Although we may not recognize its effects on us, clutter has a significant negative impact on our feelings about our living and working environments, and even on how we feel about ourselves. Trying to function in a cluttered home or workspace can make us feel overwhelmed, cause anxiety and a sense of helplessness. This psychological phenomenon has been referred to as the “mental cost of clutter”. Alternatively, more open space within our view tends to afford us with a greater sense of peace and personal control over our circumstances.
Why a mess causes stress
- Disarray is distracting, pulling our attention from away from our most productive and creative thinking.
- Clutter assaults the mind with extreme amounts of visual and tactile inputs, forcing the senses to strain to process superfluous stimuli.
- It is difficult to relax the mind or body in a disorganized environment.
- Being surrounded by a mess bombards the brain with constant signals that we cannot manage our personal and professional workloads.
- Clutter causes feelings of guilt and shame about the personal lack of organization.
- Disorder causes frustration when we’re prevented from finding things we need to access quickly, such as documents or supplies that are buried in clutter.
Easiest solutions for major decluttering
- Don’t face it alone. Recruit your whole family. Start with a room everyone needs to use, and have each person work on a section. If you must go it alone, start on one area of the room you want to organize first, and finish that area before starting another. Seeing your complete success in that area can encourage you to organize another section.
- Recognize and enjoy the great sense of relief that comes from throwing away things that are oppressing you by cluttering your life. Recycle or donate things that other people might be able to reuse. Store infrequently used things out of the way.
- Have fun with the process. Crank up your favorite music. Sing while you work.
Simple ways to stay organized
- Designate the handiest cabinets and drawers for easy access to your supplies and other most frequently used items. Avoid storing these things on tables, open shelves, or desktops in order to maximize the amount of open space in your view.
- Keep an inbox for incoming mail, cull out unwanted items periodically (ideally once or twice a week), and store necessary items in their designated locations.
- Set up a pending or “To Do” folder or drawer space. This provides you quick, centralized access to action items while keeping your environment free of an anxiety-promoting paper stack.
- Make yourself start putting away each item you use immediately after using it. Commit to doing this and you will find that after a short self-conditioning period you will develop a habit. You’ll probably find yourself more and more actually enjoying maintaining your organized lifestyle.
- Take a few seconds to do a quick routine decluttering of your workspace at the end of each day. Of course you need to pull things out into the open while you’re working. Clearing them out before leaving the area affords you both a sense of accomplishment as you leave and a great fresh-start feeling when you return to work in a tidy space.
Finally, ensure that your storage spaces make sense. If your home or work-space is not conducive to organized functioning due to too little closet space or supplemental storage space, or to illogically designed or located storage, or outdated operating technology, it may be time to obtain professional advice on how you can have these essential organizational resources reconfigured with innovative, aesthetically pleasing, and affordable designs.