Coping with anxiety-cleaning

Marie Kondo

As promised, this week I’ll be following up about my anxiety-cleaning. Last week, I explained a little bit about why some people experience anxiety-cleaning, and I gave some examples from my life.

Just to refresh your memory, anxiety-cleaning comes from high-functioning anxiety. I struggle with anxiety-cleaning when I’m experiencing a lack of control in other aspects of my life, or when the illusion-bubble of control that I have created pops.

Now, let’s talk about how I fight the endless need to clean.

It’s important to acknowledge that you might be stuck in the clutter-depression-anxiety cycle. It’s a vicious cycle, but it can be broken with some hard work. The following coping skills are used for my struggles with anxiety-cleaning but can also be used for the clutter-depression-anxiety cycle.

When I’m spiraling and I NEED to clean, instead of feeling guilty about giving in to my anxiety or trying to tell myself not to give in, I clean. But instead of going a million miles a minute and speed cleaning my entire neighborhood, I slow down. I force myself to tackle one room at a time and I work slowly, giving myself breaks every now and then. Sometimes, it’s almost painful to force myself to slow down, but I have to remind myself that I’m training my brain and I’m working through something that will eventually make me a healthier person.

I ONLY use this method when the anxiety-cleaning is really bad and I’m on the verge of a breakdown.

Another thing that helps, is simply acknowledging that I’m only cleaning because I feel anxious. I’m not cleaning because I have to, no one is forcing me to, and the world will not crumble around me if I stop.

Clutter and a messy home overstimulates our systems, draws attention away from enjoyable activities, and makes it more difficult to relax. To simplify home cleaning, declutter. Downsize and get rid of things you don’t need — follow the Marie Kondo cleaning method and eliminate items that no longer bring you joy. This might not always be easy, so take it slow. It has helped me so much.

Ultimately, these are all just coping skills that have worked to ease me through my anxiety-cleaning. That being said, it’s extremely important to realize that anxiety-cleaning is part of a cycle that is triggered by certain emotions. When we don’t know how, or we’re not willing, to address those emotional triggers the appropriate way, THAT’S when we result to silly things like anxiety-cleaning.

Anxiety-cleaning is a response to a stimulus that is not being properly handled. The bigger issue here, is figuring out what is triggering you and then figuring out how to eliminate it. If it’s something that can’t be eliminated, then we need to find an appropriate coping skill for it.

Anxiety-cleaning is not the coping skill here, it’s the response and the behavior to something bigger. Remember that the next time you feel the overwhelming need to sanitize your entire life. Tell yourself that there is a deeper problem here, and it’s okay to identify the problem and work on yourself to be a better human.


Office Manager, Assignment/Copy Editor, DKN Managing Editor, Reporter, and The Millennial Meltdown Columnist

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