Stay in the Wellness Loop | Health and Wellness Articles
A few months ago, a teacher of mine advised me to never fill my plate; to leave room for the unexpected. When the unexpected inevitably occurs, your plate won’t overflow in a stressful and ineffective mess. In much the same way, an organized space lets you cope better with life’s stuff.
Take a minute and think of three words to describe your home... Ok, now take those same three words and apply them to your life.
If one of your three words is
‘cluttered’ or ‘disorganized’, I’d
be willing to bet your plate is
very full and you feel stressed.
Clutter plays a huge role in
how we feel about our
homes, our workplaces, and
ourselves. It makes us feel
guilty and embarrassed at best,
ashamed at worst (anyone ever
apologize for the state of their home?).
So why is clutter so stressful?
Clutter makes it hard to relax, both mentally and physically. Clutter is really delayed decisions. These delayed decisions constantly send signals to the brain that we have work to do, making it impossible to unwind. If you’re sensitive to sensory input, cluttered spaces can make you feel anxious and overwhelmed.
Some of the most chronically disorganized people are artistic and creative. But even they will tell you that clutter eventually hampers their creative process – nothing deflates a moment of inspiration like not being to find the right materials. If you were a student who procrastinated by cleaning your room, you might have thought you were just avoiding studying. The truth is clutter is a distraction, stealing focus from what’s important.
Clutter is bad for your physical health as well. Too much clutter is a fire hazard. If you’re aging or have mobility issues, clutter is a tripping hazard. And let’s not forget the hazards of opening a cupboard only to have the contents come crashing down on your head! With extra clutter comes compromised air quality due to dust, mold, and animal dander, aggravating asthma and allergies.
Clutter is also bad for our energy. Clutter, and feeling unable to do anything about it, is draining. Feng shui practitioners will tell you that excess items block the flow of energy in your home. But more than that, clutter is a source of excess that sends out a signal of fear to the universe – fear that you won’t be able to replace “just in case” items if you need them again.
So, what prevents us from getting organized? It’s due in part to the “arrival fallacy” – the belief that we’ll be happy only when we arrive at a destination. This neglects how much satisfaction comes from the process. My clients often repeatedly open single cupboards we’ve organized like they’re opening the door to their own personal sanctuaries! Each small step is valuable.
Most people aren’t sure how much work is involved in getting to the bottom of the clutter, underestimating how much time a task will take. If you struggle with organization, tackling a whole room at once is a sure path to failure - tackle one drawer at a time. Setting small goals is more realistic and allows you to experience success – if you’re really motivated, you can always finish the whole project!
The real value of getting organized runs much deeper than a tidy space; getting organized means reducing our stress and feeling more content at home, and in our lives. Australian organizer Peter Walsh says, “Clutter is not just the stuff on your floor – it’s anything that stands between you and the life you want to be living.” When we deal with the stuff cluttering our spaces, we end up dealing with the “stuff” cluttering our heads – the hurt, the fears, the insecurities. When my clients get organized, their attitudes improve and they’re re-energized. Once clutter is conquered, it empowers you to work on other parts of your life and to make room for possibility.
In Happier at Home, Gretchen Rubin says, “Wherever you are, you are in the right place to begin.” The time to get organized is now.
April Miller, B.A., B. Ed.,
is a Trained Professional Organizer,
and a Hoarding and Chronic Disorganization Specialist.
April Miller, B.A., B. Ed.