During the public health emergency that led to so many of us working from home during 2020 and the first half of 2021, a good number of us found ourselves in the awkward position of having to reveal parts of our living space to our coworkers.
Everything Seems Fine Here
There we all were in individual boxes on the computer screen, stationed in front of a room that seemed to be maximized in terms of order and tranquility. Not a thing out of place. Not a pile to be seen. No extraneous laundry—folded or waiting to be folded—on evidence at all.
There are a couple of different ways to achieve this sense that you are a master housekeeper—even if you decidedly are not. One is to use a background image to mask the real situation in the room behind you. Another is to create a small area of serenity the exact size of what your computer’s camera would show to others in the virtual meeting while letting the unseen area exist in its natural state of chaos.
In many ways, the fact that we eventually all knew that most everyone was hiding the clutter just off camera was a relief. It made it feel less like a bit of dishonesty and more like a shared coping mechanism during an extremely difficult time.
Still and all, it turns out that we can give a boost to our mental well-being by creating more decluttered spaces beyond the Zoom window. Happily, we can experience the benefits of decluttering without committing to a full-scale assault on every last bit of messiness in our lives. We can start small—just like we did when we cleaned up a bit for the camera.
The Benefits of Tidiness for Mental Health
Perhaps the most obvious benefit of decluttering and straightening up is the fact that things are simply easier to find. No more rushing around looking for the car keys or the missing shoe or the only tie that matches your shirt or whatever. No more growing feelings of frustration when you can’t find something you want or need and you find yourself fruitlessly searching the same spots over and over again.
Lost objects can be upsetting for anyone, but the constant need to search and search can be particularly difficult for a person struggling with anxiety or depression because the increased levels of stress can amp up the symptoms of mental health disorders.
Decluttering in Smaller Bites
A second way tidying things up can support your mental health is by providing small, tangible “wins.”
Sometimes a disorder like depression makes it seem as though we just can’t muster the energy to accomplish anything. Every project we might attempt—at school, at work, at home—feels impossible.
In many cases, achieving one small victory can break the logjam and get you going again. So throw away all the expired condiments in your fridge. Recycle the pile of magazines and newspapers in the corner. Gather up the books around the house and put them back on the shelf. Gather up the pens and pencils scattered around your office.
Any small tidying project like those we have listed can provide a little spark. You remind yourself that you can, in fact, accomplish things. And that can make it easier to get started on the rest of your to-do list.
A third benefit of cleaning up your space may seem counterintuitive. But it turns out that decluttering can have a positive impact on your ability to get a good night’s sleep. This might seem weird given that your eyes are closed while you are asleep. Nevertheless, an environment that is cool, dark, and tidy is best for sleeping—and getting enough restful sleep is, of course, absolutely essential for maintaining good mental health.
Make Your Mental Health a Top Priority
At Johnstown Heights Behavioral Health, we are committed to providing compassionate, evidence based, personalized mental health care. If you are struggling with anxiety, depression, trauma-induced disorders, or other mental health challenges, we can help. We will listen with attention and respect and then work with you to find the strategies and resources that can help improve your mental wellbeing—and then maintain those improvements over time. Everyone needs support from time to time, and we promise to provide that support so that you can move forward with confidence and clarity about how to manage mental health issues.