Depression and Clutter have a surprising connection. Mothers whose homes are cluttered have higher levels of cortisol.
Just as my little one drifted to sleep, the doorbell rang. I was not dressed or showered, my house was a wreck, and I wasn’t expecting anyone. My son awoke with the disruption and loudly announced that we were home. I couldn’t avoid answering with out seeming rude. Flustered, I opened the door to see a woman I hardly knew coming to give me a plate of cookies and congratulate me on having a baby. While I appreciated the gesture, I couldn’t get past the feelings of shame and insecurity. I didn’t have a house or appearance that was company ready.
Anxiety and Depression hit
After each of my babies were born, I started out feeling like I could handle my moods. Until, suddenly, I couldn’t. I have dealt with panic attacks before, but this was a whole new level of anxiety.
I worried about whether or not my baby would die. Invasive thoughts would flash through my mind of how many different ways they could get hurt. If I was somewhere with a lot of people, I would feel like they were all watching me. I felt they were judging what I should be doing with my child. It didn’t help that some of them gave “advice” and affirmed how I was feeling. When I was home, I had no motivation to take care of myself. I even got a serious infection after my first was born for lack of caring for some stitches.
Once I realized how bad it really was and how it was affecting my family, I immediately sought help. I decided to try antidepressant medication. I was so afraid to take meds, but within 48 hours of taking them, I could think with more clarity. Things weren’t quite so cloudy. I was able to focus on taking steps to heal and realize that I needed to do things like take regular showers and get outside.
Motherhood and Clutter
1 in 7 women deal with postpartum depression in the year after their baby is born. Suicide is the second leading cause of maternal death in postpartum women.
Mothers whose homes are cluttered have higher levels of cortisol. As a mother, there are many days when I am not looking and feeling my best. My house is a constant source of clutter and overwhelm. Add to that my history of anxiety and postpartum depression and you have a recipe for a pack rat and clutter bug (or even a family of them).
So how do we gain momentum over our clutter when depression is a large part of our life? How do we overcome the guilt inducing thoughts and overwhelm that keep us in a downward spiral? While I don’t have all the answers, the journey I’ve had with postpartum depression and clutter has taught me a few practical things.
5 Things You Can Do if Clutter and Depression Affect You
- Get dressed. I know this one can be hard, and even feel overwhelming, but if possible, get dressed. This is one small thing you can do to feel prepared for whatever the day may hold.
- Take 5 minutes to declutter a small area of your house. Start with the coffee table right in front of you or your feeding station. This time of decluttering doesn’t have to be a huge project or area (and, in fact, it’s better if it’s not). It is a baby step toward feeling a little bit better in the day to day.
- Go outside. If you are a cluttery person like me, looking around your house may multiply your feelings of inadequacy and overwhelm. Sometimes the best thing we can do is go outside to have a break from the mess and breathe in some fresh air. I live in a temperate climate and went with out a dryer for 12 years. I know how important getting outside is for me and how pressing laundry can be. I am not asking you to go to this extreme, but maybe just having your coffee out on the porch or taking a quick walk with your dog might be just what you need.
- Take a few deep breaths. This is something you can do anywhere, anytime. We literally can’t live with out breath in our lungs, and there are many health benefits to breathing deeply. Start by breathing in and counting slowly 1-2-3. Hold the breath for a second or 2. Then breathe out 3-2-1.
- Find a scent you love and surround yourself with it. Whether it’s essential oils, your favorite scented candle, or even a household cleaner that helps you enjoy a moment, an easy “feel good” thing we can do each day is keep aromas we love around us to calm and comfort.
Mama, I don’t know what stage of life you’re walking through. I want you to know that no matter how much clutter you have, no matter how bad you feel, there are steps you can take to regain your hope and heal in the journey you’re on.