18 Sep 2017

The Psychology of Getting Organized

I have a confession – for the last eight months I feel like I’ve been living a lie! Why? We had extended family living with us as they made a transition to a new home. Now I’ll preface this with when it started we thought it would only be for a few weeks. Unfortunately the world is a complicated place and what was only supposed to be a few weeks turned into eight months.

So why do I feel like I was living a lie? Well, when you have extended guests in your home the goal is to make everyone as comfortable and at home as possible. That means you alter or place normal routines and processes on hold. So during these last eight months I’ve tabled some projects, modified behaviors, etc. While that may not seem like a huge deal, the reality is this was a profound shift in the day to day routine of our household. Towards the end of their stay I could tell that the impact to our daily routine was immense. Happily the transition is complete and they are settling into their new place. So now there is huge opportunity for me to get things back in line and moving forward.

I’m sure at this point you are now wondering what this has to do with the psychology of getting organized. It’s simple – an organized life is much more productive and healthy than one that is in a constant state of chaos. There are countless studies that show how your environment impacts your health – physically and emotionally. So the next time someone scoffs that being disorganized has a negative impact – don’t be so quick to let them get away with those harmless chuckles. Beyond how it makes you feel there is the psychology that goes into the process itself. Some of these issues are the very things that we must overcome in order to get ourselves more organized.

Let’s face it, we all have a little junk in our life (and in reality some of us may have more than a little – I’m not pointing any fingers!) Regardless of how much stuff we have, we can all benefit from getting rid of clutter and excess things we don’t need any more, or things we haven’t even seen in a while. The National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) conducted a poll that suggests nearly 65% of Americans feel their home is at least somewhat disorganized.

What is clutter? Clutter is anything you’re keeping around your house that doesn’t add value to your life. Decluttering is all about making room in your home for the things that matter. Decluttering can and does take many forms.

Clutter, however you define it, can be bad for your health. According to Psychology Today, people tend to feel like life is out of control when they surround themselves with more things than they can manage. The mess causes stress. If you’re not taking care of the clutter in your home, you may not be taking care of yourself either.

When is clutter a problem? For many people clutter can be an energy zapper or they waste inordinate amounts of time looking for things they can’t find. In extreme cases, people may suffer from obesity or depression when a life of consumption extends beyond ‘stuff.’ In hoarding situations, a house full of clutter can cause fire hazards and other health complications when mold and dust are present. But extreme cases are not common. I’ve worked with a few clients that could be considered hoarders. It is important to understand that you can’t just go in and get a hoarder “organized.” The result of doing something so drastic could have unfortunate consequences. From a professional standpoint I will only work with a hoarder if they are also under the care of a qualified mental health professional.

Why should you declutter? Many people enjoy decluttering because it relieves stress by providing a sense of control and accomplishment. For others, getting rid of the junk frees up a little extra space in the house that wasn’t there before. Some people may just need to purge before they move to a new house. Whatever your reason for decluttering your home, it’s not as difficult as you might think. And when stuck, search the internet, Pinterest or contact a professional organizer! Next week we’ll look at some of the techniques that help you in your organizing efforts.

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