“Distracted. Annoyed. Anxious. Unhappy. Can’t relax. Irritated. Stressful”
These are just some of the feelings evoked by mess stress.
Back in the Summer of 2019, my mess stress had reached a point where I knew something had to change. I resented all the time I was spending tidying at the weekends. Because nothing ever seemed to change – the house would be back to ‘mess town’ in what seemed like minutes.
This mess stress really affected me. I worked from home, so I couldn’t get away from it, either because I could see it while I worked, or the nagging voice in my head was reminding me of all the piles I needed to sort. Because I had a lot of piles! I sometimes felt better if I merged several piles into one mega pile, but the problem was just getting bigger.
It may not affect you, or your clients, in an obvious way as it did me. It may be just a niggle, or something you just can’t put your finger on, but it stops you being able to relax fully at home – the place that should be our haven.
Mess stress affects us all
My recent Kantar survey* found that the feelings I was having back then are not at all uncommon. In fact, 82% of us have experienced ‘mess stress’ at some point in our lives, with nearly half (44%) at least weekly. This figure is higher amongst women, and starkly, 98% of parents of young children have experienced mess stress, with 71% experiencing it at least weekly. Even 72% of those who define themselves as ‘naturally tidy’ had experienced mess stress. Mess stress gets to us all.
“It makes me feel anxious and I can never rest as I am always thinking I need to tidy my home – never feel content fully” Male, 35-44
“It distracts me, I don’t feel happy at all when the house is messy” Female, 35-44
“I am bothered by the mess and even if I do not think actively about it at the time, my mood is low.” Male, 18-24
The survey also explored the impact of letting our mess get the better of us, and reveals that, inevitably perhaps, 62% of people do not love their homes as much as they did when they moved in, revealing that our day-to-day habits were leading us to not fully appreciate our homes as our havens.
Low take up of well-known systems: are the TV shows causing us to turn off?
Given that mess stress is pervasive, are we actually doing anything about it, or are we just accepting it as part of ‘our lot’? From the research, it seems not many of us are using the well-known systems we see on TV. Is this because of overwhelm as a response to Insta perfect homes and the expectations we have of such solutions?
Thankfully, despite low uptake of the TV-worthy systems, there is high demand for practical solutions, with 76% saying that they are either very or somewhat likely to take up a realistic solution that isn’t intimidating and could be sustained over time.
With so many homes across the UK experiencing mess stress, the challenge for APDO Association of Professional Declutterers & Organisers and its members is to communicate what’s available, and how we professional organisers support our clients with practical, sustainable approaches
Back in the Summer of 2019, I couldn’t find exactly that route, so I solved both my mess stress and reduced/eliminated the dreaded tidying by building my own practical, realistic and sustainable system. Initially just for myself, I now teach people the Serenely Sorted System via online programmes and install it in people’s homes through my business Serenely Sorted, enabling people to remove the daily debris from the surfaces in their homes and address the piles for the long term. The system utilises my corporate skills of system and process improvement, involves methods through which people can become more aware of how their behaviour creates mess, and techniques to break the mess/tidy loop they are in – and help them get tidy in less time than ever before.
With over 59% of households spending more than 30 minutes per day tidying, there is huge scope for helping people reduce and eliminate some of this drudgery by finding better ways of tidying. Fascinatingly, those who claim to be naturally tidy are spending the most time actually tidying (63% spending more than 30 minutes), so it’s reassuring to the rest of us that perhaps the ‘naturally tidy’ image portrayed is just that – an image – and in fact the majority of us are not in control of our homes!
* Source: Nationally representative survey of 250 respondents conducted by Kantar on behalf of Serenely Sorted
If Diana’s article has prompted you to get some help with your own mess stress, you can find your local APDO professional organiser on our Find An Organiser database.