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What I Learned While Packing: Embrace The Mess

As you saw from Monday’s epic post, last week was a big one. I packed up and moved out of my apartment.  There was a lot of sweat, and a lot of mess. 

Throughout the week – and which came as a pleasant surprise –  I came to embrace this mess more and more each day.

embrace the mess

I have no idea where you stand on the “clean obsession” scale, so you may not relate to some of this. When I was young and all through my adolescence, I was NOT clean. My bedroom was piled with clothes and unnecessary knick knacks and I drove my mother crazy by leaving my stuff around the house. I wasn’t a slob by any means, but I definitely embraced my own “organized chaos.” When I moved out on my own, I slowly began to become more and more…involved…with cleaning.

Now I would say, and hope, that as we grow older and once we move out of our parents’ care, we naturally begin to appreciate cleanliness more. We are finally living in our own space and there ain’t nobody else around to clean up after you.  You soon learn you can’t keep dirty dishes in the sink forever…. hopefully. 

But for me, I started to see myself getting more and more obsessed with cleaning as the years went on. 

I know for a fact a lot of this was connected to my struggles with anxiety and my eating disorder. Somehow, I got to the point where I was cleaning my apartment nearly every morning. This, by in large, worked to take the place of the workouts that always used to happen at this time. It gave me something to do to distract myself before having breakfast. Cleaning has also been my go to when I have feared being alone without anything to do. It has taken the edge off of boredom, loneliness and  being in my own head. Therefore as you can guess, my apartments lately have been pretty sickingly spick and span. 

moving table

But man. This really isn’t me. Over the past few years I have often asked myself, “how did I turn into such a (for lack of a better term) clean freak? I NEVER used to be like this”. 

This week as I was taking down, putting away and shuffling through all my stuff, I threw all sense of organization and tidiness to the wind.  I could hardly see my table, I had to go through a maze to get to my kitchen sink, and washing dishes took on a two day wait period. And you know what? IT FELT SO GOOD. Honestly – my place has never felt more cozy.  And, ironically, I felt way more relaxed. Here I was thinking cleaning helped me to be less anxious – which, yes, it definitely does serve this purpose – but the mere feeling like I need to clean is what causes me much anxiety in the first place. Last week, I suddenly loved sitting on my couch in the evenings – boxes surrounding me, dinner bowl in my lap – way more than I ever have. My apartment finally felt like….”home.”

table mess

As I type this I realize how silly this all sounds. I am by no means advertising becoming a slob and telling you all to start living amidst week old dishes and covering your floors in empty cereal boxes. But I just think this is a small example of “returning to myself.” If I felt so cozy and comfortable in this state, then obviously I have been fighting against some part of me all these years as I made sure the counters were pristine and bed was made every day. There have been many different ways I have ran away from who I am over these last five or so years, and unfortunately, the thought of the loss of these parts of me make me quite sad. But slowly I am remembering and collecting these forgotten parts and all the things I used to love or used to love do. I am remembering how much I love to dance like nobody’s watching (which Suz reminded me of last week), how much I love to make really reeeeally corny jokes (sorry ya’ll), how much I love french fries and chicken wings, and how I actually do not like cleaning and love when I have crap all over my floor. 

I think by just growing up, a lot of us tend to lose parts of ourselves we once loved. We lose a part of that care free child or teenager we once were. We get engulfed in the realities of life – of finding employment, financial concerns, buying a house, family illness – and suddenly all of these things have taken up all of our energy. We no longer have “time” for any of the frivolities we once found a natural part of our daily lives. Mental illness has the ability to rob us of these things even more. One day we wake up and realize we don’t even recognize the person we were a mere five years before. And we wonder where she/he went and why she/he ever left. 

room mess

Life IS messy. No matter how hard we try to clean it up and make it all perfect, there is ALWAYS going to be some dust, or another dish to clean, and as hard as you scrub you just will never get that rust stain off the base of your shower head. So I say… EMBRACE IT. Embrace the mess. If you are in a phase where time is short and you have trouble getting to the grocery store or to that rack of dishes … embrace it. Laugh at it. What would 14 year old ‘you’ ‘do? 12 year old you do? Probably pump up some spice girls and make a bowl of popcorn. Just me? That’s cool too.

Because you know what, I have a pretty good feeling it will all work out as it is supposed to.  

clean room mess

Thank you, Amanda, for giving me a place to think all this mess out loud. 

Thinking-Out-Loud2

How Packing Reminded Me to Embrace the Mess. How can you get back a piece of your inner child?ā€¦ Click To Tweet

Tell me,

Are you more comfortable with cleanliness, or a bit of mess?

Is there a part of who you were as a child or teenager that you feel you have lost? Is there anything you used to do or love that you miss? Are you repressing any part of your younger self? I encourage you to bring back one little element of this part of your childhood this week – listen to your old favorite CD, buy your old favorite cereal, or hell, don’t make your bed for a week. 

 

33 COMMENTS

  1. Emily Swanson | 5th May 16

    Being okay with a mess IS so freeing. I remind myself that even if there is still a mess in the kitchen, God is in control, and that He has me accomplish whatever He wants me to accomplish and I don’t ever need to be worried about it.
    Emily Swanson recently posted…Recovery Series: A Purpose for LifeMy Profile

    • Cora | 8th May 16

      And maybe the mess is actually helping you accomplish what you are supposed to! So freeing, you are right.

  2. chasetheredgrape | 5th May 16

    I am a mixed bag when it comes to this one – I can live in a semi sort of mess, just as long as my desk is always in order, the bed is made and the dishes are done. Ha I have just read this back and realised that maybe I like things a bit more neat than I realised! But I do hate clutter and as a result we don’t actually have that much ‘stuff’ around – but that could also do with the fact that we had to do a major downsize moving out here!
    But when I was at the worst of my disorder I was obsessed about cleaning, I think it just took my mind off everything and gave me a focus… something else I could ‘control’.
    One thing I always loved as a kid was being fully immersed in my imagination – I loved pretending to go on adventures! And I am totally getting that sense of adventure back now in Australia, I think that’s why I feel so happy here šŸ™‚

    • Cora | 8th May 16

      Not having too much “stuff” and minimizing clutter in the house = less clutter in the brain. I strongly believe that. A little bit of mess with your things is far healthier than too many unnecessary things you don’t even know what to do with. That is what causes me stress!
      In the midst of the disorder cleaning is definitely yet another way of gathering control. I guess it comes down to knowing the real reasons why you like to clean and if it fulfills you or an unhealthy side of you.
      LOVE that you are getting this sense of adventure back – more forest hikes and crocodile hunting! šŸ˜‰

  3. Susie @ SuzLyfe | 5th May 16

    So often we forget to leave our seriousness behind, even for a second; it seems that we fear what the results might be. But mess can be beautiful. Mess can mean progress. Creativity. Exploration. The order comes from organizing our thoughts, created out of the mess.
    Susie @ SuzLyfe recently posted…Thursday Randoms, Fun Findings, and Last NightsMy Profile

    • Cora | 8th May 16

      Mess absolutely equals creativity and exploration. I think all growth and brilliance comes from a bit of mess.

  4. Kate | 5th May 16

    Yep. I’m a hot mess. Sometimes I’d rather just throw everything away. My sister would always kick me out of our room growing up so that she could clean it. I am certainly better now since I am responsible for my place of living, but I am not a spic n’ span kind of gal. I used to be embarrassed about this, but now I try embrace it an try to do better.
    Before my ED, I was total type B personality. Now that I’ve returned to more and more myself I see more of that type B come out!
    Kate recently posted…My grad school yearsMy Profile

    • Cora | 8th May 16

      I love that you are now learning to embrace this. It is obviously just a part of who you are. I’m sure you’ve had to find a balance in order to appease Terry and other family members, but I hope you still hold on to a bit of this care free style. Too much cleaning just takes too much time.
      EDs are all about type A. Control. Order. Organization. Planning. While retaining some aspects of these is great, being able to let go of them and return to that type B feels SO GOOD.

  5. Morgan @ Morgan Manages Mommyhood | 5th May 16

    Oh man. I was a HUGE mess as a kid. Like Pig Pen from the peanuts status. I married a neat freak or else I think I would be that way still. I’m super organized in ssome aspects of my life and then a hot mess in others, but I think in the end it usually balances out.
    Morgan @ Morgan Manages Mommyhood recently posted…Why I’m Finally Seeing Blog GrowthMy Profile

    • Cora | 8th May 16

      Aha! Well self awareness is most important – especially knowing that it simply balances out other places where you are very organized. And hey maybe it helped get you to your hubby – opposites attract, no?

  6. Heather @ Polyglot Jot | 5th May 16

    As far as my house goes, I like it clean and tidy. I feel really anxious and cant relax if there’s clutter and mess everywhere!
    Heather @ Polyglot Jot recently posted…The Waiting GameMy Profile

    • Cora | 8th May 16

      That’s been me too. I’d like to challenge myself with that one a bit more now to see if it is actually something else causing me the anxiety.

  7. Amanda @ .running with spoons. | 5th May 16

    I don’t mind a mess TOO much, but my desire to clean definitely gets bumped up a few notches when I’m stressed or anxious. Then I clean because I find it somehow relaxing, which kind of makes sense since I’ve always been pretty organized, but yeah. One thing I can’t do is clutter. I feel like I’m constantly going through my things and throwing them out just because I don’t like the suffocating feeling of having too much stuff. Just me? šŸ˜†

    • Cora | 8th May 16

      Definitely not just you. I think clutter and mess can be totally different. Clutter of unnecessary things = clutter in the mind = stress and anxiety. I also find cleaning relaxing and a stress reliever, so I just have to keep aware of when it is helpful and when it is causing me more anxiety than good.

  8. Runwright | 5th May 16

    I found this really interesting because I’ve been reading a lot about minimalism lately. Great to see the other perspective.
    I hope you’ll check out my page too
    http://runwright.net

    • Cora | 8th May 16

      I think minimalism could do a lot of benefit to our entire society! We have too much stuff and it is causing us more anxiety to always be so cluttered – in the brain and in the house.
      Thank you for coming by! Definitely checked out your site šŸ™‚

  9. Sarah @ Bucket List Tummy | 5th May 16

    I love the metaphor you use here, and I can’t agree more. Life will never be spick and span – there will always be that dust and rust you can’t get off, but those are where the memories and experiences lie. When I catch myself trying to cross everything off my list before I go to bed, I have to remind myself that it can wait until tomorrow. The things I Miss most from my childhood are my 90’s homemade CD mixes! Definitely need to bust those out with popcorn šŸ™‚
    Sarah @ Bucket List Tummy recently posted…How To Increase Your Metabolic Rate (Even without exercise)My Profile

    • Cora | 8th May 16

      Yes yes yes – that is it exactly. Though it can be such a hard notion to settle into. Its got to be a daily practice to sit with whatever “mess” comes our way and remind ourselves that things will get done in their own time.
      Oh god. The 90s mixes. I could still listen to Planet Pop 2000 alllll daayyy long.

  10. katalysthealth | 5th May 16

    Our lives are messy. Our jobs are messy. This world is messy.
    Which is probably why I am a total clean freak. I can clean out the gunk in my house a heck of a lot easier than I can the gunk in my life or in this world.
    katalysthealth recently posted…Thinking Out Loud #84My Profile

    • Cora | 8th May 16

      Hmmmm interesting connection!! I think this is totally how many people feel – whether they know it is what they are doing or not. A sense of control when you can’t control things in your life.

  11. Ellie | 6th May 16

    I think I allow an appropriate level of clean. I don’t mind dishes sitting, there is a lot of cat hair on things and I don’t always hang up my clothes right when I’m done wearing them. However, it is easier to get things done when you know where everything is am I right?
    I think I used to be a lot more rigid about my room and stuff when I was young because my mom used to nag me to no end, and being a people pleaser, I tried to do what she said and felt bad when I didn’t.
    Now, I clean because it makes me feel good šŸ™‚ My motivation for cleaning has changed, but I don’t think I’m obsessive about it so it’s all good.
    Ellie recently posted…Hey All! Iā€™m Moving!My Profile

    • Cora | 8th May 16

      Yes – I think clutter and mess can be different. Clutter in the house = clutter in the mind and definitely makes it harder to find things and get things done productively.
      That’s some great insight. I’m glad cleaning makes you feel good even if you had a “very clean” upbringing. Sounds like you know how it serves you – and only you – now.

  12. Gail | 6th May 16

    As you may have noticed in real time, my house is in cyclone mode right now. I can relate to the comfort that that mess affords me. In addition to all my many possessions, I am surrounded by photos that normally are tucked away out of sight. I am LOVING the random piles of photos – me at a different time, a trip with a friend, my family when we are all much younger. I think I need to have a pile out all the time – one that changes frequently after I’ve looked at them a few times. It will ground me and remind me of who I am.

    • Cora | 8th May 16

      That’s an awesome idea. Its amazing what little treasures we can find or ideas we discover out of a good bit of mess, eh? Which is why I think we need to afford ourselves these moments. If we just stay in our clean bubble all the time, how will we make these discoveries? (metaphor for life here..)
      Just as long as you don’t have pics of me in my long pig tails on the top of the pile when good looking company comes over….. šŸ˜‰

  13. Stephanie Leduc | 7th May 16

    I have to kind of agree on this one, although I am relatively clean, I am usually quite a disorganized person in life and I try so hard to be more organized but it never works! It seems that my disorganization works for me.
    I wanted to tell you that you are so brave to go back home and make that decision for YOU. I haven’t commented on the recent posts but you best believe I read them. I feel a sense of relief through your posts and I hope that feeling I am getting is right! Wishing you all the best šŸ™‚

    • Cora | 8th May 16

      That’s the key – if your “disorganization” works for you – then there is absolutely nothing bad about it! It is your own “organized chaos.”
      Thank you, Steph. That really means a lot – especially since its been so hard to battle the notion of doing this for “me” when no one else is telling me to. There is a very strange mix of relief and fear… but I hope the relief stays strong. <3

  14. Joyce @ The Hungry Caterpillar | 7th May 16

    I love this post! I will confess that I’m not a very neat and tidy person. My house kind of looks like a hurricane blew through. : P If I have time, I do certainly clean–but definitely not every day, and since I’ve been in graduate school…(*cough cough) It’s a point of contention between my boyfriend and me because he likes things really, really clean.
    I think it’s interesting how you see the correlation between disordered eating and obsessive cleaning. Although I was never super Type A about cleanliness, I have noticed my Type A tendencies I had as an undergraduate–like always doing the entire assigned reading, no matter how much other homework I had to do–have really slid since recovery. I’d like to think that’s a healthy thing.
    Joyce @ The Hungry Caterpillar recently posted…Gluten-Free, Vegan Pancakes for OneMy Profile

    • Cora | 8th May 16

      But hey, if your “disorganization” let’s call it, works for you… then it isn’t a bad thing. I can definitely see the contention that would arise between you and your bf though. I guess that’s the beauty of humanity working to balance ourselves out using each other. You can both give in a little on your ways and meet somewhere in the middle? Maybe he could use a messy day or two šŸ™‚
      Yes yes – definitely. Type A tendencies can come in many forms, and I’ve definitely noticed many lighten up as I become more recovered. For me, I think its also a notion of being so sick of living that way that I just say, “enough!” I say this is one of the best – and yes, healthy – parts of recovery.

  15. Aubrey Powell | 9th May 16

    I can relate to this so much. Like you, I think I like some mess at heart but it’s become a bit of a default – yet another way to control my surroundings. I’m so glad you were able to find a space to embrace those parts of you that had been forgotten. Life certainly has its ways of taking away the little things that make us happy. You have inspired me to let a few little things slide this week, I’m intrigued to see what a little mess can do for the better!

  16. Meghan@CleanEatsFastFeets | 11th May 16

    I was a messy child who turned into a very clean adult, almost obsessively. As I got older, I realized I cared less about the house being so crazy clean and I learned to lighten up, although I still use cleaning as a crutch when life feels overwhelming. It gives me a false sense of control I need sometimes.

    I posted a video on IG last fall where I danced like no one was watching, minus the obvious recording. Sometimes you just gotta let it all go.

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