Home Organization as a Caregiver Coping Mechanism

We have become obsessed with home organization! Nothing gives us more joy than reading an article about reconfiguring a tiny closet, reorganizing a drawer of miscellaneous kitchen tools, or perusing the aisles of the Container Store. We aren't quite at the level of practicing "the Japanese art of decluttering and organizing" described in The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo - she does encourage you to treat your socks with respect and greet your house, afterall, and we’re just not there yet - but we do like many of her ideas. She makes a convincing case that you should discard what you don't use, keeping only items that spark joy, and explains how your living space affects your body and mind.

We continue to be inspired by our sister Colleen’s level of organization in her closets, kitchen, and filing system. Even her basement storage bins were labeled and organized. We don’t know how she did it all, but we made note of her organizing skills and tried to replicate them in our own homes. When we were staying with her while she was sick, we noticed that she had many designated bins for items - every item seemed to have a home - and we wanted the same in our lives.

A place for all things, so the mess is nonexistent.

The desire for order in our homes was heightened when Colleen was dying. Our lives were filled with chaos as we traveled every few weeks to be with her or attempted to keep tabs on what was going on from afar. We lessened our stress by organizing every closet in our houses. It became our therapy. We personally know that caregivers have many things to keep track of, while stress and worry are constant battles, but we felt that clutter could worsen the problems. Life was out of our control, but we might contain the disarray by having tidy kitchen drawers. Jessica remembers a day off when she took everything out of her master closet and started over. It ended up being a sweaty and stuffy day in the closet, but the work paid off when every piece of clothing was in place. Shane recalls organizing out-grown baby clothes into give away piles or labeled bins by size, and thinning out the over-grown pint glass collection. It is so satisfying to be able to actually see only the items you need in your drawers and cabinets.

Thin out your clothes, kitchen ware, and other items before you organize. Simplify.

The junk has to go!

The junk has to go!

Looking back, we should have prioritized napping over cleaning up. If you are like us and sleeping or napping is a challenge, then if you can’t sleep, you may as well burn off some nervous energy by organizing that drawer of junk which is driving you crazy.

Nap first, then organize.

Turns out that our mania to keep things organized may be a coping skill. Research shows that clutter and disorganization raise stress levels as well as lead to depression and fatigue. We definitely did not need more stress in our lives as caregivers and maybe that is what drove us to be neat freaks. Or, maybe it was a distraction technique and an attempt to assert some control in our lives. We do believe that although cleaning up and organizing may take some work at first, the reduction in stress and the feeling of happiness is worth it. This article in Shape magazine discusses how organizing can help you physically and mentally. 

Not only do we love the victory of an organized toy area, it is entertaining to read stories and look at pretty pictures of a well designed closet. We like learning tips from organization experts, such as those featured in this Real Simple article: “Organized people say no to spillover.” Brilliant! 

Learn from the best organizers.

Have other caregivers experienced the same joy and release of organization? Should we add “organize your home” to a list of coping skills for caregivers? Or does it just add to caregivers' already long To Do lists?