Here’s the scenario: Your kids come home from school and you return from a long day at work. Your oldest goes to start his homework at the kitchen table but can’t find space to put down his books. Your five-year-old comes over to you, crying that he keeps stepping on legos and complaining that he can’t find his favorite toy in the mess of the playroom. Your husband is agitated by the piles of mail and papers on the desk preventing him from finding an important bill.
Sound stressful? For a lot of us, this situation is all-too-familiar. According to a study in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, “features like crowding, clutter, noise, and artificial light [in our homes] have been shown to affect mood and health in populations ranging from young children to senior citizens.” The study confirms what many of us already know deep down: There’s a clear link between home organization and emotional health and well-being.
As a personal organizer, my goal is to guide people towards attaining that balance and calm in their homes and lives. The home is supposed to be a sanctuary; a place to unwind at the end of the day, a relaxing haven from the stresses of life. However, the level of disarray and clutter in our homes can prevent us from being able to experience the comfort we so crave and can help contribute to that stress.
Organization isn’t about being perfect, or being too hard on yourself. It’s not just a matter of having a pantry you’d be proud to post on Pinterest, or a craft room that’s the envy of all your friends. It’s about prioritizing self-care and maintaining emotional balance, and it’s much more than just a superficial rearrangement:
- Being organized will lower your stress level and improve your overall health: According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), stress can lead to “headaches, sleeplessness, sadness, anger or irritability.” It can even make you more prone to the flu and common cold. Long-term effects include heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes. A well-maintained, organized home will help ease the stress that clutter causes.
- Getting organized will improve your relationship with your spouse: Clutter in the house often turns into a tug-of-war between partners. You’re desperate to get rid of your husband’s old baseball program collection taking up all the space on your bookshelves, and he refuses to let it go. Hubby doesn’t understand why you need the 100 pairs of shoes he keeps tripping over in the closet. Prioritizing together and decluttering will lead to less fighting and tripping and will help alleviate the strain in the relationship.
- It will give you back your social life: How many of us feel embarrassed by the state of our homes? How many times have we sacrificed our own social life because the house is a mess? Take back your home! Get couples’ game night going again, invite friends for meals, throw a party! No more clutter means no more shame.
- It will allow you to sleep better at night: I can’t tell you how many people have confided in me that the state of disarray in their homes is causing them to lose sleep, stressing and worrying about how they will get it all done. Beginning the process of decluttering and organizing can seem daunting- often there is so much to tackle, too many decisions to make, that you feel like you can’t even get off the ground. But once you take that first step you will already feel like a weight has been lifted as you’ve begun the journey toward a clutter-free home. You’ll finally get that good night’s sleep and your body will thank you for it.
- Improved interactions with your children: An organized home provides us with the space necessary to sit down and play a game, read a book, or just talk to our children. Not just from a physical, spatial aspect, but psychologically as well- it’s much more pleasant to spend quality time together when there aren’t piles of stuff everywhere and you’re not thinking about the million things you have to do to straighten up. Plus, that playroom clean-up will become a lot easier for everyone when there’s a space for everything. Kids will spend less time whining over clean up and more time playing, which is great for our sanity! We’ll spend less time yelling and fighting with each other. And of course, organization is a great skill for children to learn early on.
It doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Organization does not equal perfection. Once you take the time to declutter, throw away, and create homes for the items you need, maintaining it can be as easy as spending ten minutes a day putting things back where they belong. We all have ten minutes, right? Instituting an “in/out” rule- anything new that comes into the house means something else has to go- can be very effective. Whether that means donating, selling or just trashing, it doesn’t matter- just as long as you make a decision to keep the clutter from accumulating. When we prioritize self-care, lifestyle, health and happiness over stuff, we put ourselves on the path to success.
Many of us want to make changes in our lives- whether it’s losing weight, exercising more, or taking charge of our finances- but we feel so overwhelmed by the prospect that we don’t know where to begin. Often all it takes is someone who can hold you accountable and gently nudge you in the right direction with the guidance and expertise necessary. I’m proud to be able to be a source of support and promote positive change for my clients, and it makes me so happy to see them look visibly happier and lighter when they don’t have to live with piles of things, both literally and emotionally.
Becoming organized doesn’t only mean being able to find what you need, it’s about feeling the comfort of doing the things you love with the people you love. And that makes it all worth it.