by Lisette Cifaldi, MSW LMSW Director of Behavioral Health, Hilton Head Health
Do you find it difficult to relax when your home or your office filled with clutter? If so, you’re not alone. Clutter in the spaces we live and work is often representative of how full our minds are. Disorder in our personal environment can be an outward sign of internal stress and feelings of being overwhelmed. To make matters worse, the clutter that’s representative of internal stress actually perpetuates further stress. In short, a mess creates stress.
A recent article in Psychology Today listed eight reasons why clutter contributes to stress:
- Clutter bombards our minds with excessive stimuli (visual, olfactory, tactile), causing our senses to work overtime on stimuli that aren’t necessary or important.
- Clutter distracts us by drawing our attention away from what our focus should be on.
- Clutter makes it more difficult to relax, both physically and mentally.
- Clutter constantly signals to our brains that our work is never done.
- Clutter makes us anxious because we’re never sure what it’s going to take to get through to the bottom of the pile.
- Clutter creates feelings of guilt (“I should be more organized”) and embarrassment, especially when others unexpectedly drop by our homes or work spaces.
- Clutter inhibits creativity and productivity by invading the open spaces that allow most people to think, brainstorm, and problem solve.
- Clutter frustrates us by preventing us from locating what we need quickly (e.g. files and paperwork lost in the “pile” or keys swallowed up by the clutter).
Being National Stress Awareness month, April brings a new meaning to spring cleaning. If clutter is both a sign of stress and causes stress, then April is the month to work on de-cluttering and organizing the spaces in your life. The fortunate thing about clutter is that it’s an easily recognizable source of stress and a fairly easy fix as well. Here are a few tips to get you started on removing the mess and stress from your life:
Trying to tackle an entire room, or house for that matter, can be overwhelming which causes paralysis to kick in. Pick one corner or one surface as a daily goal. If you’ve cleaned off your desk in one day than you’ve succeeded in reducing both stress and clutter.
Ask for Help
If the mere thought of de-cluttering gives you heart palpitations then call for back up. Ask a friend or family member to help you get started. Perhaps you can even negotiate a deal whereby you both help each other with reluctant projects (i.e. I’ll help you de-clutter your office if you help me paint my daughter’s room…DEAL!).
Make it Fun
Anything can be fun with the right attitude and some great music. Make it a mini-party. Crank the tunes, order some pizza and dance your way through it. Bribe some friends to help with the de-cluttering by offering them margaritas or a delicious home-cooked meal afterwards.
Donating Made Easy
Call your local Goodwill or Salvation Army to inquire about pick-ups. A lot of charitable thrift stores will pick up your donations. Before starting your cleaning project, get some boxes from Staples or the UPS Store and assemble them by your front door. As you de-clutter, put items you no longer want in the boxes. Make your pick up call the next day. Voila! Clean and charitable in one full-swoop.
Before getting started pick up a bunch of varying sized plastic containers from Target to be used for storage. Being prepared in advance will save you extra effort and whatever you don’t use can be returned at your leisure. Use the plastic containers to both organize and store important or frequently used items.
The In & Out Rule
Adopt a new rule in your house: For every new item that makes its way in your house an old item must go. This rule will help prevent future clutter, thus keeping you mess-stress-free.
It’s important that when you begin your de-cluttering project you commit to the process. Distractions from cell phones, emails, the TV and other electronic gadgets can easily bring your efforts to a halt. Unplug and turn them off before beginning.
As you de-clutter your spaces your mind will follow. Enjoy your spring cleaning!