According to productivity experts, we waste six weeks a year looking for stuff in our offices and homes. We sleep less, are inundated by clutter and are overwhelmed by pressures of relatively effortless tasks. These, along with negative health impacts, are big reasons why we have chronic stress in our lives. These are also just a few reasons we need to get organized and start reducing our clutter.
According to Deena Fischer, a small business and home organizer in Evanston, Illinois, “For some people, clutter can be a large source of stress and anxiety and this chronic stress has been linked to many health conditions such as high blood pressure and even cancer.”
Undisturbed areas of clutter can also produce additional adverse health effects. For example, dust build up can lead to respiratory issues, not to mention a suppressed immune system. If there are moisture or flood problems in a basement or shed, that moisture is trapped in boxes of paper, books and clothes and provides a great breeding ground for pests and mold. Clutter, and the related effect of stress, can get in the way of us taking care of family and friends, too. We may become sick and are unable to be there to help or care for others. We may lose sight of a bill or become habitually late to commitments because we lose track of things and time.
Sometimes it’s hard to let go. Deena works with clients who struggle with emotional connections to belongings and finds that gently coaching them through downsizing and helping them reprioritize what is important helps. And when her clients donate to charity, it can provide further enticement. “Some people are motivated by the satisfaction that comes from knowing that someone who would otherwise be cold can be warm in their hand me down winter coat.”
Many busy career professionals get stressed simply thinking about the time involved in clearing out clutter, so she recommends starting small. “Go through your mail,” Deena says. “Even if the rest of your office is a mess, try to keep your desk clean and always clear it before the weekend and especially before you leave to go out of town.”
Deena’s recommendation of small steps extends to the home. “If you want to purge your kitchen but time doesn’t allow, then start with a drawer or two.” She suggests that taking fifteen minutes here and there can truly make an impact and reduce the stress of clutter.
She also encourages you to strike when the mood hits. “If you ever feel inspired to start an organization project, go for it, even if it isn’t at the top of your priority list. Starting a small project and completing it successfully will motivate you to do even more organizational projects.”
And when it comes to the buddy system, Deena sees it working for many of her clients. “Sometimes this means hiring someone to help, but often it means finding a friend or colleague to hold you accountable to your goals,” Deena reminds. “Practices like these can work effectively to reduce your clutter and stress.”
Kim Monaghan, PCC, RYT, CPBS is the owner of KBM Coaching & Consulting LLC, a boutique Human Resources Consulting and Career Coaching Firm serving a national clientele.