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Different people have different tolerances for mess and disorder. How clean and tidy the space you live in is is completely your prerogative but I’m sure that given the option most of us would like our house to be perfectly organised and clean. Of course, I would too and I’m constantly chasing that perfect ideal despite knowing that my reality is it’s never going to happen. I can maintain a relatively clean and tidy household – but a moulting dog that returns muddy from walks and a tornado of a toddler means that my reality is a lot of the time, quite the opposite.
For me though, there’s a deeper reason why organisation and productivity rank so highly in my list of priorities. I haven’t spoken about it too much, but it’s something that I definitely want to open the doors up to discussing more – and that’s my mental health struggles.
I was diagnosed with depression in my early teens around 15 years ago now and more recently in 2013 with anxiety. Anxiety and depression are things which I’ve come to accept as part of myself now and I’m no longer desperate for a cure. Acceptance that it’s part of who I am, but not my definitive trait has been a weight off my shoulders. I no longer constantly criticise myself for being this way (well, most of the time anyway) and I accept that on occasions, I will have a bad day or two.
And that’s why I strive for order in every aspect of my life. It’s why I crave a clean, calm and tidy home environment and why I chase the high of the feeling of being productive.
There’s no mood booster quite as great as when you’ve had an amazingly productive day and feel like you’re winning at life. Your To Do List is complete, you’ve ticked off all your daily goals and some. You had an early gym session. The house is clean and your meals are prepped and you can sit down at the end of the day with Netflix feeling like you well and truly earned it.
Because such days are not the norm for me, some days the struggle is just too much and it’s all I can to do just to muster the energy to get dressed. And I accept that. I know that those days will come and that they will also go. I allow myself to have those days where I feel low and anxious and I know it’s irrational but also that it is okay because tomorrow will be okay.
I haven’t been on medication for either depression or anxiety for a few years now because I feel much better in myself when I handle it on my own. I know my ‘cures’ – exercise, a walk in the fresh air, a soak in the bath with a book – sometimes even just allowing myself to wallow if I truly can’t find the motivation to do anything else.
And that’s why order is so important to me. If I have a bad day and the chores don’t get done, it doesn’t matter – because the house isn’t so cluttered and jam packed with stuff that it takes literally minutes to get it back to a semi tidy state.
My anxiety is heightened by mess, so the easier it is for me to keep an orderly, clean home – the less anxious I’m likely to be. Sure it’s not the epitomy of my anxiety, and if I did have that untouchable perfect home it would still be there lurking under the surface, waiting for something else to attach itself to. But it certainly helps.
And likewise with productivity, when I can see how much I’ve achieved I feel so positive. Yet if I have a day where I don’t get much done, I can quickly go downhill dwelling on wasted time and opportunities.
It might not work for everyone, but routine and structure, cleanliness and tidiness, order and productivity – they all help towards looking after my mental wellbeing. So whilst to some it may come across at times as obsessive or anal, and perhaps it is – to me it can be a lifeline. Something to keep me from sinking into the pits of despair I’ve known so well for over half my life.