of doing anything to care for myself or my environment.

This led to a damaging cycle of self observation and opinion. My space was a mess, so I was a mess. I had no grasp of order, accomplishment or pride in myself or my space.  Studies have shown that clutter and mess can drastically affect ones mood. Around 90% of Brits feel that a messy environment makes them feel unproductive, or worse still, unhappy. An untidy house can also impede our willingness to socialise, which in turn can cause loneliness, and increase the likelihood that you argue with those you cohabit with. Mess breeds mess, whether that’s physical or psychological. If we are surrounded by an environment that looks unorganised, unattractive and unwelcoming, this can feed into how you think about yourself, how you think about others and how you assume people think about you.

Those who described their living spaces as “cluttered” are more likely to be depressed and fatigued than those who describe their homes as “restful” and “restorative.” Cluttered homes also lead for higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol for those who live in them, and the visual cortex can be overwhelmed by clutter, making it harder to allocate attention and complete tasks efficiently. Mess can stop you from finding ways to feel better.

However, there is also evidence to suggest that a messy environment encourages creativity. I began with a quote from Albert Einstein at the beginning of this post, championing organisation. And yet Einstein also said “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, then what are we to think of an empty desk?” Einstein had a notoriously messy work space, but he was undeniably creative in his work. If you want a more modern example of clutter breeding ingenuity, look at Steve Jobs, his desk and office were both disaster zones, and yet his creativity made him one of the most successful business men in history.

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This doesn’t mean you should trash your living and working spaces in order to be successful. Neither do the statistics I mentioned earlier mean that you should become obsessive about the neatness of your home or desk. Neither of these mindsets will help you feel better, neither is an entirely healthy alternative.

What I suggest is that you find a healthy medium. Don’t become so that your spaces become impossible to navigate, and don’t become so clutter free that you don’t clutter free that you have nothing that you need. Too much or too little is stifling. What I suggest is if you are finding yourself feeling unhappy in your environment, try to figure out why, and establish a new habit from there.

If you feel like you have little or no control over the things happening in your life, or your over your thoughts, try keeping your spaces more tidy. People who make their beds every morning are 19% more likely to feel well rested, and therefor happier. People also reported benefits from having clean sheets — specifically, 75% of people said they sleep better in fresh bed sheets because they feel more comfortable. The physical act of cleaning can provide great mental health benefits, because of the endorphins that are released by working up a sweat. Tasks such as vacuuming, ironing and gardening can burn between 150 and 300 calories – that’s about the same as a Zumba class!

If you feel trapped by your everyday life, and you desperately want a bit more freedom and choice, I suggest doing something spontaneous and messy for fun, but don’t go too wild. Leave a wet towel on your bedroom floor for a day. Try a new recipe where you get your hands (and your kitchen) dirty. Try and exercise what I call organised chaos, for example if you don’t want to hang all your clothes up at the end of the day, place the clothes you know you want to wear again on a chair, or in a specific spot in your room. Find a creative, messy outlet where you can effectively give a metaphorical middle finger to the things making you feel you need to fit a certain mould.

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For me, I find that keeping a structure and a routine gives me piece of mind when I feel I have little, to no, control over the other aspects of my life. Having a sense of reliability, comfort and order helps me to feel rooted and like I fit in the space. I feel ready for the day once I make my bed, and I feel more organised and productive with a tidy (but certainly not empty) desk. I also try to actively have more messy periods too, I cook and get the kitchen messy, or I sketch or draw using chalk pastels and get my hand all colourful and dirty. I also make sure I exercise and get all gross and sweaty, and then when I shower and change afterwards I feel so strong and accomplished. I try to find a simple, harmonious solution to a problem I face or a struggle I feel. But these are that work best for me. I encourage you to try finding new ways to make your environment improve and strengthen your mental well being.

Who knows? You might end up becoming as productive as Einstein.

Do you prefer a neat and tidy space, or organised chaos? Is there anything you might try to see if your mental health improves with a new environment? Please comment below.

List of international mental health support hotlines 

Sources used

Psychology of Cleaning –http://www.housebeautiful.co.uk/lifestyle/cleaning/a1723/psychology-of-cleaning-messy-home-unhappy/

The Powerful Psychology behind cleanliness – https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-truisms-wellness/201607/the-powerful-psychology-behind-cleanliness

Psychology Behind Messy Rooms – https://www.elitedaily.com/elite/psychology-behind-messy-rooms-messy-room-may-necessarily-bad-thing/708046

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