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Clutter: can you cope?




When I think back to 2023 and the things clients brought up in sessions as problematic, one thing came up quite a bit: Clutter.



It made my clients feel out of control and overwhelmed; things literally weren’t in order. For youngsters, cluttered houses - kitchen tables, desks etc - were unhelpful in the run up to exams, especially if they had autism or attention deficit conditions.



So why do we accumulate so much stuff? The evolutionary psychology is that we’ve evolved needing tools in order to survive. The caveman with the best flints was able to hunt, have clothes and provide. Translate this to our world and we feel we need the iPhone whatever, even though our survival doesn’t depend on it.



Add status anxiety, made worse by things like social media - which shatters our familial or tribal pecking order into something huge and unrealistic - and we find ourselves wanting things to keep up with the Jones’s, even if the Jones’s in this case are influencers or the Kardashians.



Have you ever bought something online thinking it would make you slimmer, more successful, more beautiful, fitter etc. and actually what you ended up with was just another thing in your home? Deficit marketing plays to our insecurities, and makes us believe we can fix the things we don’t like about ourselves. However, the only way we can change the things we don’t like about ourselves is through changing our thinking.



Dopamine, the chemical of motivation and reward, plays its part. Every time we think about, and get something, we get a dopamine reward, which momentarily makes us feel good. If you have an attention deficit condition, your dopamine levels may well be will be lower, so you might be susceptible to buying more.



So with evolutionary and neurological factors at play you can see how we can be tempted to accumulate so much.



Can we have less, and protect our mental health? Someone once said to me, spend money on experiences not things. Make positive memories to draw from.



It’s important to separate out our wants and our needs, especially in the heat of pressing the ‘buy’ button. If we’re buying something to feel better about ourselves, then it’s worth leaning in to what exactly it is about ourselves we think isn’t up to scratch. And is the story we’re telling ourselves true? Are there other ways to think that might create the change we crave by buying something? Can we find mentally healthy ways to self soothe? Is there a way to create space between the desire to buy something and the action, to surf the urge?



If you need help changing your thinking, help with anxiety disorders and overwhelm/burnout, or help functioning with attention deficit conditions, do get in contact.



PS Disclosure: this is my kitchen table on a good day!


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