One Bag Nation

Can You Clean Up Messy Feelings?

Posted on: September 29, 2008

My daughter had a birthday yesterday and her birthdays are always hard for me.

At one point in the morning, when I was feeling particularly sad and tearful, I found myself straightening the placemats with exact precision, moving each one to be perfectly positioned on the table.

It suddenly hit me that I was creating physical order as a way to manage the clutter of my feelings about the birthday. So now the table looked great – and I did get some satisfaction from that. But the fact remained that my girl is growing up very fast and I feel really sad. Did I think the tidy table would make me feel better in some significant way?

I’m not a tidy, orderly person by nature; I have to work hard at it daily. I love the peace of mind that comes with feeling organized and having less stuff strewn around, but somehow I fall back on old habits all the time.

So, I’m wondering . . . for those of you who are naturally organized: do you feel like your need for physical order is an attempt to conquer messy feelings? Does it work?

And what about those of you who are striving to create more order? Are you hoping that you’ll rid yourself of unwanted feelings along with unwanted stuff?

I’d love to hear from you!


13 Responses to "Can You Clean Up Messy Feelings?"

Yes I do same, to vent out messy feelings of my past.. but fact is this doesn’t help me. 😦

The effect is only short lived.

Interesting. I think there is something to this. My previous partner was an extreme case of this. He was obsessive about everything being neat, orderly and lined up. I know he needed to keep his external world controlled because he was a big bloody chaotic mess inside. For myself, I know that when my life gets chaotic, so does my house, and then I feel worse. I go on a binge and tidy everything up, and feel much better.

I have recently started following your blog and I really enjoy it, this post hit home for me in that I have been emotionally all over the map recently and your term “messy feelings” really hit the nail on the head. I do find that while I am dealing with these messy feelings I feel compelled to find order in my life. Feeling this way, I can’t conquer the intellectual things I am faced with so I’m working on my clutter instead!
I also noticed long ago that I cannot overcome the harder things in life (be it emotional, intellectual or anything else) unless my environment is in order. This is such an interesting thought process…

@Poonja I hope we can both find a more effective way to deal with messy feelings – past or present.

@Panther I have friends who go both ways; their lives and spaces are chaotic, and others whose spaces are in great order, but they are tightly wound – sounds uncomfortable to me.

Hi Nicole, and welcome! I think some pursuit of physical order is helpful and healthy, don’t you? It’s when it takes the place of actually living and feeling that I worry. I know many people who do this with food and/or their environments. I suppose that attacking your clutter is a better solution than abusing substances or doing some other harmful activity.

I’m so glad you enjoy the blog – thank you for commenting.

I think it’s about control. Organized, clean surroundings is something that you can control. Many other things in life, you can’t control.

Hi Ann – I agree with Vered. It is about what we can control. On the other hand, when things around me are neat and orderly, I feel “lighter” (mentally).

@Vered and Barbara: I completely agree. I think the sense of control comforts us about the things we can’t control.

I’m in agreement with other commenters, and this is something i’ve given quite some thought to. I’ve been getting more and more into organising and culling possessions as a way of getting a little control over my life (things feel a little out of my control i guess, so it’s a good way of comforting myself!). I joke with my mum about wanting to label everything (including people, lol). 😛

I do this is society too, by studying Psychology in order to learn more about how people’s minds tick so i can predict the world around me. That comforts me too. It’s all about predicting, safety and control!

Like you, i often organise when things are difficult. Sometimes it’s a big part of the recovery process, and i tend to hit a certain threshold where i’m partially emerging from the bad times when i start to feel the desire to clean up.

I also started seriously cutting down on my posessions about a year ago when i came back from a trip to Belize. I came home and wandered around my house in a daze (admittedly i also had a fever, but i’m not sure that was the main reason!) staring at everything and wondering why on *earth* i had so much stuff!! I’ve been de-stuffing since then. 😛

Someday i’d love for my mood to not have to be connected to my physical circumstances at all (that’s true contentment i guess) but for now, it works okay.

Someone mentioned physical stuff too… i work out a lot and find that distracts me from stuff and lifts my spirits. I love muscle-ache after a set of heavy weights! >:D

Sorry your daughters birthdays make you sad. I can see some of myself in what you’re doing when you’re sad that time is passing so fast – i have a real problem with looking forward in time and dreading things to come rather than enjoying the now.
Some sadness is perfectly natural of course, so i hope you don’t take it as far as i seem to sometimes!

And now i have waffled on (mmm waffles) at you i shall gallop off for some night-time cereal before bed. Yummo.

Hi Camilla: I always love to read your comments! I can’t seem to separate mood from surroundings, yet it’s very hard for me to get a handle on the clutter.

I think the blog has helped somewhat; I do have a few areas I decluttered that have stayed that way. I don’t think I have a particular flair for decorating so the best I can do is clean up LOL!

Very good – labeling people as well as stuff – I like that!

Thanks for your thoughtful comments, as always.

Having a blog is such a good way of organising your organising, lol. I’m sure it feels really good to have managed some de-cluttering, and then get to come online and write about your success. Introduces a real feel-good factor, especially if you’re inspiring others through your efforts!
And i guess when you fail, and have to write about that too, it introduces the right percentage of deterrant for next time. 😛

>>I always love to read your comments!

Maawww, i love reading your posts and answers too. 😀 I was surprised at how much i wrote that time, it’s a really interesting topic!

Maybe this is why I’m the opposite. I’m pretty untidy in the house but I don’t really have messy emotions anymore. Next time I get the tidying bug come over me, I shall stop and think about whether there’s something going on inside me. There could be something to this.

Hi Sharon: I’m not sure its an “always” thing for me but I do feel they’re related in some way.

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