I was a messy kid. You know, the kind you see in movies growing up, who decide to bake a cake or turn the living room into an art museum and have to scramble to clean before mom and dad get home from work. How does a messy kid clean (regardless of amount of time, honestly)? Sweep it under the rug, shove it in the closet, and if there’s space left from the last fiasco, under the bed.
Of course, this only led to more trouble down the line.
A messy childhood led to a cluttered young adult life. And yes, I used the excuse “But I know where everything is!” Even now, as an adult, I have the occasional piles of clutter. And while I know what’s in those piles, it doesn’t excuse the fact that I should probably sit down and organize, putting things in their place. It also doesn’t mean I’m going to actually do what I should. I’m still learning.
Growing up, when I cleaned, I was usually stressed. Dishes piled up in the sink, clothes strewn on the floor in a way that leaves a narrow path from the door to the bed, and the occasional shoe that nearly trips you when you try to go anywhere. I would let it get so bad that it caused further stress. If I wanted to start an activity or hobby, I’d either take it out of my room (and make a mess elsewhere) or I just wouldn’t begin because I “couldn’t.” I stressed myself out to the point where I’d snap and clean the whole house. To some people, that might sound like a good thing. But when you’re already stressed and counting on top of a messy home, cleaning becomes an anxious, frustration-filled task that drains you by the time you’re done.
If you plant a flower and it fails to grow, is the flower or the environment you planted it in to blame? What I’m saying is, as people, we need to do what’s best for ourselves. And part of taking care of yourself is tending to your environment. If you actively take care of your home and personal space, you’ll reap more of the benefits more often.
This is what I’ve started doing to declutter my space (physical and mental):
1. Clean house
Yes, that means all the tedious chores you did as a child. Gather all your dishes in the kitchen, pick up your clothes and start a load of laundry. Grab a trash bag and move about the house collecting all the garbage. Make a list of what you want to accomplish, and cross them off as you go. Then go back. Make piles of organized chaos. Give them themes. If you find a bunch of books, make a pile. Leave them until you know where they go. If you know where they go, make sure it’s clean first. Make a pile for things that don’t have homes.
2. Organize the chaos
When it’s time to put things away, go back to your piles and organize them. Put your books on your bookshelf, art supplies in your craft box and knick knacks where they go. Start big and edit down. Don’t organize your craft box if it’s contained. Put everything together and get it out of the way, and then go back to fix the small things. Before you do this, sit down with your homeless items.
3. Donate and sell
I own more clothes than I wear, and some of them still have the tags on them. If you find yourself in this predicament, trust me: If you didn’t wear it in the 10 months you’ve had, you’re not going to start wearing it tomorrow. If you have clothes and accessories you don’t wear that are trendy and relatively new, look into selling them through sites like ThredUp, Poshmark and even Instagram to give them a new home. If the items are slightly more worn in, you can donate them to Goodwill, The Salvation Army or local shelters. Do some research about what you can do with what you don’t need. There are plenty of sites that will buy back textbooks, old electronics and baby clothes as well. Consult eBay and Amazon, and if you’re in good weather, hold a garage sale.
4. Toss it
If you don’t need it, don’t want it and can no longer use it (and the same can be said for other people), toss it. They say one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, but if it’s long past it’s expiration date (i.e.: 2-year-old mascara, VHS tape of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory with the film hanging out of the cartridge, etc), please let it rest in peace—and maybe replace it with an up-to-date version.
5. Open the windows
Let the sun in and air out the house. It might sound silly, but after a long day of cleaning, the springtime breeze can be the cherry on top to newly refreshed home.
Note: I’m just one person with my own experiences. If you are struggling with mental health or have had experiences that are seldom talked about in society, and you’re interested in contributing your story, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.