Bipolar Depression, Clutter and Disorganization
In an informal question and answer session with people who have bipolar disorder, I found that a high percentage of them reported problems with household clutter, disorganization and even hoarding.
Research into obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and hoarding has found that hoarding is more likely in people with both OCD and bipolar. And while there’s no scholarly research regarding bipolar and clutter or chronic disorganization, a lot of people do complain about these problems.
Thus, I can’t address why bipolar people have one or more of these problems, but the fact remains that many of us do. I’ve been fighting two of these problem all my life (I’m not a hoarder).
As a child, I wasn’t required to clean up my room, and my mom wasn’t the world’s neatest housekeeper, so I never really learned the skills of keeping things in order.
But when I became an adult, clutter and disorganization began to cause me extreme distress. In fact, it became a significant stress factor that contributed toward my bipolar depression.
Solutions? Well, a year ago, after an injury that left me unable to do housework at all, I bit the bullet and hired professional organizers. They were extremely helpful: we purged, we rearranged furniture, we put like with like in labeled containers. Today I can find things I need more easily - but there are also things I can’t find at all, things I hope I didn’t give to charity in the purging.
The two biggest problems are that the organizers were very expensive, and that I didn’t learn sufficient skills to keep the clutter from piling up again - especially during even mild depression. I can’t entirely blame them for the latter, because I’d had a lifetime of negative behavior to overcome.
I can’t offer you any advice on hoarding, because I don’t have any experience with it. But I do have a beginner’s suggestion if you have problems with clutter and chronic disorganization.
Start by buying some containers that fit in your closets (clear plastic is best) and labeling them with logical categories. Some of mine are Light Bulbs, Lotions and Hair Care, First Aid, Candles, Tablets, and Post-Its. It was amazing how many of some of these I had scattered through the house, because I’d buy more when I couldn’t find any. (In fact, I had to have separate containers for pens and for pencils)
Then, as you come across items that fit into these categories, put them in the appropriate containers. Set up new containers as you come across new categories.
This two-part process will help with both decluttering and organizing - and it doesn’t have to be difficult!
The most important thing is having containers, even if you can’t think of categories at first. Use leftover boxes if you can’t afford plastic. Then as you go about your day, pick up things that have no “home” and start filling the containers. The categories will become evident as you do, and you can put labels on at that point.
I can’t say this technique will solve all your clutter/disorganization problems. It hasn’t solved all of mine. But it will help. You’ll even save money by not having to buy replacements for things you can’t find.
Now it’s your turn. Are clutter, disorganization and/or hoarding stressing you out? Do you have tips to share? Add your comment. Your tips may help others - they might even help me.
Marcia wrote for HealthCentral as a patient expert for Mental Disorders.