Is your house driving you crazy? It just might be

You know instinctively that you feel better about your home when its clean, but have you ever stopped to notice how it makes you feel emotionally? 

You know that it drives you crazy when the house is a mess, but the consequences affect you more than you would have imagined. 

They have found that environment affects how people act. According to Karyn Hill Phd, "People are apparently sensitive to information they get from the environment to the point that it influences decisions they make about what is moral and what is acceptable behavior." 

So consider what information your home is giving to you.

Let’s say there are dirty dishes piled in the sink in the kitchen, glasses sitting around the living room, papers and books on all the floors. Clothes are thrown around on  furniture in the bedroom. This is more than disorganization. What message does this send?

One possibility is the mess says you don’t matter. You don’t matter enough to have a clean, well-kept environment. Another possibility is that  your home tells you that you are out of control or can’t manage your life. Seeing that message everyday is likely to influence the way you feel about yourself. Maybe the mess in your house reflects your sense of powerlessness and helplessness.

A messy house decreases the likelihood that you would invite someone over. It is likely to increase isolation.

Wait a minute, you might be thinking. My house is a mess becauseI’ve been sad, depressed, scared, or overwhelmed. My house is a mess because I feel helpless. My house is a mess because I am emotionally sensitive and managing my emotions takes all my energy.

That may well be true. The problem is that having a cluttered or unkempt living situation could add to your down mood, lack of self-respect, thoughts of of helplessness, thoughts of being overwhelmed and lethargy. And, like many situations, the problem spirals downward.

If your house is messy, you may be giving yourself the message that “messy” behavior is okay. Imagine you are watching a movie on television, eating ice cream from the carton, and enjoying white cheddar popcorn in your living room – which looks like a Texas-sized hurricane passed through. There are papers everywhere, empty soda cans and candy wrappers on the floor, and stacks of unpaid bills scattered over the coffee table. You’re tired when the movie is over and lethargic from the food. What are the chances that you will put your spoon in the dishwasher, throw away the ice cream carton and put up the uneaten popcorn? What are the chances you will pay the bills?

You house may be giving others the same message. Messy behavior is OK.

If your house was clean and neat and if your bills were in one place where you always do your finances, the chances that you would clean up increase, maybe not that night, but the next day.

In the terms of Dialectical Behavior Therapy, cleaning your environment is a form of increasing mastery. Increasing your sense of mastery helps decrease thoughts of helplessness and increases your ability to manage your emotions.

Thinking about cleaning a messy house can be overwhelming and discouraging. You might want to commit to cleaning for ten minutes each day in one room. Maybe start with your bedroom where you wake up every day. Maybe you could clean for ten minutes in the morning and ten minutes at night.  A different strategy would be to do one task each day. For example, on Monday you wash a load of clothes. On Tuesday you wash dishes.

Each individual is different. Consider how your living environment affects the way you live your life.  If the impact is significant, then make a plan to change your home to a place that is more supportive. Keep the plan doable and simple. Track your progress. Reward yourself for each step that you take. (Really, rewarding yourself is important.) Maybe sort out your belongings, keeping the things that matter to you. Consider making small changes that make your home pleasant and meaningful for you.

This makes it easy to break that cycle and make your home the haven you've been craving 


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