Cleaning out Migraine

We all know that migraine attacks can equal dishes left in the sink, mail unopened, and clothes heaped up high in the hamper. It’s hard enough to keep on top of chores when feeling well, but add the debilitating symptoms of migraine and it can be nearly impossible. This April we are doing a spotlight on spring cleaning, and I wanted to share two stories about how environments have affected people with migraine disease.

Adopting a simpler lifestyle

Last spring I adopted a new lifestyle, partially to help keep up with chores, called “minimalism,” though it could simply be described as owning less stuff. I spent many weekends going through things, selling items, donating, and recycling. I simplified my wardrobe (even shoes, *gasp*!), bookshelf (I’m not going to read all those books again!), changed how I deal with paperwork (only file what I need, shred the rest), and now own far fewer things. I’m also more selective about what I bring into my life. If you came to my apartment you wouldn’t necessarily think that I was a minimalist. I have plenty of art on the walls, a fun collection of cups and mugs, and cat toys strewn about. You’d probably just think my place looked clean and tidy (besides the cat toys!).

Clean and tidy?

I’m not sure why, but it’s easier to keep things in order when you have, well, less things to keep in order. Maybe it’s not for everyone, but it’s a perhaps-quirky lifestyle that suits me perfectly, especially since I’ve never been super organized: tax season would always be a search to find all the paperwork, and getting dressed in the morning involved a flurry of throwing clothes around in my closet until I found something that worked. So getting rid of excess opened up extra time in my life for the things that matter. And now, though there is definitely catching up to do after I recover from a migraine attack, it’s far less overwhelming.

Talking to other migraine minimalists

I reached out to the community of people embracing minimalism, thinking I’d find more people with my same story: less stuff + fewer chores = less overwhelm. I did find some people who shared this story, not just with migraine but with other health conditions, but I also found someone with a unique and remarkable story.

Too much stuff = migraine attacks?

Susan from Ontario told me how her migraine attacks began. She had just moved in with her husband who was an avid collector and comic book reader. "I just felt totally overwhelmed by his house and how full it was... the floors were full of comic books and things piled high to my hip," describes Susan. It was then, at age thirty, she experienced her first migraine attack, and the attacks continued at about 1 or 2 migraine attacks a week plus tension-type headaches 5 or 6 days a week. She tried to organize her husband’s things, but could not keep up with it all. Eventually she started to live apart from him during the work week to shorten her commute, and finally they divorced. But Susan’s migraine attacks did not abate. Though she no longer had her ex-husband’s things to deal with, she wasn’t sure where to start with her own possessions.

Less stuff = fewer migraine attacks

About five years ago Susan was talking to a friend who had adopted a minimalist lifestyle. It peaked Susan’s interest, and so her friend shared the tools to effectively get rid of things she didn’t need. Slowly, Susan cleared out each room in her home, and her migraine frequency went down to only one attack every month or two and far fewer tension-type headaches. "The number of migraines... has gone down tremendously since I embarked on trying to minimize... it's having a powerful impact on my life," explains Susan, and I can hear the joy in her voice. Though she hadn’t expected her attacks to lessen, she's pleasantly surprised and plans to keep going through areas of her home such as her office and basement. For now, Susan says, "I think by the owning less stuff, you're more open to some deeper thoughts... like volunteering, spirituality, and nature. It opens up a door to some amazing things."

Happy spring cleaning!

If you are interested in trying to de-clutter and live more simply, I thought I would share some of my favorite resources:
The Minimalists
Courtney Carver
Leo Babauta
Joshua Becker

Also, check out some articles on spring cleaning and migraine on our site:
Spotlight: Spring Cleaning
Five Low-Scent, DIY Replacement Recipes for Household Cleaning Products

I would love to hear – do you have a similar story? Please share in the comments below!

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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.

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