I grew up with a father that was an alcoholic. Both sides of my family have had some major problems with addiction. I find studying addiction and behavioral patterns fascinating, and I always love hearing about what helps people break their addictions, no matter how big or small they are. While most people think of addictions as being something that involves a substance (alcohol, drugs, food), addictions can also be to thoughts or to behaviors. Shopping, TV, gaming, social media, working, gambling, sex, and exercise are all examples of other types of addictions. People can be addicted to other people’s problems (co-dependency). They can also be addicted to their own problems, and live in a state of perpetual victimhood.
According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of addiction is:
- A strong and harmful need to regularly have something (such as a drug) or do something (such as gamble).
- An unusually great interest in something or a need to do or have something
- A compulsive, chronic, physiological or psychological need for a habit-forming substance, behavior, or activity having harmful physical, psychological, or social effects and typically causing well-defined symptoms (such as anxiety, irritability, tremors, or nausea) upon withdrawal or abstinence : the state of being addicted
- A strong inclination to do, use, or indulge in something repeatedly
In studying addiction, one of the things that’s been most helpful to me is to understand all of the benefits that addictions have to offer. Having a cluttered and disorganized home can also be an addiction, although of course, it’s not always a full-blown addiction. Sometimes it’s just more convenient to have a messy home, because of all the benefits it has to offer. What are the benefits of having a messy home you ask??
Inspired by a section of Marilyn Paul’s book, “It’s Hard To Make A Difference When You Can’t Find Your Keys”:
- A cluttered home can help protect you, both psychologically and physically. Sometimes people need to create real barriers between them and others, so they use their stuff to build walls around them. Psychologically, keeping clutter around can make someone feel protected because they will have something if they need it. It can also feel protecting in the sense that the memories stored in the objects make them feel protected.
- When your home is messy, it can make you feel isolated. When you’re isolated from others, you are able to concentrate on yourself and your own needs, rather than being forced to abandon your own needs for the sake of someone else’s. When you’re isolated, you may feel more productive and creative. You won’t have to deal with the threat of being rejected, because you’ve already chosen to be alone. While you’re isolated, you may feel like you can concentrate and focus on what’s most important.
- Do you deserve you can have what you really want? When you fill your home with clutter, you’ll always have a valid explanation as to why you can’t have what you really want. It can feel better to have a good reason as to why you can’t have what you really want rather than actually trying to get what you want and failing.
- Clutter keeps you at home, where it’s nice and safe. The internet is filled with memes of introverts having excuses for why they can’t go out and be social. The constant need to stay home and “clean the house” is a great reason for people with social anxiety to not have to put themselves in situations that are outside of their comfort zone. This is an especially juicy excuse if you get to stay home and “clean the house” with someone you want to feel close to, even if you two both procrastinate all day together.
- Conversely, the need to stay home and “clean the house” is an excellent way to stay far away from others. It’s a way to justify why you can’t travel. If you want to stay far away from someone, but don’t have the heart to tell them no, or how you really feel, by filling your home with clutter, you’ll never have to get on an airplane again!
- In the moment, it can seem that one of the best ways to soothe loneliness is to go shopping. By filling your home with things, it can temporarily alleviate feelings of being alone. Filling your home with things can also help buffer having to feel your own feelings. Many of us have been taught (either blatantly or subtly) that certain feelings are unacceptable. Emotional buffering is a way to numb these undesirable emotions.
- Do you feel the constant need to have your inner critic take center stage? By keeping your home messy, you’ll be continuing to fuel your inner critic, giving them as much power as they’ve always demanded. If your parents had always been very critical with you, by continuing to allow this voice to be amplified, it’s almost as if you’re keeping a parent alive once they’ve passed away. Taking power away from your inner critic may make you feel like no one cares about you. The path to developing self-compassion can be hard, especially if you’ve had trouble setting boundaries with bullies in the past.
- The three basic human needs are to feel loved, to feel safe, and to belong. To fill the need of belonging, we tend to like to act or behave similarly to those that we want to belong with. Are there people in your life that you love that are cluttered? By being cluttered yourself, this helps you stay close to those people you love.
If you have a cluttered home, take some time to make a list of all the benefits that the clutter has to offer. Instead of berating yourself for all the clutter, try to have some compassion for all of these great solutions your brain has thought of to provide you with all of these benefits. Thank these parts of yourself that have worked so hard to help you feel loved, to feel safe, and to belong. Notice how the universe is on your side, and how things are happening for you.
Were there any parts of this article that resonated with you? Please let us know in the comments!
By Jean Prominski, Certified Professional Organizer
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