You’ve probably heard about the clutter-anxiety-depression link. Put simply, an excess amount of “stuff” leads to chronic stress. It can be a vicious cycle: Disorganization fuels anxiety, which leads to depression, which lends itself to more disorganization. While you may not have associated this cycle with your recovery from chemical dependency, disorganization at its worst can hijack your quality of life and lead to feelings of negativity and lack of control.
When you return home from residential or outpatient treatment for drug or alcohol misuse, it’s not uncommon for life to feel like it’s in shambles. While you were addicted, you may have allowed bill-paying, housecleaning, meal planning and home organization to fall by the wayside. As you begin to develop new recovery routines, it’s wise to make organization a priority. When you develop new workflows for keeping your home, finances and schedules in check, you’ll breathe easier and enjoy sober life more.
Spring Cleaning for a Fresh Start
Spring is approaching, and it’s the perfect time to get a jump on purging and tidying your home. Start simple with tips like the ones below, and add small tasks as you make progress. Don’t know where to start? Books like The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo offer useful tips. “Keep only those things that speak to your heart. Then take the plunge and discard all the rest,” says Kondo.
If clutter mismanagement or hoarding is part of your addiction story, discuss solutions with your sponsor or recovery support team as you work to develop a structured, healthy home during early recovery. You may also need to partner with a financial planner to get a grip on debt payoff, home budgeting and retirement planning.
- Everything in its place.One of the biggest organizational problems is the habit of leaving things where we last used them. Whether it’s scissors, a pen, a dust rag or the vacuum, take 30 seconds to put each item in its assigned home after using it. As this process becomes a habit, it will drastically reduce the amount of clutter you have to deal with in your home. Don’t have a place for your scissors? Designate one now!
- Cull the extras. Some people are “collectors” who end up with five cutting boards or eight staplers when one or two would suffice. While having a back-up isn’t a bad idea, having too many itemsis. Over the next couple months, go through your home, room by room. Donate extra items cluttering your drawers. As you do so, remind yourself that “stuff” doesn’t have a hold on you. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how emotionally lighter and less overstimulated you feel when your environment is characterized by tidy, spacious cupboards, drawers and shelves. And, giving things away makes us feel good. According to the UK Mental Health Foundation, “Helping others in need, especially those who are less fortunate than yourself, can provide a real sense of perspective and make you realize how lucky you are, enabling you to stop focusing on what you feel you are missing – and helping you to achieve a more positive outlook on the things that may be causing you stress.”
- Tame the paper monster. It’s easy for last week’s mail, this week’s school papers and the almost-due bills to end up in a pile on your kitchen counter. These clutter hot-spots are a continual source of anxiety, and they make it more likely that you’ll miss a payment, incur a late fee or forget a permission slip. Set up a recycle bin and a shredder in your mudroom or laundry room. Before you bring the mail or other paperwork inside, evaluate each piece and shred what isn’t necessary. Write events on the calendar (and throw away the flyers), pay bills when they are received, and take photos of documents you might need to refer to later. Keeping a digital record is a great way to save physical space.
Foster Healthy Emotions During Recovery
When it’s time to declutter your home or bill-pay system, don’t be surprised if you have emotional setbacks. Guilt, sentimental attachments and fear of loss are complicating emotions as we let go of the “stuff” that entangles us. Remember, also, that getting organized – like recovery – is a process that takes time. Offer yourself grace, reward yourself for small victories, and keep in touch with your sponsor or support group when you encounter organizational difficulties that may be tied to your chemical dependency.
If someone you love is caught in a cycle of substance misuse that leaves their life a mess, dial 575.586.5604 to request a Vista Taos clinical assessment. Our extended care and residential treatment programs have helped thousands of residents get sober, reclaim their joy and renew their hope. Tomorrow starts today! Contact Vista Taos’ addiction specialists by phone or email, and we will be in touch promptly to help.