As declutterers we have come to realise that clutter and disorder in the home is often a reflection of the mental state of the person living there. What do we mean by that? Well, obviously the relationship is complex and just because someone lives in a cluttered or untidy house does not mean there is something wrong with them! Some people naturally prefer a more cosy homely style, others are more minimalist. And either way is absolutely fine so long as it works for you.
But we definitely do notice that a person’s living environment can reflect how they are feeling about life. So for example, someone who is feeling overwhelmed with “stuff” is often feeling overwhelmed about other aspects of their life too. Someone who is holding onto a lot of belongings may be holding onto feelings (often about the past) which they may not have properly processed. Someone who finds it hard to find things may be feeling a general lack of focus and find it hard to prioritise. And so on.
So how are you feeling about your living space now that we are in lockdown? If you’re anything like us, your home might be feeling crowded, cramped, and untidy. If you have children who are normally at playgroup or school you may be tearing your hair out trying to keep the house organised, homeschool your kids, work from home, entertain your pets, get enough exercise, get hold of food or other supplies…it’s a lot to cope with. And if you live alone you may simply be sick of the sight of the inside of your home! Add in the anxiety many of us are feeling about money, health, elderly relatives, etc and it’s no wonder you might be feeling muddled, cluttered or overwhelmed.
When the lockdown started we noticed that many people threw themselves into projects, such as decluttering their wardbrobes, redecorating, gardening, sorting out the loft…you name it. However as the weeks go by momentum might be waning. Plus of course decorating materials are not considered “essential”, and recycling centres and charity shops are closed.
We know too that decluttering can be hard work. That’s why many of our clients call us in – because decluttering alone can be overwhelming, it’s hard to know where to start, and its hard to sustain the energy and enthusiasm to finish the job.
So, short of embarking on a huge and perhaps ultimately frustrating project, here are some of our ideas for helping you stay sane, and feel calm and uncluttered during lockdown. Now everyone’s different and some of these ideas may not resonate with you, that’s absolutely fine, feel free to pick and choose what works.
And if you do need our help during lockdown, don’t forget we are still able to offer online support at the moment so do get in touch if you think that would be helpful.
In the meantime here are our top tips:
Keep to a simple routine – when all the days seem to merge together and life lacks focus, we find it helps to stick to a simple routine. Getting up, showered and having breakfast in the morning seems to set you up for the day. Having meals at more or less regular times, going to bed at roughly the same sort of time every night – simple things but they help to keep your body clock regular and give more of a feeling of normality in what can feel like a very strange situation. This also applies if you have children in the house – we do feel that keeping to some sort of structure also helps them feel more normal, and will also help them to readjust when the restrictions are eventually lifted. Make sure to reward sessions of work with some fun time – so if your kids have been doing homework in the morning, perhaps you could all go for a walk or watch a movie in the afternoon.
Separate work from home –working from home during this time brings its own challenges especially if you also have your partner and/or children at home too. We suggest setting aside a designated space which is for “work”, even if it is just a corner of the dining room (we have even seen people using ironing boards as desks!). Make sure children also have their own space – again the dining room might work, or a corner of their bedroom, we know of one teenager who has converted a garden shed into a study! Set it up as a proper work space, paying attention to lighting, and making sure you are sitting comfortably. At the end of the working day do something to mark the transition to home – take a shower maybe, or get changed, or go for a walk round the block but whatever you choose it’s something that tells you work time is over and it’s time to relax.
Set yourself some simple goals – by this we don’t mean “write a novel” or “learn to crochet” but some simple and easy to achieve things you might do each day. Small achievable goals help you feel like you are making some progress and you avoid becoming a hermit! You could think about doing one practical thing, one fun thing, one fitness activity, one relaxing or self indulgent thing, and one way to connect with a friend or family member. Writing them down and ticking them off as done gives you a feeling of achievement too.
Break it down – if you’re faced with a messy room, or even an entirely messy house, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed. We suggest breaking it down – tackle it in 15 minute sessions. You can even use your phone to set a timer, maybe put some music on, and get cracking. When your time is up, stop, and do something else. Simple things like taking out empty cups, opening the windows, and plumping up your cushions can immediately make a room seem like a nicer place to be. If you have kids, involve them if possible – younger children often respond to challenges like “I’ll bet you can’t pick up all that lego before the bell rings”.
Get outside – living as we do in the Cotswolds we are so grateful that we are surrounded by countryside. However we do know that not everyone can enjoy it. If you are in the “shielding” or vulnerable groups, you may have to stay at home. And if you don’t have access to a garden it can be tricky to get out. But assuming that you can go out and about, we strongly recommend a walk in the fresh air every day, to clear your mind and boost your Vitamin D levels. Exercise is great for both body and mind. Failing that, sitting in your garden or on your balcony can be a good way to get some fresh air. If all else fails simply open your curtains or blinds, and fling your doors and windows open to let fresh air and light into your house every day.
Take care of yourself – it may be a cliché but the saying goes that you can’t take care of anyone else unless you take care of yourself. And like most clichés there is some truth in it. During a situation like this it is easy to let self care slip, but arguably it is more important than ever to maintain your self esteem and sense of wellbeing. How you do this will be up to you, perhaps doing an online yoga class, perhaps sitting on your patio with a cup of tea, or just listening to some relaxing music. Whether you live alone or are surrounded by people, make sure you take time out every day to do something just for you. Build in some opportunities for exercise, and try to keep your diet as healthy as you are able to in order to boost your immune system. And it may just be our preference but we find we feel better for getting dressed properly each day rather than living in pyjamas or track suits – taking care of yourself physically helps you feel better mentally.
Finally it's worth mentioning that this unusual situation puts us all under stress, and that while it is normal to feel unnsettled or anxious, if you find that you are feeling seriously depressed or really struggling with your anxiety do please reach out for help either from your GP or a suitably qualified mental health professional.
So there’s a few ideas from us for keeping sane and staying healthy during lockdown. We’d love to hear from you to know how you’re coping and to hear any tips you might like to share so do please message us or comment on social media.
We’re certainly missing all our lovely clients and looking forward to being able to work with you all in person. It’s certainly a strange time that we find ourselves in but we hope you are all staying well and managing to stay in touch with family and friends.
Do take care and feel free to call or message us if you’d like a chat – our virtual kettles are always on!
Claire & Sue