Every individual piece of clutter in the visual periphery has a physical effect on the brain as neurons fire and hormones attempt to regulate the situation. The visual information enters the brain, the brain sorts through its catalog and defines the object's importance, and then causes the body to react to the object. For example, I see a vase on my table that I need to return to my neighbor. The visual information, the vase I see, enters my brain. My brain then sets up a mental sticky-note that says, "Return vase to neighbor ASAP." Then I pick up the vase and return it to the neighbor. Ideally, my brain would move on to the next information it receives from my field of vision.
In a cluttered field of vision, however, the brain receives an over-abundance of information. The vase I need to return to the neighbor, the dishes that we left out from breakfast, the cat bowl is empty, the card I need to send to my sister, the scissors I need to put away, and the floor that needs vacuuming ALL enter my brain at the same time. As my brain tries to catalog the information for its importance to my survival, I can't get a clear grasp of what I need to do because so much stimulus has simultaneously entered my field of vision. Mental sticky notes are flying around my head, trying to remember what I need to do and what deadline I have to complete it. Stress hormones are released to begin the fight-or-flight response to my current situation, narrowing my ability to think clearly about anything outside of the clutter.
By simply removing the clutter and clearing your environment of unorganized visual stimuli, you can also destress. Sounds simple! Surely I can do that, right? Wrong. I am one of those people who can never seem to stay organized. Granted, I have an 8-month-old who gets into everything he can put his sticky little fingers on... but even my pre-baby days were relatively cluttered and messy.
Here are some simple tricks I have picked up over the years:
1. Put objects out of the field of vision
Sounds obvious, right? Find a cabinet, drawer, or bin to organize things so they are not in your direct line of sight. Use labels to remember what you put into each bin so you don't have to open 30 bins to easily find what you need later on. Also, purchase a filing cabinet for bills, records, taxes, etc.
2. If you don't need it, toss it!
Sentimental value has its time and place, but I have been able to shed a lot of unnecessary bulk
from my life by limiting how much junk I keep. I used to be that person who said, "But I might need this later on and I'll kick myself for not having it!" ... and then I'd completely forget I even owned that thing in the first place. Now, I have two boxes of sentimental items and I try to have a justifiable
reason for keeping something. If it doesn't have a function, it doesn't stay.
3. Know your habits and adjust organization to fit them
If you know you come home from work and leave your shoes by the door, set up a shoe rack there.
If you know you leave your clothes in the hallway, leave a hamper there. I have tried to change my
habits by setting up a system that I was supposed to follow, but that system usually failed. By setting
up organization to follow your habits, you will have a much higher success rate with using the
system for its intended purpose.
4. Keep a notepad by the bed, on the refrigerator, and in the car
The notepad by the bed is for when you are drifting off to sleep and your brain does that thing:
for that matter), you can write it down on the notepad. You remove it from your thought process
and have a physical reminder in the morning. Ahhhhh, take a deep breath and relax back to a
The notepad by the refrigerator is for daily activities, chores, and grocery lists. We have a calendar
in our kitchen for appointments and events. The notepad on the refrigerator is my Monday
through Friday organizer so I can remember to get the dry cleaning on Thursday in time for our
work social on Saturday.
The notepad in the car is for random stuff I think about whilst driving. Sometimes it's chores,
sometimes it's my next professional goals, and sometimes it's a joke I made up that I need to tell my
5. Have a "random item" spot
Sometimes it's not feasible to think that I can clear the mess out of the living room and prepare
dinner and follow my child around so he doesn't get into something dangerous. I have a "rando-
table" for that purpose, where I put all the clutter that needs to find a home. Saturday mornings are
designated for clearing the rando-table.
6. Practice the art of Feng Shui
Have a flow to your home. Keep the entryway clear so you're not greeted
with stuff and junk and mess. Reduce the feeling of a chaotic environment by setting up your
furniture with a clear, open layout. Have plants around the house or work space. Create a peaceful
environment in your own home.
I'm admittedly still a work-in-progress as I learn more about my growing household and about our organizational requirements. If you have any tips, I'd love to hear them!
What are your best tips for organizing your home, workplace, and life in general?