There is a saying: “Clutter in your physical surroundings will clutter your mind and spirit.” In our case, having children that struggle with a nonverbal disability and a brain based disorder, this statement would hold true.
I find that when their environment is disorganized or cluttered, they have a harder time coping and calming.
This past weekend, we decided to clear out our youngest son’s room. His room wasn’t “messy”, it just had many toys, stuffies, and other items in it. Visually there was a lot going on. He has a hard time sleeping at best and these items were only adding to the challenge. His bedroom could be a perfect get away for him. It could be a space that would be calming, but with all of his treasures in there, it would be a challenge. So off to work we went with simplifying his space.
We removed all of his toys. This was also a good time for us to declutter his collection. We had a ‘keep’, ‘donate’ and throw away bin. We kept him an active part of this process and honoured his decisions. We created a playroom for the kids. The shelving and toys from his bedroom are now homed in the playroom. His room has a bed, nightstand, dresser, a few stuffed animals, books and a comfy chair for reading.
This was a big change, as he’s always had his toys in his room. I actually felt guilty about removing these items, but after seeing the outcome for him, those feeling quickly disappeared. He actually has shown relief. His response was “Whew this feels so much better, I like it!” We’ve actually seen a shift, like he has a weight lifted. When he’s upset, he will go up to his room to calm down. It is now a place that encourages a sense of inner calm.
I know for myself, when the house gets cluttered up or messy, I feel unsettled. I’m not talking about the one counter that ALWAYS seems to have clutter on it, but an overall feeling. If things in our life are busy or there is a larger amount of stress, the first thing to go on my list, is the housework. Often times when I feel chaotic myself, the environment around me can also reflect that. In knowing this, it is so important for us to help our children manage their own space. Their little minds are already so busy with learning and managing the day to day tasks. When their own space gets cluttered up and messy, they can’t manage it.
We see this with our daughter. If her space gets messy she can not cope. This is a challenge because, well, she’s a teenager. (Teenagers are already in a chaotic mindset – haha.) We find that when she starts to get disorganized, she becomes more emotional. So instead of waiting for her room to get to that state, we help her daily. We gently remind her, or in her opinion “nag her”, about putting things away. We help her keep her room organized in a way that makes sense to her, so she knows where to put and find things. Since we have been able to do this with her, she also has a space that she likes to be in and finds it more of a calm place to be.
Clutter is found in so many shapes and sizes. We can find it on our kitchen tables, under our beds, in our cars, and in our heads. ~Katrina Mayer