How Does Mental Illness Affect Your Living Space?

living room loveseat and table
Image by Martina Kopecká from Pixabay

I’m not sure how universal a thing this is, but one of the many aspects of my life that’s been affected by my mental illness is my living space. This is something I’ve noticed over the past few years, and while it’s relatively subtle, it’s definitely there.

Hanging out in the bedroom

I spend the vast majority of my time at home (which makes this whole social distancing thing much easier), and almost all of that time is spent in my bedroom. I rarely use my living room anymore, and I haven’t sat at my dining room table for ages. The biggest appeal of the bedroom, besides the comfort factor, is that’s closest to the guinea pigs (the girls are in my bedroom, and the boys are in the ensuite bathroom).

The bedroom preference actually brings me back to a habit from earlier in my life. When I was living at home with my parents, and then when I was living in university residence, my bedroom was my only private space, so that was my retreat. The condo I’m in now was my first real adult home where my bedroom wasn’t the default hang-out spot.

If it’s not in front of me, it doesn’t exist

In the kitchen, if something isn’t a staple item that I always have on hand, then most likely I’ll keep it on the kitchen counter rather than in a cupboard. Because of depression-induced mashed potato brains, things aren’t right in front of me, I tend to forget that they exist, so throughout my home, things are out in the open rather than tucked away.

I spend a lot less time in the kitchen than I used to, because depression means I just don’t care enough to put a lot of time into meal prep. My baking cupboard still has staples from when I used to bake on a regular basis; the cheapskate side of me is a bit reluctant to toss nonperishable food products even though I never (or almost never) use them anymore.

Getting rid of stuff

Aside from that, though, I’ve always been a thrower-outer. I picked this up from my dad. I don’t like accumulating stuff, and I get great satisfaction from getting rid of stuff. Depression has taken that to another level, and I’ve gotten rid of the few sentimental items I had as well as assorted other things that reminded me of my old “normal” life.

Closet culling has been a bit of a work in progress, although it’s not that I have an excessive amount of clothes. I’ve held onto some things that don’t quite fit currently, knowing that my weight does fluctuate. I also have clothes that fit my old style, which was much more feminine and dressed up. At some point, I’ll probably come to the conclusion that I’ll never again wear those old clothes from when I was well, but I’m not quite there yet, and there’s no space crunch to push me in that direction.


Cleaning isn’t something I’ve ever been a fan of. I’m neat and organized, but a little dirt doesn’t bother me too much. My tolerance for a little dirt has expanded to quite a bit of dirt. Most of that dirt is guinea pig-related; they (along with their bedding and hay) create a lot of dust, and they kick up hay and bedding and poop from their cages that ends up on the floor.

I’ll clean eventually, but I care less than I used to, plus I don’t have to worry about anyone coming over and seeing the dirt, because I’m a hermit and no one comes to my home.

Change over time

In my early 20s, I started travelling. It quickly became my passion, and I established a pattern of yearly backpacking trips.  Home became whatever hostel I happened to be staying at for the night.  If I started to feel homesick for Western food and toilets, McDonald’s would serve as my temporary home.

Then mental illness got in the way, and travel lost all its appeal. I’ve gone from being a girl who was at home wherever her backpack was to being someone who relies on the stability and grounding of home in order to get by with basic day-to-day functioning.

The importance of safety and comfort

Home, specifically this home, has become important because I feel rooted here. Most of the time I’m holding myself together by a slender thread, so having a safe space makes a big difference. It’s my space where no one cares if there are Corn Flakes scattered all over the kitchen and the guinea pigs’ hay, with a little bit of poop tossed in, is all over the floor.

It’s my fortress of solitude (not that I know much of anything about Superman; I only know the reference from Seinfeld). I’m here with my guinea pigs, and the rest of the mostly unpleasant world is kept at a distance. Granted, I’ve always been very introverted, but the need for a safe space is relatively new over the last few years.

I know not everyone living with a mental illness has that available to them, so I’m very grateful that it’s something I do have. Having a comfortable home also works well with my desire for hermit living, and I”m glad to have a space that is mine and mine alone.

Is your living space impacted by your mental illness?

52 thoughts on “How Does Mental Illness Affect Your Living Space?”

  1. In the flat with my family, my room is my marginally safer space. I do have some personal items, but they’re not items I value. I notice I keep nothing that is highly personal. The most personal things are cards, which I keep hidden in a drawer. It’s due to how I grew up – people would just go through my stuff.

    My fiance’s house though, is different. It’s currently rather utilitarian since we aren’t sure how we’d like to personalise and decorate. But we already have ideas on geeky stuff that showcase our interests 😀

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