On very unlucky occasions (for minimalists, e specials), we’re put into the position where we’re surrounded by mess. This can be a very frustrating situation to be in. The reality of mess and clutter is that it’s unsightly, obstructive, unsafe, unsanitary.
But as a part of life, not all clutter can be tended to as soon as it begins to pile up. Life gets busy: we chase kids around, we renovate the house, we’re between houses, we’re waiting for stuff to sell, we have work to do, we have obligations to fulfill.
How to not let things bother you
The conditions in your home are not always going to be minimalist-friendly. The anxieties that you’re experiencing are real, and you should take steps to address those feelings in a healthy way.
The chaos going on around you can literally make you feel like your head is spinning. Studies show that clutter negatively affects our mental health in ways that are conducive to stress and depression. Clutter can also promote unhealthy eating habits and make it harder to sleep.
If you’re a minimalist, clutter can be a nerve-wracking situation for you. It can seem scary or like you’re not doing something right but decluttering is something that’s meant to be done repeatedly, not just once. Don’t be stressed because the situation doesn’t fit your minimalist fantasies right now.
Once you live minimally, or live this way too long, living among a bunch of clutter can onset feelings of suffocation. It doesn’t feel good to be smothered, especially when you’re used to having a lot of space.
This stress can trigger negative mental and physical reactions if you let it. But you can manage your reaction to the sight of debris by adjusting your lens a little bit.
Minimalist Mindfulness: Don’t Let the Clutter Get Under Your Skin
When things aren’t the way we see them in our heads, that can be destructive to our confidence and self esteem. We forget just how extravagant we make these visions, then blame ourselves when we get anything that’s outside of what we saw in our minds.
If you find yourself getting irritated at the state of your home but you don’t have the means or time to address it at the moment, there are some things to remember that’ll keep you grounded and calm, and make it easier for you to temporarily cope with the mess!
Affirm these thoughts as motivation to keep your cool when your home isn’t exactly up to snuff.
It’s not permanent
It’s a visitor, not a renter. The good part about not being able to get to the trash right now is that it’s going to stay right there only until you do, and you will! The clutter is not a permanent new addition to your house.
Be patient with yourself—you’ll one day reclaim the space that the trash is taking up once more!
Stop thinking about the future work load
The thought of doing something is always worse than actually doing it. If you spend days prior torturing yourself over the thought of all the work you’re going to have to do, you’ll be filled with dread when the day/time comes.
Instead, strategize about how you’re going to get this done as quickly and efficiently as possible. Examine the clutter in the time prior and make mental notes about what can get thrown away and where everything needs to go.
Instead of gloomily awaiting the clean up session, be proactive in getting it done!
You can walk away
If the amount of stuff around you is causing you massive amounts of anxiety or really getting in your way, you can step away from it. You can go into another room, take a walk outside to relax, or take a second to meditate.
Get some work done at the library or out on the porch. Don’t let it overwhelm you.
It’s just happy memories
That rusty skateboard is from your son’s skater phase. Those ripped jeans in the corner are from a limbo contest turned meme-moment. All those stuffed animals were so incredibly cute to you at the time.
All your clutter is the vestiges of irreplaceable memories and things that you once enjoyed. Don’t be so bothered by its presence, look at it a little more lightly.
You don’t have to do it alone
You really don’t have to take on the workload alone. Get your kids involved and make it into a game! Use it for some always-appreciated bonding time. If you’re in a relationship, you and your partner can plan a clean-up date.
Pour some wine, put on some music or your favorite comedy show, set out a tray with your favorite snacks or a chocolate-covered fruit plate on the table, and go room by room together.
Order pizza and invite your favorite person over to help you get the job done faster and make it fun!
Clutter doesn’t mean you’re not a minimalist
Don’t be paranoid that just because you let some things pile up, your Minimalist badge will get confiscated. Clutter is a natural part of life. A lot of minimalists don’t have 100% control of what comes in their house.
They still accept gifts that they feel obligated to take, they still slip and make extra purchases, or they buy something thinking they need it, but it turns out that they don’t. It happens to the best of us.
Minimalist houses won’t be “up to code” all the time, but the great part about that is that there is no code! If you abide by minimalist principles then no matter the state of your home, you can proudly wave the minimalist flag!
Stay busy so you’re not focused on the clutter. Get your planner organized for the week or play a board game. Exercising your body and mind on a regular basis is one of the best minimalist habits you can pick up.
Pick up a new hobby or conspire on some new cooking techniques. Keeping your attention off clutter is a good motivation to learn a new skill or stay productive.
You can turn some of it into DIY projects
Transmute that stress, anxiety, and frustration into creative energy. Take some of those pieces of clutter that are sitting around and use them to make some new art pieces. Grab a couple of clothes you don’t want anymore and use them to test your designing and sewing skills.
Show your paint skills on some of the objects you planned on throwing away—you could end up with an amazing piece of exhibit art.
You can use it to entertain kids
While it’s here, why not make use of them. Small kids will play with basically anything.
Why not let your baby use that bare coffee can and that empty juice jug as a drum set. Tape the leftover party streamers to the inside (the side that caves inward) of that old umbrella and let them run away with it.
Get creative! (Note: Avoid giving babies or kids anything breakable, sharp, pointy, small, or valuable.) Learn to temporarily benefit from your clutter, thus live in harmony with it for just a moment (for the sake of your mental health).
It doesn’t define you
You are not your trash! If you (admittedly) slacked on your minimalist cleaning routine, it doesn’t mean you’re a messy person. You’re not indifferent to the mess; you acknowledge and care about it.
You’re simply not in a position to deal with it at this time. Don’t let the debris ignite panic about what others might think—the state of your house right now doesn’t speak to who you are at your core.
Having a lot of things around really can be a bother. Whether the entire house has gotten out of order or you just need to declutter your bedroom, it’s stressful. But sometimes the only thing you have control of is how you feel about a situation.
The reality is that it’s temporary, so time spent being frustrated about it is time lost. It’s also bad for your mental health to soak in those negative feelings. Your time much better spent focusing on things that matter, trying new things, and staying active.
When you do get the opportunity to tackle that mess, you’ll have earned that slice of carrot cake when you’re finished!