There’s a fine line between keeping and losing all of our material items. Usually, someone is either a minimalist or hoards a variety of items. *I want to point out here that hoarding is a legitimate mental illness and can be symptomatic from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD), Attention Deficit/Hyper Activity Disorder (ADHD), and Depression. Please remember that mental illnesses are not adjectives and people do suffer from this which in turn can affect their personal life, interpersonal relationships, and functioning ability.* I first learned how important it is to keep the house clean of clutter when I was suffering from addiction. It’s easy to fall into the habit of not cleaning up after yourself and it becomes even easier the messier your surroundings become. When I didn’t wash my dishes, take out the garbage, do my laundry, etc. I found it got more and more easy to slip into a depression and just lay in bed rather than rise and complete regular functioning activities, soon I wasn’t even able to shower. There are several levels of functioning and depending on where you are in your journey depends on what you are able to complete, sometimes doing a deep clean of the house is helpful while other times just opening the curtains is enough.

Keeping the house clean is actually a form of self-care and I always stress how important self-care is because it’s the base of all coping. It often becomes visible when someone is suffering heavily from addiction or depression when they start to stop performing hygiene routines. One of the most asked questions, when I was in the hospital, was about how I took care of myself. Did I shower? Did I change my clothes? Was I eating? Did I leave the house? Were the curtains always shut? How much was I sleeping? The truth was when I was younger, my parents took care of me for the most part. They made me food and fed me when I couldn’t achieve the will to get out of bed, they kept the house clean, and did my laundry, I never really had to worry about the house cluttering or forcing myself to go hungry. When I was admitted to hospital at 14 years old this pattern only continued. I was taken care of by the nurses, I got my medication from them, all food was provided, I always had someone to talk to, I was woken up and had a bedtime, and I had a scheduled bath time. I didn’t even need to do laundry since I was living in a hospital gown. After two years of being admitted to the hospital, I was sent back into real life. As you can imagine it was extremely difficult to adapt to this new world…I had to be responsible for myself and I no longer had a crutch.

I’ll admit, it was extremely scary to start living my life without constant support and without being provided with everything I needed. For a couple years I struggled with remembering to take my medication, I lived with my parents and I was still in and out of the hospital on a regular basis. My parents made a new routine for me which started to help me become more independent. They no longer came for every visiting hour at the hospital and wouldn’t stay the entire time, I had to take the bus if I didn’t get my drivers license because no rides were given, my room was my responsibility and if I got rats or bugs then I was the one that had to live with that. I know this all sounds scary and a little harsh but sometimes we need a reality check to snap back into the real world. I moved out and into my own apartment at eighteen-years-old and lived in a few different places including Toronto, Hamilton, and Durham. This really helped me grow up because everything I had and everything I was surrounded by was mine and mine only…I was responsible for whatever happened.

To be able to take care of yourself is a skill and requires a heavy amount of practice, trial and error. Don’t get discouraged if you can’t clean the house and remember to always ask for help when you need it. It took me eight years to learn how to take care of myself and my surroundings, and I’m still learning. I often lose my keys, I’ve lost my wallet four times in the past three months, I need to clean my bathroom extremely badly, and garbage is a pain in my ass. But, I am continuing in my journey of learning. If you’re at the point in your journey that you need help and the only thing you will be able to do is even just sit-up and open your eyes every morning…that’s ok! Don’t rush the process and remember that keeping your house clean is helpful to both your mind, body, and environment. It starts to become unhealthy when people refuse to throw things away but please remember to keep the things that mean most to you. I have a box of things I will never throw away including my yoga certifications and materials from some of my best memories, and I would never throw away the basic items I need to survive alone like cutlery and blankets. Take your time, practice self-care, and no matter how slowly I challenge you to challenge yourself by starting to clean up your environment.

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