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Spring Cleaning for the Soul: 6 Benefits of Decluttering While in Recovery

Spring is an ideal time for decluttering while in recovery. But beyond simply cleaning up your house, decluttering can have several mental health benefits that you may not expect. Working toward simplifying your space, your life, and your thoughts can go a long way in propelling you through the recovery process.

6 Key Benefits of Decluttering While in Recovery

Decluttering while in recovery can bring about a cascade of positive mental health benefits. A cluttered or chaotic environment can bring you down more than you might expect — and spring cleaning can give you a fresh start not only in your home but in your life as well.

1. Reduced Stress and Anxiety

Clutter is typically defined as an overabundance of physical possessions, which contribute to a chaotic or disorderly home. Unsurprisingly, people who feel like they live in a chaotic or disorderly home often have heightened levels of stress and anxiety.

Researchers have investigated clutter as a potential risk factor for stress and found that having too much clutter detracts from what’s known as a “psychological home.” This term is used to describe how a person identifies themselves with their physical environment, which can positively or negatively impact how they feel on a daily basis.

Essentially, when your home is chaotic, disorganised, or cluttered, you may feel disconnected from your own home environment, which can contribute to stress and anxiety. Decluttering your home can help you reconnect to what’s important in life — including reconnecting with the possessions in your home that feel like extensions of you, not just objects taking up space.

2. Improved Mood

The reduced stress and anxiety you can gain from decluttering while in recovery can directly contribute to improved mood. But the mood benefits of decluttering extend far beyond simply not feeling stressed; you can feel more positive and enjoyable emotions as well.

When your space is cluttered, it’s all too easy to fall into negative patterns of thinking. You may wake up in the morning, and the first thing you notice is a cluttered bedroom. “This space has been messy for months — I need to clean up,” you may think to yourself. In this way, you’ll start your day by focusing on negativity, which can quickly transform into a negative perspective for the rest of the morning.

Decluttering while in recovery doesn’t necessarily mean you wake up and celebrate your cleanliness, but it does prevent you from falling into an immediate pattern of negative thoughts. It provides you with space to focus on the positive.

3. Enhanced Focus

A clean, organised space can do wonders for your focus. Cultivating focus is all about minimising distractions, and clutter can quickly become one of the most distracting elements in your daily life, easily interfering with getting your work done.

All too often, people will start on a focused task, only to begin thinking about how they need to clean their homes. They sit down to work, but slowly recognise the clutter on their desk, on the table, or tucked into a corner shortly after and start beating themselves up rather than focusing on the task at hand.

Taking a few days of spring cleaning to declutter your home will pay dividends when it comes time to get back to focused work. When you sit down to focus in a clean house, there will be much less potential for your environment to distract you.

4. Boosted Self-Esteem

Spring cleaning will often result in a significant self-esteem boost. This harkens back to the concept of a psychological home, where your home and space feel like an extension of yourself, a place of respite and calm, and a clean, decluttered, and welcoming environment.

When people live in cluttered or disorganised homes, they don’t associate themselves with them. “This isn’t me,” they tell themselves — it’s just a matter of circumstance. But when your space is put into order just as you like, you can see yourself in it.

It simply feels good to have a cohesive, decluttered, clean space that reflects how you feel things should be. This can be an incredible self-esteem boost that motivates you throughout your day.

5. Improved Relationships

You may have thought to yourself, “I can’t invite my friends over; this place is a wreck.” If so, decluttering your space can provide a dramatic improvement in your relationships.

Again, it’s important to recognise that your space is an extension of yourself. When the space is disorganised, cluttered, or messy, you can try to hide this from the people you care about the most, and in so doing, deprive yourself of meaningful social connections and relationships.

By decluttering your space, you open the door to new avenues of connecting with others and sharing more of yourself with the people you care about the most. This depth in relationships — showing all of yourself, rather than just yourself at your best — is the key hallmark of making meaningful, lasting connections.

In recovery, where these social relationships have been associated with positive outcomes for decades, this becomes critically important. Hiding aspects of yourself from your friends and loved ones carries close parallels to the behaviours that many people engage in during substance use and should be avoided wherever possible.

6. Minimised Triggers

Especially early in your recovery, taking the time to declutter your space of old possessions that could potentially be triggering can be vital. Possessions are often weighed down by negative memories or associations with a past life. Some common examples include:

  • Drug or alcohol paraphernalia
  • Photos of yourself under the influence
  • Anything that provides uncomfortable reminders of your life in addiction

These might seem like small, insignificant things. But any trigger can lead you into a spiral of craving and negative self-talk and ultimately lead you down the path to relapse.

While it’s important to learn healthy coping skills to manage cravings if they occur, you can prevent many from occurring entirely if you declutter your home from anything triggering.

How to Get Started Decluttering While in Recovery

If you’re ready to get started with decluttering, there are a few simple steps you can take to make the process easy, simple, and rewarding. Spring cleaning can often seem like a monumental task, but with the right tips, you can reap the benefits in no time.

Start Small

Often, people avoid the process of decluttering because the task is simply too big or too overwhelming. If spring cleaning brings up a vision of cleaning your entire house from top to bottom and the tasks ahead of you seem too large to manage, you may avoid taking the first steps to begin with.

Instead, start small. Decluttering your entire home might be too much. Even decluttering an entire room can seem overwhelming. Instead, focus on decluttering one section at a time. For example, you might focus on cleaning your desk or workspace, organising your closet, or simply addressing one corner of a room at a time.

By breaking the task into small segments rather than one large overarching project, you make it easier to accomplish a goal, which in turn motivates you to work toward the next. If your goal is to clean your entire home, you won’t feel accomplished until every task is done.

But if your goal is your desk, you can achieve it with ten minutes of work. This inspires you to move to the next section, and the next, at a pace that works for you.

Work in Chunks

A similar strategy for a productive session of decluttering is to break the time you work into chunks. Don’t plan on cleaning all day, or even for a few hours. Instead, focus on working for 40 minutes to an hour at a time, and give yourself plenty of breaks and rest in between.

By chunking your time in this style, you don’t end up wearing yourself out and losing the motivation to continue. Taking regular breaks can not only improve your focus on the task at hand but also lets you work more throughout the day than if you try to work for several hours in a row.

Keep Only What Still Serves You

Decluttering is typically a process that involves getting rid of things. But how can you decide what you should get rid of, and what things you should keep?

A simple rule is to ask yourself what still serves you in your space. Does the object you’re considering serve a purpose? Does it remind you of good times? Or is it simply taking up space?

This often comes down to functionality. If there’s something that serves a functional purpose, but you haven’t used it in years, there may be little reason for you to hold onto it. But sentimentality is often the biggest barrier to decluttering, as each object can hold a unique memory or association.

When it comes to sentimental objects, people often feel like they simply cannot get rid of something because it holds a sentimental value. In this situation, ask yourself how often you turn to these items.

For instance, you may struggle to throw away a birthday card from five years ago. But have you ever looked at this card since your birthday? Or is its value only appearing to you now, as you consider throwing it away?

When Decluttering While in Recovery Feels Impossible

Many people set the goal of decluttering while in recovery but find that the task becomes impossible once they set out to do it. You may be experiencing a lack of energy, motivation, or focus — or find yourself clinging to things that you don’t really need.

For some people, this can be the result of an ongoing mental health challenge. Disorders such as depression can sap your energy, leaving little in reserve for tasks like cleaning or organisation. Alternatively, people feeling intense anxiety about getting rid of their possessions may be showing signs of hoarding disorder, which can compound into greater issues over time.

If that’s the case for you, seeking treatment may be the best option. There are several evidence-based treatment options for you to choose from, including:

Combined with assessment and diagnosis, these treatments can help identify the underlying cause of your lack of motivation or anxiety and move toward a better state of mental health.

Reach Out to APN London for Support Today

If you feel like you need extra support during this time in your recovery, a dedicated mental health professional from APN London can help. Reach out by giving us a call at 0203 984 7699, connecting with us via live chat, or filling out our confidential online contact form for more information.

References

  • Roster, Catherine A., et al. “The Dark Side of Home: Assessing Possession ‘Clutter’ on Subjective Well-being.” Journal of Environmental Psychology, vol. 46, 2016, pp. 32-41, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvp.2016.03.003. Accessed 20 Apr. 2024.