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Organization Tips for Stress Relief Week 1: Why Clutter Creates Stress

Happy New Year!

What a great time to not only set up some goals for the new year, but also become more organized and focused. Maintaining regular stress management practices in your life is key to enjoying life more and having more time to enjoy life.

I don’t know about you, but I was urged to purge this new year and have loved being able to clean, toss and organize my spaces since January 1st. My 18year old son even felt the urge and has been cleaning and purging his room too.

Why is this important and how can it help your stress levels?

Too much clutter can equal too much chaos in your mind and can make you feel like you are spinning in a million directions. When you can organize your spaces you will crate a space of certainty and stability where you can focus and produce better, and who doesn’t want to produce better in the new year?

Every year make January your month of organization and cleaning. Break the projects into small tasks so it doesn’t feel so overwhelming and tackle just one area per week. This way you will begin the new year with a plan and that first month you will feel amazing having accomplished it all and start the year with a clutter-free home which brings a clutter-free mind.

This month I am going to break down each area per week to focus on. Week 1 we will focus on general organization and your communication zone.

Not only can clutter drain our energy, but it drains us of time. Time that you could spend doing something you truly enjoy. People in cluttered spaces can spend more time searching for something they cannot find; keys, money, tools, shoes or clothing. My ex-husband was constantly losing his keys and it would drive me nuts. He lived in constant clutter and that just increased my anxiety too much so I took a stand and made some changes, hence, the “Ex” part. I digress… This extra time it takes to find the item also takes a toll on your energy as you become more agitated, worried, scared and frustrated which increase your cortisol/stress levels. If this is how you are starting each day, by searching for your keys, no wonder you are cranky and curt with your co-workers or the other drivers on the road.

If you are not organized with your financial papers you may lose track of bills and miss payments, incur extra fees or out of the blue, the electricity is turned off. When you can’t find a tool and end up buying another one, you will incur extra costs that could have been avoided had you put away your tools in a place where you can access them easily.

Here are some other examples of how clutter can put added stress on your mind and body:

· Not being able to use your space for something you enjoy, like yoga, Pilates or book club night.

· Having guests over can become more stressful for you as you have negative thoughts about how embarrassing it is to move past all your items to find a seat. Not to mention, having to take a full day to deep clean your house before you have guests over. This becomes too much and soon you no longer invite people over and they no longer invite you to events either.

· Each cluttered space reminds you of things you did not accomplish and makes you think un-healthy thoughts about yourself.

· Feng Shui practitioners explain that clutter will drain you of your positive energy and once you can clean it up, you actually feel the shift in energy.

· Your home should be your sanctuary and a haven from stress instead of it causing frustration, exhaustion and feelings of overwhelm.

Don’t get me wrong, it is not realistic to maintain a home that is perfect and are “show worthy” every single day. I like to tell my friends that I have a “lived-in with love” home, which means my son and I will have mail on the counter, dishes in the sink and sometimes a sweater hanging on the back of a chair. If you have small children, toys, books and games will be a part of your everyday life. There are ways to keep them organized and clutter free while still having full access to them when they want to play. Relaxing our standards is key to keep our stresses low and our joy meters high. Come to a compromise so that you are not constantly stressed that your house is “always” in disarray.

So how much is too much? This will differ from home to home. One way you can find out for yourself is to look at what type of effect your clutter has on your stress levels while you are at home.

· Can you truly relax in your home?

· Can you invite friends over without having to do a deep clean for 5 hours?

· Are you organized enough that you can find whatever you need with minimal effort?

If the answers to the above questions are all NO, there is help!

Basic Steps:

1. Start with your kitchen or main area of your house. Divide your things into four boxes/bags: Keep/Donate/Throw/Store. You can also include a box labeled with your kids’ names to have them see if they want to Keep/Donate/Throw/Store the items in it.

2. If you don’t need it, haven’t used it or thought of it in the last year, consider throwing it or donating it.

3. When you have filled these boxes, go through the box of things to keep and put things away in places that make sense to you and you will remember where they are when you need them.

4. Finish one room before you go on to the next. I’ve actually broken up rooms into smaller spaces because of the amount of things I needed to purge. Spend a few hours in one area and then move on to another area. I spent two days on my spare room/storage room and only got half of it done, but I felt amazing. I will tackle the rest this next weekend. I do a couple of hours at a time during the week when I can.

5. Once you have purged the things from each area, do a thorough cleaning and disinfect the area really well. I started with my kitchen and purged my spice and tea cabinets. I cleaned them out, bought racks so I could see my spices and vitamins more clearly and was able to purge old and outdated items. It felt great to do! You can do the same with your dishes or coffee cup cabinets. What haven’t you used in awhile? Donate it to a family who could use it.

6. When cleaning your bedrooms, go through and donate the clothing you haven’t worn in the last year. Throw out any uncomfortable clothing our underwear that you have, even though “if I lost 10lbs I could fit into it…”may go through you mind, shut it down and get rid of it. Either donate or toss it. Throw or donate old sheets, bedspreads or draperies.

7. Bathrooms can be purged all at once too. Throw away old shampoos, lotions or soaps. Any bath gifts that you haven’t used since they were gifted to you can be donated. Thoroughly clean the floors, tub, walls and even the ceiling along with the handles of everything in the bathroom. Put up new towels and a bath mat every week.

8. Go through all your cleaning supplies and toss what is outdated or shoved in the back of your cabinet. Pull out what you will need to make the house sparkle: gloves, all-purpose cleaners, sponges, dusters, Swiffer dry and wet, glass cleaner and paper towel or newspaper.

9. Dust and vacuum the space you just purged. Include the floorboards, windows, window sills, ceiling fans, front of cabinets, handles and drawers.

10. Use a wet mop or Swiffer wet to clean the floors and make sure all rugs are rolled up and out of the way. Don’t forget to get underneath the couches and chairs. Move them and do that space and then move them back and do the next space.

11. If your kitchen is included in this section, make sure your sink and stove are cleaned thoroughly. Empty the fridge and toss old food, outdated sauces and condiments. Organize how things are placed in your fridge that make sense to you and makes it easier to grab when you need them.

An easy way to think of this as bringing more joy into your life is that you are letting go of unwanted clutter and chaos. Cleaning and organizing can become a meditation and if done regularly can bring your mind some great benefits.

Make cleaning mindful by being thankful for everything you need to touch, move or clean. If you are vacuuming, be grateful for the beautiful rug you bought yourself. If you are doing dishes, use a lavender scented soap and admire the scent and suds it forms as you wash your favorite coffee mug. Be grateful for the food you are scraping off the dishes as well as being grateful for a dishwasher or dish gloves.

When you can take time to appreciate the things you are cleaning you are increasing your joy meter and becoming happier in the moment. I appreciate having a house to clean and laundry to do every week. Some people don’t have these things, so I am grateful for them every day. Become more grateful for what you have as you unearth it in the purging and organizing that you are doing. Inner peace will come from loving and appreciating all that you have.

If you are having a hard time finding the “zen” in cleaning, create this time as a party for yourself. Put on some of your favorite music and blast the volume. Dance, sing and enjoy the time while you are purging your area. Music can boost your mood and increase your work so you can be done sooner.

At the same time, you can use your cleaning as a form of exercise. Taking the vacuum up and down the stairs or doing lunges while you are vacuuming each room will add some extra movement into your day and decrease your stress load. Scrubbing windows, floorboards and tubs burns some serious calories, so think of it as a good way to make your body work for it. At the same time, you can blow off some serious steam if you have had a hard week. Winter cleaning and spring cleaning both have serious benefits to your health and wellness.

Last, but not least, the ultimate goal is to make your home the sanctuary you want it to be, but also make it functional. Go room to room and write down the things that annoy you. It could be as simple as the stack of blankets that look ridiculous in an old basket to the junk drawer that is so full of things you couldn’t find what you need because you can barely open it. Do you have cords hanging out of place in your office or behind the TV that bug you? Is there a broken printer or other tech things that could be replaced? Maybe all it takes is getting a bigger basket for the blankets or a shoe rack for everyone’s shoes at the front door to a basket that you all can put your keys in when you come home at night. These small changes can make a big difference in your mind and soul.

Small details can make a big difference in making your home your sanctuary. Add boxes of tissues in the kitchen, living room/family room, bedrooms and bathrooms. Put sanitizer wipes in each bathroom. Put a diffuser in your kitchen or family room with some essential oils. Essential oils are better to use than those plug-in fragrances as they won’t disrupt your neurotransmitters in your brain. In fact, research links chemicals in perfumes, plug-ins and sprays to short term memory loss, depression, central nervous system disorders and alters the brains biochemistry. The EPA (US Environmental Protection Agency) has also admitted that “poor air quality, poisoned by chemicals, does contribute to neurological ailments including fatigue, dizziness, migraines and forgetfulness.1

Using essential oils that come straight from the plants can bring a sense of peace and calm to your brain instead of confusion and anger. Pure essential oils are used to positively affect your emotional, mental and physical health. They can enter the body through the skin in an oil or lotion or the olfactory system usually via a diffuser or humidifier. Essential oils are also used to relieve symptoms of pain, fatigue or inflammation as well as boost mood and used to kill germs. I’ve actually burned sage to cleanse each of the areas I have purged and cleaned so that the area can start fresh with new energy.

Take time to sit back and be proud of yourself for what you did accomplish. Even if it was just purging your tea cabinet! You ROCK! Now you can hit the linen closest and know that you can accomplish this purging and organizing without a problem. You will feel so relieved to know that clutter is taken care of and new energy can now come into your space. More friends, more love, more laughter and hopefully many more moments of bliss~


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