A cluttered mind

I never used to be messy. Sure, as a teenager there were some clothes strewn about my room, but it was usually pretty tidy. In college, my roommate and I kept our room so clean and adorable that it was shown on campus tours. As an adult, I’ve placed a lot of value on my own home being cozy, inviting, and cutely decorated. And unlike my sister’s car, which one would think she actually lives in, mine has traditionally been neat with little more than a stray umbrella on the floor.

But lately…things have changed. Clutter follows me. Amorphous masses that my boyfriend affectionately (?) calls “crap piles” materialize out of nowhere.

Now, my car rivals my sister’s (well, not really…hers should probably be condemned by the health department), laundry piles up in the bedroom, and assorted out-of-place objects pepper the surfaces in my apartment. I literally hear the music from Psycho playing in my head when I open one particularly disastrous cabinet in my kitchen, never knowing what might come tumbling out.

How I feel now (source)

You know that scene in 50/50 where JGL (swoon) insists that Anna Kendrick pull her car over so he can clean out the random trash? This is a scenario that now occurs in my relationship regularly.

I am not proud of this. And I try to combat it! Sometimes motivation strikes and I clean and organize various areas…but they fall into disarray again. Just to clarify: my apartment isn’t dirty. I do the requisite cleaning to maintain a sanitary home. It’s just cluttered. Disheveled. Kind of like me at the moment.

I may not be Susie Homemaker (when I was in first grade, I drew a picture of me, my mom, and the stove and wrote, “I like to help my mother make diner. But I don’t like helping her clen it up” – that still holds up), but I know this is about something more. For me, and I think for a lot of people, the more stressed out, anxious and scattered I feel – the more my space reflects that.

When my emotions are messy, so are my surroundings. And of course it’s a vicious cycle – being surrounded by clutter makes me more anxious, the more anxious I feel the more disorganized I become – and on and on.

Ahhh (source)

I remember my mom trying to teach me this when I was as young as ten or eleven: “Clean your room, you’ll feel better.” And it’s so incredibly true. Even at that age, I remember the serenity I felt getting into a bed with freshly changed sheets in a room that had just been cleaned – floor vacuumed, shelves dusted, every little thing in its place.

And I feel the same overwhelming sense of peace now when I clean my apartment from top to bottom, light candles, buy flowers. I may not be able to control all the stress and emotional clutter going on in my mind right now, but I can take control of my spaces and thereby lighten it just a bit. Seems like a good lesson – focus on what you can change.

My mom finds going through the car wash so relaxing that she calls it “the mini-spa.” Maybe I’ll start there. Quick. Cleansing. And way cheaper than a facial.

Stress volcano

The three-year-old girl I babysit recently informed me that if she took off her belly button, food would come shooting out like a volcano and get all over me. She then proceeded to exclaim, “peaches! blueberries! strawberries! yogurt! toast! soup! YUCK!” before dissolving into a fit of giggles.

Belly-button removal notwithstanding, I have to say that’s a lot like how I feel when I am really stressed out. Multiple research projects to do + papers to write + big life decisions around the corner makes me all, “bread! pasta! Goldfish! ice cream! cheesecake!”

You know how some people, when they get really stressed out, don’t want to eat anything? What is up with those people? Suffice to say, if this were Mean Girls, I’d totally be at the table with the girls who eat their feelings, not the girls who don’t eat anything (nor the preps, jocks, or cool Asians).

I mean, the stress eating doesn’t get out of hand or anything. Well…twice it kinda did. The freshman 15 is real, people. The “I live in D.C. by myself, know no one, hate my job and always think there’s a terrorist on the Metro” 15 is real too. But, other than that, it pretty much stays in check.

Still, every time I get stressed out, my usual affinity for healthy foods is immediately replaced by visions of a bagel and cream cheese dancing in my head. I glare disgustedly at the whiteboard where I write out the meals I’ve planned for the week and wail “I just want pizzaaaaaaa.” I go on rampages about how there are no good snacks in the house. I cut across lanes of traffic to get Goldfish at a gas station.

I mean, I know I’m not the only one… in college, I once came home to find my roommate sitting on the floor amid various wrappers, waiting to guiltily list off to me everything she’d just eaten while studying for finals. My sister once went on a Taco Bell binge that ended in tears. It happens.

You know what I was thinking, though? This phenomenon is always associated with women. I wonder, do guys actually not do it, or do they just not talk about it? I mean,  you never hear a guy say to his friend, “bro, I totally just stress-ate that cheesecake” – but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.

Hmm. I think I’m on to you, guys.