Living room divided into sections with and without clutter

Surviving the Clutter Disaster With MS

As I gaze around my living room, my mind and body become frozen, blocked from accomplishing the next task on my list. My activity is halted because I’ve become overwhelmed by my surroundings. You see, my living room is now a sprawl of clutter, a disaster of my own creation. This expansive level of disarray was not created overnight, it cascaded over the course of weeks. Objects, once used and now left, never returned to their proper location. I sit engulfed by a landscape of clutter, and I am seemingly unable to move because of it. Clutter can be a huge problem for people with a chronic illness like Multiple Sclerosis. Many of our symptoms can contribute to the creation of clutter. Once a mess is made, these same symptoms can create additional problems for us, making it seem nearly impossible to clean.

Set up for disaster

Some of the most common symptoms of MS create the perfect conditions to create a cluttered house, office, or anywhere you might spend some time. Fatigue makes physically putting items away difficult, as do mobility issues, numbness, and spasticity. Cognitive dysfunction can create difficulties for us where we either don’t know where an item goes, or don’t realize it even needs to be put away. It feels childish to say that we can bring out items in a place and not put them back. After all, how many times did we all hear that as children? When you stop and look at some of the symptoms that come along with MS, suddenly it doesn’t look so childish anymore. These are legitimate reasons for why we can tend to create a bit of a mess. It’s never intentional, but it happens, oftentimes before we even realize it.

Staying focused is harder when surrounded by clutter

Once a room is laden with clutter, it can seem almost impossible to fix. If fatigue, numbness, weakness, and cognitive problems can make it hard to put one item away, how can you possibly deal with an entire room? Daunting isn’t a strong enough word when it comes to describing the enormity of the task! Cleaning up isn’t the only issue though. For the many who suffer adverse cognitive issues with Multiple Sclerosis, doing anything in a cluttered room can seem impossible. With so much stimuli about us, trying to focus on a simple task can become incredibly difficult. I often become lost when there is so much going on around me, even if it’s simply a bunch of random objects that aren’t actually going anywhere. Fighting distraction and staying focused becomes increasingly difficult for me when a room is full of clutter. There becomes a point when the mess I’ve slowly created simply takes over and renders me nearly helpless!

Tips for surviving the disaster of clutter

Honestly, creating and surviving the disaster of clutter is something I am still not good at. My colleague Lisa has a great list of ways to avoid and reduce clutter over here, a list I really need to pay more attention to in the future. I think the best way to handle the problem is to attempt to avoid creating clutter in the first place, as I’ve talked about, that isn’t always easy though. Breaking areas of a room down to small sections, even one item at a time, is also helpful. There is also no shame in asking for help. Explain the issue to a family member or friend, sure, it may seem embarrassing, but there is no reason to feel that way. Your illness has helped contribute to the issue, that isn’t your fault. Share this article with them if you want. They won’t think less of you. Asking for help isn’t giving in, it’s simply part of good problem solving. That’s something we should all remember. Now that I’ve said that, I’m gonna send this over to my roommate and say, “Hey man, can you help me out with something later? And oh, sorry about the living room”.

Thanks for reading!


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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


View Comments (10)
  • Lisa
    2 days ago

    Thanks so much for this and for the link to Lisa’s article. I was just looking at the pile of workshop materials that I will be using next week, and wondering why I have left them by my work chair for so long.

  • Devin Garlit moderator author
    1 day ago

    Thank you @Lisa! Happens to so many of us!

  • sophiekerr
    5 days ago

    This is fantastic! Clutter rules my life. And I cannot get it under control because of fatigue. I have paid professionals a load of money to help me with this (and even seen psychologists), but the clutter always returns. Good advice in the link you provide—I’m gonna ask my neurologist about this!

  • Devin Garlit moderator author
    5 days ago

    Thanks so much sophiekerr!

  • Becca ru
    5 days ago

    I try to always remove something from a room that doesn’t belong every time I leave that room! I find it is easier then trying to pick up a bunch of stuff at the same time! The smaller the load the better!

  • Devin Garlit moderator author
    5 days ago

    Thank you @Becca ru , good advice there! It’s important to be proactive!

  • djohns531
    7 days ago

    I have nobody to help me. 🙁
    The “cludder” causes me debilitating anxiety!! This is the worst!!

  • Devin Garlit moderator author
    7 days ago

    Thanks @djohns531, I completely understand! It can be a massive source of anxiety. I try very hard to not let the anxiety eat me alive, no so easy though!

  • jan18
    1 week ago

    Thank you Devon for your awesome write-up of an ongoing problem. The illustrated living room looks like mine on a good day. I get so overwhelmed and incapable of getting anything done when surrounded by mess aka clutter. Especilaly piles and piles of paper. So I misplace important papers a lot. Also “nothing on the floor” (safety hazard) is just a dream. 🙂

  • Devin Garlit moderator author
    7 days ago

    Thanks so much @jan18!

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