Exclusive Content

Decluttering Your Life with MS

By Matt Cavallo

Decluttering goes against all of my sentimental tendencies. From the drawer full of old T-shirts that don’t fit anymore to a 30-year-old youth hockey trophy, I like to hold onto physical objects that evoke memories of my past. Part of it is the natural longing to hold onto yesterday but the other part of it has to do with managing my MS. I have found that my MS makes me feel more emotional and sensitive to my own mortality than before I was diagnosed.
If you are living with multiple sclerosis like me, that extra stuff in your life that you are holding on to can create both physical and mental barriers. Physical barriers in terms of navigating around your living space and mental barriers in terms of organization, memory, and learning to let go. In this article, you’ll find tips for decluttering your living environment even if it is hard to let go. I am not saying that you need to get rid of everything but embrace the mantra “less is more.”

Here are seven easy tips to declutter your home:

1.  Make sure your furniture fits comfortably in your home with ample room for people to maneuver. Anything that obstructs your path can be considered a trip hazard.

2.  Keep tables, coffee tables, night stands, and counter space free of items that are not used every day. Designate in one of these places for important everyday items like your keys, phone and wallet. Having your important stuff in one spot will also train your memory, which helps if you are ever having an MS moment.

3.  Knickknacks and other tchotchkes take up a lot of visual space. Unless they are sentimental or possess measurable value, you are better off without them. Put them away or donate them. Remember, the less visual clutter the easier it is to remember what you needed when you walked in that room.

4.  Don’t hold on to old newspapers and magazines. Paper items tend to pile up. After you read them, they should be immediately recycled. If the next issue arrives and you still haven’t read the old one, get rid of it. The same is true of books, CDs and DVDs. You can donate these items and get a tax credit, while helping others.

5.   Every time you bring something new into the house, get rid of something else. You will get a sense of satisfaction from ridding yourself of useless things. Donating your unused items to a worthwhile charity will intensify that satisfaction.

6.   Declutter once a quarter. As the seasons change, so does the stuff around your living environment. If you are about to put something away for the year, then it may be a good time to evaluate whether or not that thing is a part of your future or past.

7.   Ask for help. Many people have trouble letting go. If you don’t have anyone living with you, reach out to a family member or friend to assist you. In my case, I am lucky because my wife helps me with all of this. She pushes back when I tell her that I need to keep old clothing articles or kid’s toys. With her help, my life is less cluttered and more manageable.
As is often the case, I write about things that are difficult for me to do personally. However, with my wife’s guidance I have found that decluttering my life of unused stuff does bring a certain clarity that helps with my everyday management of MS. I never look in the Goodwill bags that my wife donates, because I don’t want an excuse to keep something that I no longer use.
Learning to let go is a difficult lesson to learn. However, if you can let go of items, then it could help you more easily navigate your physical environment, and remove the stress and chaos a cluttered environment brings.