Stress is defined as: a state of mental tension and worry caused by problems in your life, work, etc.; something that causes strong feelings of worry or anxiety. Stress can come in many disguises, such as a particularly difficult task at work, running late for an appointment, traffic, losing an item, the person you are calling is not answering, worry, kids that will not listen, husband that will not listen, bills, car issues, dirty house, clutter, and many others. Some of these things are not controllable. We cannot blink traffic away, we cannot make someone answer the phone, and we cannot stop worrying or make bills go away. But we can do something about clutter. Clutter can play a noteworthy role in how we feel. It can affect any aspect of home life or work life. It can make us feel out of sync and unbalanced. It floods our minds with extreme stimuli causing our minds to work overtime trying to make sense. It not only makes it harder to relax, it causes guilt and anxiety by distracting us from what we are supposed to be doing. Being cluttered constantly signals our brain that we are not finished with the tasks at hand. All of these things are directly linked to stress. Fortunately, clutter is one of the things we can most easily manage.
Fortunately, clutter is one of the things we can most easily manage. Sherrie Bourg Carter, Psy.D.of Psychology Today gives us the following ideas:
Tackle de-cluttering as a family. If clutter has invaded your entire house, don’t tackle the job alone. Get the whole family involved by starting with a room everyone uses and making each person responsible for a section. If you’re on your own, start with one area at a time and finish de-cluttering that area before moving on to another. This will give you a sense of accomplishment as you see your successes little by little.
Create designated spaces for frequently used items and supplies so that you can quickly and easily find what you’re looking for when you need it. However, try to make these designated spaces “closed” spaces, such as drawers and cabinets. “Storing” things on open shelves or on top of your desk does not remove those visual stimuli that create stress and lessen the amount of open space that your mind “sees.”
If you don’t use it, don’t want it, or don’t need it, get rid of it. You can toss it, recycle it, or donate it (one person’s trash is another person’s treasure), but don’t keep it. If you use it, but only rarely, store it in a box in the garage (or if it’s your office, in a high or low place) to leave easy-access space for things you use more often. Also, put a date on the box. With rare exceptions, if you haven’t opened the box in a year, whatever is inside is probably not something you need.
When you take something out of its designated space to use it, put it back immediately after you’re finished with it. Sounds simple, but it actually takes practice and commitment.
Create a pending folder. A pending folder helps you clear off your work space while at the same time provides you with a readily accessible folder to centralize and easily locate pending projects.
Don’t let papers pile up. Random papers strewn everywhere can be Public Enemy #1 when it comes to stressful clutter. We’re inundated with mail, flyers, menus, memos, newspapers, and the like. The key is to be conscious of what you bring and what others bring into your spaces. Go through these papers as soon as you can, tossing what you don’t need and storing what is necessary in its proper place.
De-clutter your primary work space before you leave it. It’s normal to pull things out while you’re working in a space, but make a habit of cleaning off your work space before you go. Not only will this give you a sense of closure when you leave, it will also make you feel good when you return to a nice, clean space.
Make it fun! As you’re going about and cleaning things out, put on some of your favorite tunes. The more up-beat, the better! Not only will you enjoy the tunes, the time will pass faster and you’ll probably work faster than you would without the music.
We must also understand that clutter not only applies to our tangible surroundings, but can also be mental. We should remember to focus on one task at a time to avoid feeling overwhelmed and drowning. Put away electronic distracters such as the phone or the TV for a sense of mental stability and focus. Clearing your physical environment of clutter and distraction will go a long way in the battle over stress.