Depression and Clutter: Breaking the Cycle of Inertia

A few weeks ago, organization guru Marie Kondo’s new 8-episode show, “Tidying Up”, began airing on Netflix. I know this because nearly everyone I know has been talking about it. The show is inspiring, and packed full of unique ways to unclutter the environment in which you live. As a longtime, card-carrying minimalist, I am thrilled that the whole “decluttering” movement is catching on. But minimalism isn’t easily accessible to everyone. People who suffer from depression... those who may benefit the most from living in an organized and uncluttered space... find the execution to be extremely elusive.

By its very definition, depression causes a lack of energy, low motivation, and difficulty making decisions. How, then, does a person with depression keep up with daily tasks that keep their world beautiful and stress-free? The answer is, they don’t. The plunge into depression is nearly always accompanied by deepening chaos and disorder. Things pile up, and chores are left undone. This leads to worsening depression, greater disarray, and the cycle downward continues. Here’s my tip for breaking this cycle. Maybe it's something you've tried before, in your own way. It works for me, and has worked for many of my clients. While it is not a “one size fits all” solution, it is unlikely to make things worse. I teach something I call “The Five Minute Rule”. For you, it might be ten minutes, or seven minutes, or 45 seconds. You do you. The idea is to get out of your “stuckness”, so the cycle can begin rolling in the other direction.

Think of a task you want or need to tackle... let’s say it’s cleaning your craft room. Then, commit to spending five minutes (or three minutes, or one minute, or 30 seconds) doing something to make progress towards that task each day. There may be days when you’re so down and lethargic, the progress you can manage is to walk into the room and set a garbage bag on the table. The next day, maybe you’ll open a drawer and throw away two torn pieces of paper. THAT’S OKAY. Here’s the important part. Your goal is to become unstuck... to move the stone forward... not to get your craft room cleaned in a day. So be mindful of your self-talk. Keep it gentle, and positive. You took action. You made progress. And it may have been the most difficult thing you accomplished all week. Do the same thing each day. Keep moving forward at a steady pace. If, on any given day, you feel motivated to work past your goal time, that’s fine... but the daily goal time does not change. That is, if your goal is five minutes a day, you can choose to work for 30 minutes one day, if you feel up to it, but the next day your goal is still five minutes. Momentum is excellent... setting yourself up for potential disappointment is not.

A growing accumulation of scientific research shows a strong correlation between going clutter-free, and improvements in depression (and anxiety).  When you make slow but steady progress, and acknowledge the courage and effort it takes to break through your own inertia, you might just find the cycle of: depression > clutter > depression > clutter > depression is replaced with something that looks more like this: Progress > satisfaction & competence > progress > satisfaction & competence > progress

One last tip, for those of you who are feeling a little more ambitious. You might consider using The Five Minute Rule in more than one realm of your life. Perhaps you’ll want to spend five minutes working on a financial goal, five minutes on a cleaning goal, and five minutes on a self-care goal. And please, don’t forget to reward yourself, when you are done. Guilt-free rest, positive affirmations, a bubble bath, creative time... whatever eases your depression and honors your magnificent, hard work.

If you are interested in learning more ways to improve your self-worth, and enhance the quality of your life, please check out my classes & workshops. I currently have spots available in my upcoming LIVE Online "She Did It Anyway" workshop, which will focus on helping you identify and get beyond your own hurdles, so you can live a more fulfilling and joyful life. You can learn more about it, here.

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