Marie Kondo’s Netflix may have caused the latest decluttering fad, but psychologists have long known the benefits of tidiness and the positive impact it can have on the lives of recovering addicts. With nothing to lose (but everything to gain), here are 3 major ways that a tidy, organized environment can improve life in recovery.
It improves self-esteem and mood
Recovery can be a tumultuous time that wreaks havoc on our mental well-being. During this period when your identity and concept of self has been turned upside down, external factors will play an increasingly important role in creating a positive self-image. There have been numerous studies citing the two-way relationship between environment and mental state. Your surroundings have the ability to influence not only your mood but how you view yourself.
Just as the sight of a clean kitchen can provide a sense of happiness or peace of mind, a messy one can cause feelings of anxiety, shame, or anger. This, in turn, can result in heightened levels of stress, anxiety, and even depression. Simultaneously, our surroundings have a tendency to subconsciously reflect what’s going on internally. Are you feeling stressed or frazzled? Your home probably shows it. A disorderly space is more than just an eyesore. It can cause a harmful cycle of negativity that will continue to reinforce itself should the mess persist.
It can make you more productive
It’s been scientifically proven that our brains don’t like clutter. Visually, the disarray can lead to cognitive overload from our brains trying to process everything within our line of sight. Emotionally, the frustration of not being able to find what you’re looking for can be stressful, impairing our memory and ability to concentrate. Being organized will minimize the amount of stimuli the brain needs to process (a.k.a. your messy room) effectively freeing up your mental bandwidth and allowing you to perform better both cognitively and creatively.
On a more practical note, simply knowing where everything is or being able to navigate a space unimpeded allows for increased efficiency. Saving both time and energy, you’ll spend less time looking for things and more time executing tasks. The sense of accomplishment triggers the reward center in the brain, thus, encouraging us to continue and making us feel happy in the process.
It creates a sense of control
If there’s one thing that’s likely to be in short supply for those struggling with addiction: it’s the feeling of having control. The inherent nature of addiction, and consequently seeking treatment for it, might make individuals feel helpless in the face of substance abuse. In a society that values self-reliance and independence, the inability to stop using drugs on their own can be demotivating. Treatment itself can also be seen as a loss of control and recovering addicts may feel the pangs of lost independence as they face restrictions on the times they can come and go, the things they can do, or the places they can go.
Organization encourages the manipulation of one’s environment. Once it’s done, no matter how small the scale, it can restore a sense of control. The feeling of being able to exert influence over our surroundings has long been noted for its role in providing a sense of security and a source of motivation. By regaining locus of control, recovering addicts realize that their future truly is in their hands and that they can directly impact the outcome of their lives.
Staying Organized: A Life Hack for Life After Recovery
Even if chemical imbalances are the cause of a distressed mental state, cleaning and being organized can help override those negative feelings and immediately improve your quality of life. Psychologically, tidiness, and the act of tidying, have major effects on our mood and sense of self which can immediately benefit the recovering addict whose previous state of existence has been upended. Not only that, but the act of getting organized is the same mindset needed for approaching the journey of addiction recovery: start small, stay consistent, and use the momentum to continue making progress.