House Therapy

End the Stress of Mess

Mess can be exhausting, overwhelming and time-consuming – all of which are huge calls on your limited, precious energy reserves. This year it can be different. It’s just a matter of choosing a different way to live.

WHAT’S STRESSFUL ABOUT MESS?

Mess is a massive drain on your time and on your energy. Some people will get to the end of their lives and the gravestone will read “Here lies Bertha Smith, who did want to write a novel but instead did spend all her life looking for things. May Heaven be her Container Store and may she at last be able to layeth her hands on her scissors. The Lord shall provide his flock with an eternal tape dispenser in his kingdom above, though it was in fact available from Staples in this Earthly Realm. May she rest in peace knowing her frustration hath endeth and she will not needeth neither her glasses nor car keys again.”

Messy people waste too much life, it’s that simple. Just 15 minutes a day spent looking for things – that’s just five minutes morning, noon and night – is 7,300 hours of your life! Three and half years’ worth of 40 hour weeks looking for the sticky tape, keys, glasses and your phone charger.

If you are messy and others aren’t – check out the effects of your mess on others. Is your son staring miserably as you eventually hang a “Messy House, Happy Kids” poster, having been looking for the hammer for an hour? Has your husband become clinically depressed? Is your wife currently driving across Arizona in a bid to escape your endless unfinished DIY projects?

If you’ve grown up with mess and this is now normal for you, it doesn’t mean it’s a good life choice for you now. The good news is it’s perfectly possible to live in a different way. The tiniest apartment or the most sprawling mansion can be delicious, spotless and uplifting. There is no ‘messy gene’ and no such thing as a ‘disorganised personality’. Organised, tidy types are simply people who don’t want to live in chaos so they make dealing with mess a priority whilst disorganised people don’t. Transforming anything is just a decision, ‘I have decided to live with ease in a clear, organised and flowing house’ or ‘I’ve decided I want a better standard for me and my family.’ You make a clean, simple decision from which a new way of being flows.

Living in a messy, exhausting way is a result of a story you tell yourself. Once you change the story, change is easy. If you cling grimly to the story however, you have resistance (and often those pronounced lines around the mouth) which takes too much of anyone’s energy to overcome. Overcoming internal resistance is one of the biggest life drains there is.

DENIAL and DELUSION

Do you recognise yourself in any of these mind loops?

“It’s cluttered but clean”

I am going to deal with this straight. It is enough work keeping a clutter-free house clean. If you have drifts of stuff in corners, you don’t have a clean house. If your airing cupboard looks like a church hall jumble sale, it’s not clean. It’s virtually impossible to clean overly-cluttered houses. Be honest – do you remove all the clutter, clean it, then clean behind it and put it all back in a heap? Who has that kind of time, inclination and energy?

“It’s not that bad.”

If you can’t take anyone into your house or into a particular room, there is a problem. If someone asking to use your bathroom would cause a level of mortification requiring extensive psychotherapy or immediate emigration, this is the year for you to drop that kind of life burden.

“It’s temporary. I will get round to doing it.”

That temporary you’re talking about? That can last decades. The reason is, until there is a shift in priorities, it will stay messy. Saying it is ‘temporary’ lets you off the hook for making that shift. It’s like Newton’s Law of Inertia, something in motion – in this case, the brain worm ‘it’s temporary and I will tackle it later’, continues in motion at the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an external force (Amanda Magazine).

“We’ve just moved in”

Four years is not ‘just moving in.’ Did you move in fresh and fruity but now you are at the chin wax stage and the house is a still a tip?

“I’m keeping it for repairs”

You will not repair the broken umbrella spoke or Wincey Willis Teasmaid Alarm Clock.

FEARFUL TALES

Simply put, people like this put stuff before the quality of their day to day living. If you feel depressed and defeated as you arrive home, then your house is not serving you. It’s serving a story you tell yourself about your stuff. That story could have its roots in impoverished grandparents who came to live in Croydon having travelled from Kazakhstan on the back of a donkey in 1902. You have lost count of the times that you were told your gran didn’t even have room for an eggcup in the donkey basket and their entire possessions amounted to a crochet hook and nail file for the hooves. They kept everything. Margarine tubs (for seedlings), newspapers (for information), books (for education) and old moth eaten vests (for dusters). The last item admittedly was genius, as now they are selling for £500 on eBay as part of the ‘90s Grunge Redux’ trend. You have continued this trait, even though you’ve never been on a donkey in your life and your kitchen drawer has seeds in there that old they have a young Percy Thrower on the front.

I knew one woman who was congealed in a tiny house as her grandmother made handkerchiefs from threadbare sheets and she felt she should do the same. Sheets were stacked giving her enough material to supply each man, woman and child of Estonia with a handmade brushed nylon handkerchief. She would be able to make several thousand. “Have you ever made a single one?” I asked. “No,” she replied. “Can you afford to buy yourself a handkerchief?” “Yes of course.” “Do you have a constant runny nose?” “No.” You can see from this example, the quality of her day to day living was downgraded in favour of storing supplies to run a handkerchief sweatshop. It would be bad enough if she were sitting there morning, noon and night, the gentle thrum of her sewing machine putting the final touches on the 223rd handkerchief that week, but this was a future (read delusional) endeavour that never happened. To make everything worse, she felt guilty about not doing it and would medicate this guilt with cheap Shiraz and garlic bread. Several stone overweight and pre-diabetic after years of this guilt response, she eventually realised it was time to change the story.

“I may need it one day.”

You may need it, you may not. This is a lack of faith, that when the time comes to stir a tin of paint, you won’t have what it takes to get yourself a stick, so you have to store them ‘just in case’.

“I won’t get another one.”

Doubting Thomas’ and Thomasina’s everywhere keep packaging, a micro globule of expensive skin cream with an iffy whiff and empty perfume bottles as they think they will never have another. Let it go and just put a new bottle on your MySwag list (www.mysw.ag) and watch a new one come in.

“It’s a shame to give books away.”

No, it’s not. It’s a shame to clog up your house with things that are not serving you, while you try and make a small clearing to sleep in amongst 12 volumes of Encyclopedia Britannica and your Gluten Free Armenian Vegetarian Hors d’Oeuvres for Beginners Cookbook series. Books that have no chance of being re-read weigh a tonne, literally and psychologically. People who hoard books and never edit their collection seldom let in new ideas – they simply do not have the space for them.

“It’s useful” 

Useful has the word ‘use’ in it. Have you ever used any of the spare buttons? No? Then they are not useful.

Fear of letting go ruins people’s experiences of how they can live in their home and prevents them getting the maximum benefit from what they are working all the hours to pay for. Your shelves are for genuine treasures and things that bring you joy and ease. Assorted bric-a-brac, boxes of old birthday and Christmas cards dating back to 1974 and 40 years’ worth of threadbare linen do not make the cut.

 

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This is an excerpt from Issue 4 of Amanda Magazine, Read the full article by ordering your copy now.

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