Could decluttering your living space improve life with MS?

Better organization can help to conserve energy, which is important with MS

Benjamin Hofmeister avatar

by Benjamin Hofmeister |

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I am not by nature a very neat person. I want to be. I like order, but I lack the discipline to maintain it.

People tend to think that time in the military makes you neat and orderly for the rest of your life, but in my case, they’d be wrong. The Army provided the discipline and structure I needed, but couldn’t change my nature.

As a Special Forces medic (18D), I did learn the benefits and importance of an organized aid bag. In situations where the bag was needed, that order saved precious seconds and made a stressful situation less so. Somehow knowing the importance of order, including the physical and mental benefits, was a kind of discipline all its own. It’s amazing that I didn’t realize right away that order — decluttering both my surroundings and mind — has the same effects on a life with multiple sclerosis (MS).

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I wish I could say this realization was of my own accord, but the truth is I found it in a video by Dr. Susan Payrovi. Her website and videos cover many topics that are important to those of us in the MS community, but the topic of this particular episode was decluttering. Her guest was KT Sloan, who hosts an MS podcast, and some fantastic ideas were discussed, including the benefits of decluttering.

I won’t attempt to summarize the discussion. These are simply the notions that it sparked in me. I would encourage anyone, with or without MS, to watch the interview. I think you’ll find yourself nodding your head at the practicality and simplicity of the ideas.

The benefits of decluttering

For anyone, but especially a person with mobility challenges, some of the advantages of less clutter are plain to see. My primary progressive MS has advanced to the point where I use a wheelchair full time, but a clearer space with less obstacles is better for any level of mobility.

The organization that comes with decluttering also makes daily life more efficient. That might seem like a small or even a purely aesthetic thing, but efficiency conserves energy. For people with MS, energy is one of the most important resources.

The decluttering method discussed in the video, which I’m now utilizing, initially feels slow. When it comes to decluttering, I never wanted to be slow. I wanted to charge in and clean the whole house in a day. As MS progressed, I just didn’t have the “spoons” for that anymore, so I never started, and the clutter accumulated.

In my life before MS, there were many things that couldn’t be rushed, and our mantra was, “Slow is smooth and smooth is fast.” It might seem slow, but the suggested technique is pretty smooth.

Besides, as a result of the efficiency, the act of decluttering has a positive effect on your physical and mental health. Gaining a sense of control, especially with a disease that seems to delight in taking control, feels good. Feeling good (releasing endorphins) eases worry and stress, and aside from the obvious mental advantages of having less of either, there may be a physical benefit in the form of weight loss. I, for one, could do with some of that anyway.

My nine-year MS diagnosis anniversary was two days ago. I should have started sooner, but I intend to ease some of the burden of this disease by decluttering. I won’t promise to have everything done by my 10th anniversary, but I will have made slow, smooth progress. With multiple sclerosis, that’s the best and fastest progress there is.

Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.




Hi Benjamin, I love your slow is smooth... I am sorry fast progression. was luckier- my diagnosis took 24 hours! 34 years ago. Started to write about my story/travels etc to help others deal with the shock - there is life after diagnosis. I had a block, myself, restarting... Stay safe out there, Rosemary

Joan Due-Gundersen avatar

Joan Due-Gundersen

Thanks for introducing this extremely interesting topic. It's interesting for me as I'm guilty of clutter too. I also believe that it's a personality thing so you hit the nail on the head.

Joan Due-Gundersen avatar

Joan Due-Gundersen

Thanks for a really interesting site. People with MS generally live 5-10 years shorter than the general population. Pneumonia can be life threatening but can you tell me what the other main causes of death for people with MS are?
Many thanks

Maggie O'Brien avatar

Maggie O'Brien

While I am not a strict organizer, my late husband was (almost Monk-like) and I benefited from it. After reading your piece, I had an overwhelming feeling of peace, and know that decluttering my life (MS for 31 years, recently changed to SPMS) would be a benefit. Thanks for the inspiration



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