It’s true. I finally decided to do a bit of research on this and discovered that not only is it real, it actually has a name: “ataxophobia.” If you’ve ever seen an episode of the TV show “Hoarders,” then you know that this is one of those social phenomena that seems to get quite a bit of attention. I’m not sure what the fascination is with this particular disorder, in which some people are so attached to their possessions that they simply cannot let go of anything. Perhaps it is because we all have certain things that we “hold on to” for a sense of security and stability. But I had never realized that there are those among us (including me!) who are uncomfortable to the point of discomfort when we are in the midst of a lot of clutter, chaos, and noise. Gee, I thought for a really long time that I was just weird!
Turns out, it is not all that uncommon, but for some reason we haven’t heard about it much. So I tracked down some websites and blog that address this issue, and thought it would be interesting to share it with you . . . just in case you, too, are “clutter-phobic,” or know someone who is. As I was contemplating this topic, I first came to the realization (DUH!) that I haven’t ever seen one of those pretty magazines in the check-out line at the grocery store with a headline like this: “27 Different and Easy Ways to Live in a Messy House!” I guess we can all figure that out on our own. Especially if we have children. At my house, I feel like they can just mess everything up faster than I can clean it up, and besides there are two of them and only one of me. I’m outnumbered when it comes to keeping things down to a minor rumble around here. And, besides, that’s just life. I guess.
So what are we supposed to do if one gets slightly nauseous and light headed, and even have to fight the urge to . . . . well, you know . . . when in the middle of piles and piles of stuff? It’s not exactly something that can be controlled, and we aren’t being a “sissy” if our blood pressure rises and we feel like we might need to bolt to the bathroom (which might be even worse than the rest of the house!). It is kind of like “trypophobia.” Ever heard of that one? Me neither, until my daughter asked me one day, “Mom, have you ever heard of someone being afraid of tiny holes?” WHAT???? What’s to be afraid of with a bunch of little, tiny holes? And then she showed me some pictures and I almost lost my lunch. I guess I have “trypophobia” too and so do a lot of other people.
Well, it’s not exactly that I’m AFRAID of those tiny holes, they just make me feel like I’m going to pass out or throw up. But I digress. That’s just one other strange and unfamiliar phobia that I had never heard of before.
So, now that I know I’m not alone in my “clutter-phobia,” or weird or crazy, I am determined to overcome this – no, not by living like a hoarder until I get used to it (that was one of the recommended “cures” for fear of tiny holes . . . . look at those disgusting pictures over and over and over until you become desensitized to them. Ummmmm, no thank you!). But I am going to return to my life-long pursuit of peace, tranquility, orderliness, and cleanliness which I’ve not been able to keep up with very well since we moved into this house. BUT with the progress we are making on painting and replacing old yucky carpeting and furniture, I remain hopeful that I can find balance between having a REAL family that lives in a REAL home that is comfortable and warm and inviting, while still creating a sense of calm and order. It can be done, I know it can, as long as we all work together.
One of the things that I discovered about “clutter phobia” is that many people are truly OCD in their fear of clutter. To the point that they count every item they own, can only have a designated number of things of a particular type, organize things alphabetically or numerically, arrange and rearrange their possessions, and live in a state of “obsessive compulsive spartanism.” Well . . . that’s definitely NOT my situation, but I definitely prefer things less cluttery and messy. It’s just that when I need to find the hammer to hang a picture, or the vaporizer when one of my kids is sick, it is SO annoying when I can’t find it because it hasn’t been put back where it belongs and / or a bunch of other junk has been piled on top of it. Maybe I’m not all THAT weird after all, just kinda weird!
It’s amazing that in my research I discovered lots of articles about what “clutter phobia” is (much of it really extreme to the point of becoming almost paralyzing for some people) but not a whole lot about what to do if you are uncomfortable in the midst of chaos and mess. So I guess unless one is truly in need of a therapist for the extreme and negative aspects of this very real experience, we are on our own. But just remember the next time you are at the grocery store to take a quick look at the magazines at the check out line. Unless you are reading about all of the scandalous celebrities or the political stuff going on, you will see that most of those women’s magazines offer lots of tips and advice on how to create a home environment that is healthy, happy, clean, tidy, orderly, and peaceful.
Here are a few suggestions of my own that help me wade through the clutter when it piles up in our house:
- If you find yourself with way too much stuff in your home, start small. Set a timer for 10 minutes and clean out and organize one drawer or cupboard at a time. Or just a corner of a messy room, just to get started.
- Decide where you want to start, and take baby steps. Pull everything out of ONE closet, sort it and get rid of the stuff you don’t need, and organize the other stuff before you put it back.
- When you have ONE closet empty, clean it thoroughly (wipe down the shelves, vacuum the floor, etc.) before you put anything back in.
- Get rid of stuff that no longer is needed – don’t just shove it in a cupboard, closet, or drawer for another day.
- Tackle just ONE thing at a time so you don’t get overwhelmed, and then celebrate your success!
- Teach your kids to clean up after themselves. Sounds simple but it is not. Teach them to respect themselves, their possessions, their home, and their parents who are providing for them. THAT is not a difficult concept to grasp.
- Remember to breathe. Then get busy!
I’ll be working on some of my own clutter clearing in the next few weeks as we make progress on fixing up our old house, so I’ll be sure to share some before and after pictures of our projects. Lots of junk has piled up while we’ve been working on these projects, and I am determined to get it sorted out and put where it belongs. What about you? Do you have “clutter phobia” or does chaos, noise, and a messy environment not bother you? What about creativity? Are you more creative in a tidy work space or do you feel more creative inspiration when you have the freedom to make a mess? I’m just curious and would love to hear what works for you.