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Do you ever have trouble keeping your room tidy?

Or do you tend to be neat and orderly? Take a moment to think to yourself: What does your bedroom look like right now? Are there old dishes scattered around? Are there papers, books, clothes and garbage everywhere? Can you even see the floor? Or are things generally neat, tidy and organized?
Do you ever get stressed out by clutter and mess? Do you ever feel shame about the state of your personal space? Is it hard for you to find the time or motivation to put your things away or clean your room? In “‘Depression Rooms’ and ‘Doom Piles’: Why Clearing the Clutter Can Feel Impossible,” Dana G. Smith contends that there is a link between mental health and messy spaces:
A camera pans around Abegael Milot’s bedroom. The floor is mostly invisible, hidden by piles of clothes. Four large plastic baskets are stacked on top of each other, some filled with laundry, others with electronics. There are eight abandoned cups of coffee on the desk and bedside table. On the floor lie two half-empty water bottles, a novelty bottle of tequila with a glass cactus inside, and a pet food dispenser.
“Today we’re going to be cleaning my depression room,” the 24-year-old YouTube star, who posts videos as Abbe Lucia, tells the camera. “I fear that the only way that I will make myself clean this room is if I film it.” The term “depression room” is relatively new, popularized by videos on TikTok and YouTube that have accrued hundreds of millions of views. But experts have long recognized the link between messiness and mental health. The clutter that can accumulate when people are experiencing a mental health crisis is neither a form of hoarding, nor the result of laziness. The culprit is extreme fatigue, said N. Brad Schmidt, a distinguished research professor of psychology at Florida State University. People are “oftentimes just so mentally and physically exhausted that they don’t feel like they have the energy to take care of themselves or their surroundings,” Dr. Schmidt said. “They just don’t have the capacity to engage with housecleaning and upkeep that they probably once did.”
A messy home can also contribute to feelings of overwhelm, stress and shame, making you feel worse than you already do. And while decluttering will not cure your depression, it can give you a mood boost. The writer includes tips for dealing with the situation, including “focusing on function, not aesthetics.” For this, she spoke to KC Davis, a licensed professional counselor and author of the book “How to Keep House While Drowning”:
One of Ms. Davis’s most popular strategies is “five things tidying,” the idea that there are only five things in any room: trash, dishes, laundry, things with a place and things without a place. Focusing on one category at a time keeps her from getting overwhelmed when it seems like there are a hundred different items that need to be put away. Ms. Davis is also a big advocate for what she calls “closing duties,” inspired by her time working as a waitress. She often doesn’t have the energy to clean her whole kitchen every evening, so she started doing just a few small tasks, “as a kindness to future me to set myself up for success in the morning.”
Other advice includes “making your home work for you”: People who are neurodivergent, with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (A.D.H.D.), autism or other executive functioning issues, also often struggle with excess clutter. Like “depression rooms,” the term “doom piles” has become popular on social media to describe the random stuff that builds up and you don’t know what to do with. Nearly everyone has a junk drawer or two in their home, but these piles of clutter tend to be more ubiquitous for people who struggle with executive functioning. Lenore Brooks is an interior designer who specializes in working with people who are neurodivergent. When her sister, who has A.D.H.D., lived with her for a brief time, Ms. Brooks discovered that there were lots of resources to help children with A.D.H.D. or autism stay organized but virtually none targeted at adults. Much of Ms. Brooks’s work revolves around helping her clients deal with seemingly endless clutter; they feel like they’re constantly cleaning, but the clutter is always there. People with A.D.H.D. especially struggle with this because, she said, “it’s almost like decision fatigue all the time. ‘I can’t decide what to do with it, so I’m just not going to do anything with it.’” The first step, Ms. Brooks said, is to really pay attention to the items that you’re frequently cleaning up. Then find better places for them to live. “What I talk to my clients about a lot is systems,” she said. “Figuring out why things are where they are, why clutter is building up where it is, and then changing the design or the organization around how people are actually using their home.”
These changes can be simple. For instance, if you find yourself constantly removing pens from your living-room couch cushions and coffee table, think about designating a spot to keep the pens in the room where you’re actually using them. For a client whose home office was always filled with dirty dishes, Ms. Brooks got her a tray that she could load her tea and snack paraphernalia onto and return to the kitchen at the end of every day.
The article ends with tips for keeping spaces tidy: Once your space is cleanish and relatively decluttered, try to take a few minutes each day to keep it that way. Ms. Davis recommended setting a timer for five or 10 minutes and getting as much taken care of as you can during that time. “I tell myself, I don’t have to finish this task, but I’m going to get up for eight minutes and do it,” she said. “I’m usually surprised at how much I can get done.” And remember, it’s normal to have some clutter in your home. The TV remote, your glasses, mail you need to sort, an art project you’re working on: “They are the signs of life in your home,” Ms. Brooks said.
My students, read the entire article, then tell us: Is clutter a problem in your life? Is there any information in the article that you find helpful? Explain.
Do you feel calmer or more focused depending on how orderly the spaces are that you inhabit? Or does it not really matter how tidy your surroundings are? Are the people you live with on the same wavelength? At home, do you have rules about cleaning your room, putting your things away when you are finished using them and so on? If so, what are those rules? Do you have regular chores at home? If so, do you always do them? Do you notice a link between your mental health and the cleanliness of your space? When you are feeling stressed or down, do you have less energy to keep organized and tidy? What, if anything, has helped you to keep clean? What advice would you give to someone who struggles to stay organized?

 
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