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How People With Chronic Illness Manage Clutter

Decluttering and organizing your space can be a transformative experience that brings clarity and peace to your life. However, for those dealing with chronic illnesses, the task may seem painful and impossible to achieve. While it’s crucial to acknowledge the very real challenges that chronic pain presents, it’s also important not to use it as an excuse to stay stuck in a cluttered environment.

Let’s explore some practical tips to help individuals with chronic illnesses take control of their living spaces and create a more comfortable and organized home.

Start Small

If I have said it once, I’ve said it a hundred times, baby steps. One of the most important tips, especially to folks hesitant to begin the decluttering process is to begin small. One of the key principles in decluttering is to begin with small, manageable tasks.

For people with chronic illnesses, this is even more crucial. Break down the decluttering process into bite-sized steps, such as organizing a single drawer, a shelf, or a small corner of your room. Starting small reduces the physical and mental strain, making it easier to make progress over time.

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Small Is Still Too Much

For some a whole cabinet or drawer may seem difficult to sort through. To you I say if you suffer chronic health issues just do a little bit at a time as your health conditions allow. At the end of the day you will still reach your goal. Sure it may take more time, it will also cause less stress. More importantly the job you get done will leave you with a renewed sense of strength for having started and completing this task.

Lots of stuff didn’t just pop up in your life overnight so it is unrealistic to expect a cluttered space to be magically transformed in the blink of an eye. The best thing is to plan to get rid of unneeded items on a regular basis. If you build a habit into your daily to-do list to declutter 1 item a day, when you are feeling up to the task, you would be close to 365 items lighter in a years time.

That is a lot of physical stuff you have dealt with to reach your goal of a  clutter-free home. If you can only manage 1 item a day or a week this will still add up to make a significant difference in your life.

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Set Realistic Goals

Set achievable goals for your decluttering journey. Instead of aiming to completely overhaul your entire space in one day, focus on specific, attainable objectives. For example, you might aim to declutter and reorganize your wardrobe over the course of a week or declutter one room at a time. It is ok to take days to do a room, a closet, or a drawer. Setting realistic goals prevents burnout and frustration. You can always go faster by doing more on ‘good’ days and this will make you feel like a super hero!

If you experience pain while decluttering you are likely to give up on the whole plan. I believe everyone that is physically able to reach and hold an object can declutter their space 1 item at a time.

A very real thing is some items just may not be physically possible for you to manage yourself. Can you enlist the help of a friend or a family member? I have compiled a 17 page ebook listing organizations that will pick up even big heavy items for free. All it takes is for you to easily arrange for pick up. This is a very simple way to get rid of unwanted objects and help another in need through your donations. 

Another idea is to ask around and find a strong younger person looking to make a little cash. Finding and forming a relationship with such a person may be valuable to you both. Another idea is to post a call for help in your Facebook community group, or Next Door group. Most people love to help other people. Don’t let your pride stand in the way of your goals.

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Prioritize Self-Care

Chronic illnesses often come with fatigue, pain, and limited energy. Be sure to prioritize self-care throughout the decluttering process. Take breaks when needed, rest when you’re tired, and listen to your body. Overexerting yourself can lead to setbacks, so it’s important to strike a balance between decluttering and self-care.

Seek Support

Don’t hesitate to ask family members or a best friend for help for decision-making, or even just providing emotional support. Sharing the load can make the process more manageable.

When I have an important task with a strict deadline I pick an accountability partner, which for me is a friend. This means telling a friend my goal and deadline date. As a result of doing so I will tend to stay on track and hold myself to account because I would never want to admit to a friend I did not succeed meeting my goal. This always works for me 100% of the time!

An important tip when making plans is to add a timeline to your plan. If you are going to to declutter one item a day maybe your schedule will look like this. Mon, Weds and Friday I commit to decluttering 1 object from my home before 2 pm on the given day. Of course, add as many days to your timeline that you are willing to commit to.

Embrace Adaptive Strategies

Adaptive strategies and tools can be game-changers for individuals with chronic illnesses. Consider investing in storage solutions that make accessing your belongings easier, such as pull-out shelves or bins with handles. Use tools like reaching aids, trolleys, or ergonomic grips to minimize physical strain.

I looked around on Amazon to see if there are any aids for folks that may have limited mobility issues. There are a bunch of cool things to help, like a grabber tool and hand support braces.

As a life long self supporting artist I have been relying on hand support braces enormously for many years. I cannot work without wearing these. As a matter of fact I regularly get hand braces custom made for me at my health care facility and insurance pays for it.

See what aids are available and may be helpful to you. Remember it is essential you do not cause yourself pain.

Create a System

A well-organized system can simplify your daily life. There are a number of ways to store things that you choose to keep. Pretty baskets are a straight forward and functional storage solution. Labeling containers, using color-coded systems, and having a designated place for everything can help you maintain order with less effort.

A straight forward, affordable storage system makes it so much easier to stay organized. You will find it safer and easier to get around your home environment the less stuff you have scattered about. This is especially true for a disabled person. 

Regular Maintenance

Once you’ve decluttered and organized your space, it’s essential to commit to regular maintenance. Dedicate a few minutes each day to tidying up, so clutter doesn’t accumulate again. Consistency is key to maintaining an organized and clutter-free environment.

Emotional Resilience

Chronic illnesses often come with emotional challenges as well. It’s important to recognize that decluttering can be an emotionally taxing process for anyone, regardless of their health status. Be prepared to confront attachments to items that may not serve you anymore. Practice self-compassion and remind yourself that letting go of clutter doesn’t diminish your worth or identity.

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Seek Professional Guidance:

If you find decluttering particularly challenging due to emotional attachments or decision-making difficulties, consider seeking the help of a professional organizer or therapist. These experts can provide guidance, support, and strategies tailored to your specific needs, helping you navigate the emotional and physical aspects of decluttering. I have listed some resources below.

I started a private community on Facebook. Declutterbuzz is a support group for people looking to declutter their lives. Check it out! I have made our group private to provide a shame free, safe place for like minded people to gather and share tips and cheer each other on.

Mindful Consumption

Preventing clutter from returning in the future involves adopting a mindful approach to consumption. Before bringing new items into your home, ask yourself whether they truly serve a purpose or bring you joy. Avoid impulsive purchases and be intentional about what you allow into your space.

Remember, less clutter means less to manage and more room for the things that truly matter. And another thing, when you are experiencing a poor health day, don’t you just want to relax and enjoy your clutter free and tidy physical space? 

Celebrate Progress

Celebrate your achievements along the way, no matter how small they may seem. Recognize the effort and energy you’ve invested in decluttering, and reward yourself with something you enjoy—a favorite treat, a relaxing bath, or a cozy movie night. Be sure to brag about your win to a friend! Positive reinforcement can motivate you to continue your journey toward a clutter-free space.

Be Patient

Above all, be patient with yourself. Decluttering is a process, and it may take time, especially when dealing with chronic illness. Setbacks are normal, but they don’t define your progress. Stay focused on your goals, adapt as needed, and keep moving forward at your own pace.

If for example you suffer with chronic fatigue syndrome maybe the best way for you to get easy tasks done is short bursts as your energy level allows. I feel it is even more important for a chronically ill person to go at whatever pace works best for each individual.

Decluttering and organizing is definitely not a one size fits all solution. In addition to financial consideration there are many that simply don’t know how to declutter and organize. This can be earned. You are not alone. I happen to have been born a neatnik and organized to the max. This all comes pretty easy to me and I am happy to share trips and tips I have learned from the folks I help.

Like anything, the first and most important step is to make a decision you are going to declutter. Decide and commit to taking small steps to accomplish this. You are going to take as much time as is needed and this will depend on your energy levels on any given day. That is it. This is the extent of your first step.

My community, the town in which I live, has a very active Council On Aging which has resources for folks suffering with mobility issues. I have never known a more caring community than the staff at the Senior Center I volunteer at. They also have great activities and classes! I have taken classes and done demonstrations of my art too.

If you don’t have a vibrant community in your neighborhood contact the National Council on Aging for help.

Decluttering with a chronic illness is a unique challenge, but it’s a challenge that you can conquer with the right mindset, strategies, and support. Remember that a clutter-free environment can have a positive impact on your overall well-being, reduce stress and improve your quality of life. Quality of life should be your priority because you deserve this.

By taking small, intentional steps and practicing self-compassion, you can create a space that supports your health and happiness. So, don’t let excuses hold you back, be painstakingly honest with yourself as you contemplate your decluttering journey. Only you know the truth to any physical limitations you may be dealing with.

Embrace the opportunity to transform your living space and, in turn, transform your life. Take control, one step at a time. If you have read this far I am sure saying ‘You’ve got this!’ is a true statement.

If you need help let us help you. Check our Declutterbuzz community and draw off all our experiences.

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Marj Bates is a life long ridiculously organized declutter-er and artist. Less is more are words Marj lives by in everything she does except collecting dogs. “Dogs are like potato chips! Can’t have just one.” says Marj. Marj wonders if growing up with a fanatically clean Jewish mom means her decluttering and organizational skills are in her blood.

For more Declutter Buzz & Freebies check out our safe and private Decluttering community on our Facebook page. We are a safe and private space of like minded folks tackling this all encompassing clutter thing once and for all. No shame allowed! We will have a few laughs too!

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