The Importance of Organization

Why is organization important? I will hear people say things like: “I’m just a messy person,” “I thrive in the chaos of clutter!” or “I just don’t think I will keep things organized. I’m a disorganized person.” These are really just excuses to not deal with clutter. They don’t see the benefits of organization, or they think the cost to getting organized is greater than the benefit. I want to share with you how EVERYONE can get organized, and the importance of organization in your physical space.

One thing about organization that some people don’t address is how organization systems are not one size fits all. We are all very unique and thrive in different environments. Some people like to have everything put away and their environment to be visually clutter free. For someone else, this may cause them to not use those items – out of sight out of mind. Some people thrive in a visually cluttered environment. Their creativity is sparked by seeing all the things! This is why it’s important to find out what kind of environment you are striving to create when thinking about organizational systems.

Cass, from the Clutterbug, has come up with four different types of organizational systems, which I have found to be great classifications. Each one is represented with a bug. The first is the ladybug. This type of person likes things to be put away out of site, but their cabinets and drawers can get easily cluttered because they want to quickly shove things in drawers, baskets, or cabinets. They need a macro-organizing system – where things are quick and easy to put away. The next type is a cricket. They also like a clutter free environment, but they like things to be organized in detail, so micro-organization works best for them. The next type is a butterfly. They prefer everything be displayed. A butterfly also needs the fast macro-organizing solution, however they will want things to be visible. They often feel like they could never get things organized and feel messy, but the truth is they can have a place for everything fitting within the way they thrive. Lastly is the bee. These people are also visual people and want their things on display, however they want things to be organized in detail. Like the cricket, micro-organization works best for them. They are likely the type of people who are big into crafting or even have a home business with a lot of supplies that need to be organized in detail.

It’s important to recognize what type of organization works best for you, especially if you’re the type that likes things visible and macro-organized. This type of person typically feels like they are just not the organized type, so they give up. So, why is it important to be organized? I would propose, whatever type of person you are, it is beneficial to have some sort of organization system where everything has a place. Organization allows for us to be productive and efficient in our day to day responsibilities. We are not slowed down by clutter: finding someplace to put something, or worse – looking for something we can’t find! When there is order in our physical space, we are more efficient and productive.

Dr. Jordan Peterson, well-known Psychologist and professor, has a wonderful lecture about the importance of “cleaning your room.” I will insert a video of that lecture if you’re interested in checking it out. The premise of this talk is when there is something in your life you are struggling with, whether it’s mental health, a broken relationship, or just something you want to change about yourself, the best place to start is by changing the external: “clean your room.” You start with something concrete that you can control. He says so pointedly, “If you want to organize your psyche, start by organizing your room.” There is a connection between our mental and emotional health and our external environment. Cluttered environment often equals cluttered mind. Peterson says, “Is that their house [referring to someone who is a hoarder] or is that their being, their mind? The answer is there is no difference.” Starting externally, turning chaos into order, can put you on the path of bettering other areas of your life. Clean your room. It’s the easiest place to start.

So, whether you’re a ladybug, cricket, butterfly, or bee, you CAN get organized. Organization is important so we are efficient and effective in basic routines in life, freeing up the time and space we need to live a more full life. We are able to work on our health, to work on our relationships, or to work on something we have been wanting to change in our lives. The upfront work of organization can be challenging, but worth the end results.

10 Area To Declutter In Under 10 Minutes

Many people feel overwhelmed when thinking about decluttering their homes. They may have flashbacks to a “Tidying Up With Marie Kondo” episode in which the participants are required to remove all the clothes from every closet and pile them into a central location. While this technique may work for some, or work if you have the up front time to devote to it, not all of us are prepared to allocate a whole day – or several – to decluttering. What I have always instructed my kids and sometimes clients, is the old saying: “There is only one way to eat an elephant: a bite at a time.” Sometimes it makes sense to declutter a little at a time to prevent decision fatigue or simply becoming overwhelmed, which can often lead to giving up on it all together. I wanted to share TEN areas in your home that you can likely delclutter in under TEN minutes! Doing little bits of decluttering over time is more manageable and you will see results in the end.

{ONE} The pantry. I’m not talking about a complete overhaul where you take everything out, clean it out, and purchase uniform storage containers. All you’re going to do is a quick sweep of the pantry and find food that is expired and food that you know won’t get eaten. This shouldn’t take long at all!

{TWO} The refrigerator/freezer. While you’re in the kitchen, you can do the same thing in your fridge and freezer. Look for food items that have gone bad, are expired, or your family is no longer eating. You might be able to get the pantry AND fridge/freezer done in 10 minutes!

{THREE} The kitchen utensil drawer. We often have too many kitchen utensils cluttering our kitchen drawers. If you fear you will get rid of something you actually use, you could store items away in a garage or basement for an allotted amount of time (perhaps 6 months) and if you were able to go without them, after the time is up donate the items! Also, The Minimalists – Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus have what they call the 20/20 rule: if you can replace an item that you may want to get rid of within 20 minutes or less, and for $20 or less, you should go ahead and let go of it. Many of these kitchen utensils are easy and cheap to replace.

{FOUR} Cleaning products. We have all bought cleaning products that we thought would work well, but don’t. We then just leave them in the back of our kitchen or bathroom cabinet. If you are not using a cleaning product, I would suggest getting rid of it. If it falls into the category of hazardous waste, just be sure to dispose of it responsibly. Most cities have a drop off location for such items. Also, on this topic, if you are trying to simplify, cleaning products is a great way to start! While marketing might tell you that you need a separate product for each cleaning task, the truth is you can easily make your own multipurpose cleaner with simple products you probably already have on hand. There are many resources online to find ways to make your own cleaner. Or, if you don’t want to make your own, consider just using a pre-made multipurpose cleaner for everything!

{FIVE} Sheets and/or towels. For some reason, it is easy to accumulate extra sheets and towels. It can be easy to quickly go through your linen closets and assess how many you need. When I purchase new sheets or towels, I immediately discard the old ones. Many animal shelters are in need of old sheets and towels, where you can donate them. I have two sets of sheets for each of our beds (one for on the bed, one for in the cabinet or in the wash), and two towels per person (one for use, one for in the cabinet or in the wash). This has worked really well for us for many years!

{SIX} Medicine cabinet. It can be difficult to remember to go through the medicine cabinet periodically to make sure we are discarding expired or unused medicine. I like to go through ours about every 6 months. This is also a task that doesn’t take long.

{SEVEN} Make-up drawer. Another place that can easily accumulate over time is our make-up products. Do you ever get sample make-up items then after testing just let them sit in the drawer? It’s good to go through and assess what products you are using regularly. It’s an easy place to declutter.

{EIGHT} Pens/pencils. I like to go through our pens and pencils periodically. This is another area that can quickly accumulate. Sometimes I wonder where all the pens came from! They multiply! You may not have time to test each one to determine if they work, but you can at least pare down the ones you know you don’t use. And next time, if you try to use a pen and it doesn’t work, throw it away immediately!

{NINE} Coats/jackets. Typically we don’t own too many jackets, so it’s an easy category to declutter. It’s a great idea to quickly assess at the beginning of a new season what jackets can go!

{TEN} Board games. Are we the only family that loves NEW board games?? It is a weakness of mine to buy new board games. Now that our kids are teenagers/young adults, it is one of the main forms of entertainment we enjoy together as a family. While purging this area of your home, include your spouse and kids! You could even make a game of decluttering the board games. Have them all out in a visible area one night during dinner and vote on which ones should stay, and which could go!

I hope this inspired you, knowing you can begin small when contemplating the process of decluttering. It doesn’t have to be overwhelming or time-consuming. Take a little “bite” every day, and before you know it “the elephant” will be gone!

Anxiety and Clutter

This blog post isn’t easy for me to write. It’s difficult to be vulnerable, but I am so passionate about the topic of mental health and the effects clutter has on our mental health that I wanted to share my own story.

I have struggled with anxiety my entire life – or at least as long as I can remember. Even as a young child I remember being worried or nervous about all sorts of things. I learned in my late teens that controlling my environment eased some of my anxiety. I guess it was at this young age that my love for organization and order germinated. I learned that the less I had to take care of, the less chaos there was in my life. Less chaos equals less stress and anxiety.

As I grew up and older, slowly over time more and more responsibilities and things piled on me. First it was getting married, and learning to manage not only my things, but my husband’s things as well. Then our daughter came along, and two more children after that. The responsibilities and the THINGS kept multiplying. I suppose it was a mercy that I only added to our chaos a little at a time, however it was like that analogy of a frog in a cool pot of water that began to get hot and boil over time – so that it wasn’t noticeable. 

When our youngest son was a toddler I started struggling with severe anxiety symptoms. My doctor labeled me with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and prescribed Xanax, which I could take when the symptoms were unmanageable. I was able to cope like this for several years, until my anxiety reached a point where it was affecting my everyday life. The journey that ensued is a whole other story, but ultimately I ended up seeing a holistic doctor and discovering that I had multiple food sensitivities, exasperating my anxiety. I was thankful to have answers, and with diet and supplements I have been able to manage for over 8 years now.

Several years ago, I began to learn about minimalism. I read blog posts and books, I watched YouTube videos, and listened to podcasts about the subject. I was so intrigued. I’ve always liked the idea of living with less. I remember when our kids were very young, I told my husband that I would happily sell everything and move across the world if the opportunity arises. That opportunity never came along, but I have always had this thought that we could live with less. Unfortunately, my husband and two of my kids like to keep things – as part of a collection, or hobby items, because we might need it one day, or simply because there is sentimental value to the items. I am learning to just be an example by minimizing my own things, hoping they will see the benefits.

The more I learned about minimalism, the more I learned of the benefits to mental health. I don’t know if I would have avoided the struggles I had with anxiety by becoming a family of minimalists, but I’m confident that having less to manage would have relieved some of the stress and anxiety I was experiencing.

There are times when I feel frustrated or disappointed that I didn’t learn about minimalism and how to implement it into the lives of our busy family of five earlier, but I recognize it is all part of my journey. It’s never too late to make changes in your life. We could get caught up on focusing on everything we missed from not making changes sooner, or we can make those changes and allow the new ethos to guide us moving forward – continuing to become a better version of who we are. Even though two of my kids are now young adults, I can still talk to them about the principles of minimalism, even if I didn’t teach them through my actions while they were growing up.

I hope my candor has in some way inspired you to evaluate your life. Are your things and the responsibilities that come along with those things causing extra anxiety in your life?

20 Things To Do Before 2020

It’s hard to believe, but we are less than three months away from the calendar turning over to 2020! As this new year is just on the horizon, I thought I would share some common things that perpetually stay on our to-do list, or chores we forget about. Get these (or some of these) 20 things completed before 2020 and start the new year with a clean slate!

{1} Make “that” appointment. We all have appointments that we push off because we don’t want to deal with the results or we just don’t feel like we have time to get it done. Your health is important, so make “that” appointment before the end of the year! Dentist appointment, routine well visit with your doctor, mammogram, or an appointment with a specialist you’ve been putting off. Perhaps it isn’t a medical appointment – you need a haircut you’ve been putting off, or other self care appointments.

{2} Finish a project. Anyone else start a project and lose steam? Or maybe your spouse started something and didn’t finish? Set aside time, and plan for it to get the project completed.

{3} Change the light bulb that’s been out. Is this just me, or does it seem hard to change out light bulbs that aren’t working? It seems like every time I noticed that light bulb, it’s an inconvenient time to change it. Set aside time to go around your house with fresh light bulbs!

{4} Clean the cobwebs off the ceiling. This is another task that seems like I notice at inconvenient times. It’s good to set aside time instead of doing it when you notice.

{5} Take the pile to the thrift store. I often have a pile for the thrift store that seems to quickly accumulate. The hard part for me is that it is in a storage closet in our garage, so “out of sight, out of mind.”

{6} Change the batteries in the smoke alarms. This task is so important, but may get left undone because it’s not a chore that noticeably needs to get done!

{7} Back up photos. You can do this onto Google photos, the Cloud, onto your computer, or onto a USB key. We unfortunately lost some of our digital photos because of a computer crash. I have now made it a habit to back up my photos in multiple places. My Google account is connected to the camera roll on my phone, so they automatically back up into my Google photos. I like to have them at least one other location as well.

{8} Dust your baseboards. This is a task that often gets forgotten. I like to “deep clean” one room per week in my house, meaning my baseboards get cleaned in each room about every three months.

{9} Clean your windows. This is another task that gets forgotten. I have to be honest and say our upstairs windows rarely get cleaned on the outside of the house because it scares me to get up on an extended latter! Maybe it’s time we hire someone to clean the outside of all of our windows! The inside of my windows get cleaned on the same rotation as our baseboards.

{10} Go through the pile of junk mail. I now have a “one touch rule” when it comes to papers that come into our home. I deal with them immediately. I didn’t always do this, and I know many people who have a stack of mail and/or papers that need to be dealt with. Set aside the time to purge those!

{11} Delete all the files that you downloaded onto your computer for temporary use. Whether it’s a photo someone sent you, or a form you needed to fill out and send back, our “downloads” folder on our computers can get cluttered quickly. Go through and delete all those items you no longer need.

{12} Take old/unused paint, chemicals, and batteries to a recycling center. These items can stack up in your garage or home since they are not easy to dispose of. I like to go every 6 months to dispose of these chemicals. Ask your neighbor or friend if they have anything as well to make the trip more worth it!

{13} Clean out the gutters. This is another task that we put off! Again, it can be difficult to do if you have a two story home like we do and need to get the extension latter out. This is another chore that could be hired out!

{14} Clean out the dryer vent. This chore is difficult to remember to get done since we don’t see the lint build up in our dryer line. It is something that needs to get done as it can be a fire hazard to let it go too long.

{15} Prune trees. This task is another that you may need to hire someone to do for you. If you have large, mature trees it might be worth paying someone who is skilled in this task to get done for you.

{16} Car care. Get the oil changed, routine car maintenance, car wash, or detailing.

{17} Put away summer items for the winter. Deflate and store pool items, take down hammocks or other storable spring/summer items, cover outdoor furniture for the winter.

{18} Declutter kids’ toys before the holiday season! I always liked to evaluate what toys my kids were not playing with or had outgrown before new toys came in during the holiday season.

{19} Change filters around your home. This is another chore that can be forgotten because we don’t see the dirt on a regular basis. Depending on what type of filters you have, this needs to be done several times a year. While you’re at it, vacuum and/or dust the vents!

{20} Power wash your porch/driveway/walkway! If you’ve never experienced the joy of power washing, you’re missing out!!

This is certainly not an exhaustive list. On the other hand, you certainly don’t need to do all 20 things! This is just an idea of those things that often get overlooked or put on the back burner. Get a few of these things crossed off your list over the next few months and start off 2020 with a clean slate! 

The Cost of Clutter

There are all kinds of excuses we use to not deal with clutter, but what if clutter has an effect on our physical and mental health? Some don’t realize the toll clutter takes on the mind and body. It’s worth the effort to declutter things you no longer use, and organize the remaining items for your health!

Merriam-Webster’s definition of clutter is: to fill or cover with scattered or disordered things that impede movement or reduce effectiveness. In the definition alone, we see that clutter impedes us and reduces our effectiveness. When our minds have to consistently process excess things in our environment, we are using brain space to process that input which makes us less effective.

Clutter is bad for your physical health.  It has been linked to cortisol production, the stress hormone. Research from a 2009 study out of UCLA’s Center on Everyday Lives of Families (CELF) has shown that women who perceive their homes to be cluttered tend to have unhealthy patterns of cortisol levels. Interestingly, men did not have the same cortisol response with regard to clutter. This could potentially be because women tend to take on more of the household chores even if they are also working full time. Clutter is also linked to lack of self control, resulting in unhealthy eating habits. According to a Cornell University study from 2016, stress triggered by clutter may also trigger coping and avoidance strategies, like eating junk food, oversleeping or binge-watching Netflix.

Physical clutter often leads to mental clutter. When our eyes are being visually overloaded, it takes away from our brain’s ability to focus on and process other tasks at hand. Many people don’t realize that clutter is this distracting to our brains. Other people may have the urge to straighten up a bit before focusing on some work that needs to get done. This is a natural tendency we have because subconsciously we know the clutter distracts us.

In my experience, clutter often leads to procrastination. You might be surprised to learn that I have not always had a handle on keeping our papers organized. Especially when my kids were young, it was a lot to keep up with and even now it is still a struggle. If you need to pay a bill, but in order to pay that bill you must dig through a stack of papers, books, and other miscellaneous items on your desk or table, you are less likely to just get it done. Simple tasks feel overwhelming when dealing with clutter.

Don’t get me wrong, decluttering doesn’t come without its own consequences. Getting rid of items can be equal to physical pain, especially for someone who attaches memories to or overvalues their items. But this pain is well worth the end result. The best way to avoid clutter in your home is to slow the inflow of items that are coming into your home. I have found, for myself, that purging is best done in small doses. Choose one drawer, or one shelf in a cabinet or closet today to begin the road to better health!