We’ve all experienced being overwhelmed by clutter and disorganization. The link between clutter and stress is key to managing stress through organization. Once you understand the connection between disorganization and stress, you can make changes to reduce your overall stress.
Most of us live pretty hectic lives. Between kids, work, and household stuff, our to-do lists can get out of control. Organization can help reduce the amount of time you spend searching and attempting to remember things. Being organized allows you to save time and energy.
Disorganization and Stress
Disorganization can lead to increased stress and anxiety. When you are surrounded by clutter and chaos, you have a harder time keeping track of what you need to do and where you need to be. Disorganization can make you feel overwhelmed and helpless, which can lead to frustration and guilt—especially when you miss deadlines and appointments.
When the disorganization increases your anxiety, it can make it difficult for you to make decisions and move toward your goal. The mess can paralyze you and you end up not making any move at all.
The Impact of Organization on Stress
Organization can have a powerful impact on stress levels. Organization can reduce stress by giving you a sense of control. Decision-making becomes easier so that you can take action. This then leads to accomplishing tasks and achieving goals, which in turn, reduces stress. Organization changes your cycle of disorganization and stress to one of calm and accomplishment.
Managing stress through organization also reduces anxiety because you will have clarity and structure, allowing you to focus on important things. Once you have a clear picture of what you need to do and you’re able to find what you need, you’ll have direction and be in control of what you need to do.
When you look at creating more organization in your life, there are 3 main aspects to consider: physical, digital, and mental.
Physical organization is what most people think about when we talk about organization. This is figuring out how to maintain organization in your environment—home, office, car, etc. Here are some general tips to organize your physical space.
Get rid of the things you don’t use or need. Take some time to go room by room and sort through the clutter. Make piles of what to keep, what to donate, and what to throw away. Don’t try to do all the things at once or you’ll be setting yourself up to be filled with overwhelm. Work in small chunks and you’ll start seeing a change in no time.
Figure out where everything can go. And if you struggle with executive dysfunction, this is where routine comes into play. Have a designated spot for your purse and keys when you get home. Kids should have a spot for their coats and backpacks. This will help reduce the rushing around searching for things.
Many of us are easily lured to the idea of organization because of cute containers. Don’t rush out and buy a million baskets and containers no matter how cute they are. You need to know what needs storage and really consider what kind of storage will really work for you. For example, for many people with ADHD object permanence is an issue. This means that if you don’t see something, it doesn’t exist for you. Your containers should probably be clear. Clear containers will allow you to see what is being stored. If you don’t like clear, invest in some labels maybe even labels with pictures.
Create a cleaning routine:
Once you have decluttered and items have homes, you need a routine to maintain the organization. Sure, it would be great if everyone automatically put everything back where it belongs. Even better if we stop bringing things into our space that we don’t know what to do with. But let’s be real. We don’t live our lives like that. We’ll continue to make a mess, which is why you need to create a maintenance routine. Choose a time weekly or bi-weekly to do a sweep through your house and do a quick declutter.
If you work to organize your physical space, you will be able to find what you need when you need it. You’ll be able to relax in your space because the clutter won’t be weighing you down.
Most of us have at least one device or one piece of technology that we allow to get out of control. For some, it’s your inbox. For others, it’s your desktop. Some people are rockstars at ignoring the red notifications; they pretend it’s not there. But it still takes a toll on your mental well-being. Here are some tips for organizing your digital space.
Just like with your physical space, you need to declutter your digital space. What does this look like? Deleting old files, contacts on your phone, and unsubscribing from newsletters that you don’t enjoy.
Files and folders:
You need a system to organize the files on your computer. The key here is that you need to create a system that works with how you think. No one else can create a system for you. You won’t follow through on using it if it doesn’t make sense to you. Even if you force yourself to use it, it won’t reduce your stress because there’s a good chance you won’t be able to find anything.
You need some way to back up your files. Cloud storage tends to be a set-it-and-forget-it solution that works well for most people who have executive dysfunction. Whichever system you choose, make sure you have enough storage (although if you stay on top of digital decluttering, it will be easier).
Email inboxes are THE WORST. I personally don’t do well with seeing the little red number of unread emails. I either click into them to read or immediately delete if I know I don’t need it. That doesn’t mean, however, that my inbox is organized. My personal email has been used for so many different things because I’ve had it for so long. It’s the main point of contact for my main job as well as my husband’s company. I also have so much junk that lands in my inbox, it’s a little out of hand (even though I’m good at deleting). I have to spend time going through the thousands of messages saved in my inbox. I would save myself a lot of time if I set up folders and filters for all of the emails I need to keep track of, so that’s what I suggest to clients. Once you have the system set up, it’s easy to maintain and relieves so much stress.
Like with physical organization, having a plan for your digital space will allow you to find what you need at any given time. You won’t feel rushed or guilty because you can’t locate what you’re looking for.
Another way of managing our stress through organization is to improve how we deal wiht the information in our minds. We don’t really spend nearly enough time talking about the disorganization and noise in our heads, but it routinely adds to our stress. If you’re the kind of person who attempts to keep everything straight in her head instead of writing it down, you definitely need to organize.
Mindfulness teaches you to be fully present in the moment so you are engaged in the task at hand. Often, when we have too much going on in our heads, we are distracted and can’t give everything the attention it deserves. Practicing mindfulness can help you stay focused and organized and clear out some of the stress caused by mental disorganization.
Use productivity tools (or even a to-do list):
You need a way to organize the tasks and appointments you have. Having a way to track these things is vital so that they aren’t forgotten. In addition, writing down tasks allows you to break them into smaller, more manageable chunks so they are less stressful. Of course, coming from me, using a planner is a no-brainer. I firmly believe that a planner is the single best thing you can use to improve your executive functioning (as long as it’s a planner that works for you).
Breaks are always important, but even more so when you’re stressed. If you don’t take care of yourself, it’ll lead to burnout which will increase your overall stress. Stepping back from things gives your brain a chance to recharge. Once you can see clearly, it will be easier to organize and tackle your to-do list.
Managing stress through organization is an effective way to improve your mental health and well-being. Giving yourself an organized physical, digital, and mental space allows you to accomplish your tasks and goals as well as reduce stress and overwhelm.