Mental Mess: Managing Your Clutter-Induced Anxiety

The state of my mental health is consistently linked to the status of my house. The clutter, the cleanliness, and the overall state of my home directly impacts my mood and my well-being. 

I used to think my mom was crazy for her constant desire for vacuum lines in the living room and clutter-free counters. Her constant nagging was really annoying when I was growing up, but I get it now. She couldn’t help it. Her need for cleanliness and orderliness wasn’t for appearances, but for her sanity. 

I have come to realize that I have a really hard time relaxing if my house is in disarray. It is impossible for me to sit on the couch and read or watch Dateline if there are dishes in the sink or clutter on the kitchen table. I physically cannot. Then I feel guilty and lazy, which I know is absurd, but I can’t help it.

I am not lazy. I work a full-time job, and I have two small children. My husband works a ton and I am usually on the go non-stop. So instead of focusing on Keith Morrison and the Weekend Mystery, I am stressing about the condition of my home. This prevents me from relaxing and getting a few spare moments of me-time. This is a vicious cycle I repeat all week long and it makes me anxious and depressed. I am short with my husband and kids and I feel like I am constantly yelling, which is a terrible feeling. 

Here are some things I have started doing in order to separate my mental state from the condition of my home:

Have a Safe Space

My safe space is my bedroom. It is one of the few places in our home that isn’t cluttered with toys and kid things. I usually keep it pretty orderly and I always make my bed. I tend to spend my time there watching TV in the evenings instead of on the couch in the family room because I am not distracted by what I should be cleaning or tidying.

Hire It Done

We are very fortunate and we pay for a cleaning service bi-weekly. If you are in a financial situation where this is possible, it is so worth it. My housekeeper comes during the day when I am at work so when I come home, the house is pristine and I can enjoy it for a few minutes before my kids destroy it. While I know this isn’t feasible for everyone, some other options might be available for your budget.

If cleaning your windows is something that you absolutely hate doing, getting a company to come in and do a spring and fall window cleaning is a great way to refresh your home without breaking your budget.

Some cleaning companies offer a seasonal clean like spring cleaning. By doing this a few times a year, things that you typically might miss in your weekly cleaning (baseboards, dusting blinds, etc.) get taken care of.


Start with the area that gives you the most stress. Maybe it is a junk drawer or a linen closet. Start small and go from there. I am going to spend the month of February tackling one small task a day of cleaning out and see how much better I feel at the end of the month. 

Regularly Organize and Donate Toys and Clothing

I usually go through my clothing several times a year, but I have to do it when I am in a certain mood. Sometimes I get in a mood where I will get rid of tons of stuff; other times, I struggle to get rid of a handful of items. I always have a bag on the floor of my closet that is full of things to donate. Sometimes when I try something on in the morning and I don’t like how it fits or it isn’t my style anymore, I toss it in the bag. 

Toys are a whole other beast. I try to go through them before my kid’s birthdays and before Christmas. It doesn’t matter if I went through them monthly, they never seem to dissipate. I toss anything that is broken or missing pieces. We also have two dogs that eat small parts, so that helps keep our toy collection in check. Most of our dolls look like they are from a nightmare. They are missing limbs and have chewed up appendages. I also try to go through toys when my kids are not home. If they are home, they will not allow me to get rid of anything. 

I try to set up donations quarterly. Vietnam Veterans of America allows you to set up pickups on their website, and they will pick up donations right from your porch. Sometimes I have two bags of donations, sometimes I have ten. It really depends on how ambitious I am when I am cleaning out toys and clothing.

Timed Cleaning

If I want to relax and have a few minutes to myself but there is a looming mess somewhere in my house, I do a timed clean. This means I set a timer on my phone or watch and I clean/straighten/pick-up whatever mess is bothering me the most for a set amount of time, usually either five or ten minutes. Once the timer is up, I take a break and do something enjoyable, like reading a chapter of my book.

Everyone is different; some people are not bothered by a cluttered home and disorganization, but that is not me. While I do not take it to the same extreme as others, it is something I deal with. The state of my home and my mental health are intricately intertwined. Although it is not something I can help, with the tips mentioned above, it is manageable. I hope you can find some ways to deal with your clutter-induced anxiety so that you can get that much deserved me-time.

Feeling like you need a digital declutter, too? Krystle shares tips for a digital spring cleaning!


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