I loathe clutter. In fact, when I see it, it makes me quite anxious. When you are a busy professional, a cluttered home or workspace can leave you feeling anxious, overwhelmed, and helpless. Clutter is a significant source of stress for many of us in our daily lives.
In her Psychology Today article, Sherrie Bourg Carter, Psychological Doctorate addresses the mental cost of clutter.
Why does mess lead to so much stress?
- Clutter bombards our minds with excessive stimuli (visual, olfactory, tactile), causing our senses to work overtime on stimuli that aren't necessary or important.
- Clutter distracts us by drawing our attention away from what our focus should be on.
- Clutter makes it more difficult to relax, both physically and mentally.
- Clutter constantly signals to our brains that our work is never done.
- Clutter makes us anxious because we're never sure what it's going to take to get through to the bottom of the pile.
- Clutter creates feelings of guilt ("I should be more organized") and embarrassment, especially when others unexpectedly drop by our homes or work spaces.
- Clutter inhibits creativity and productivity by invading the open spaces that allow most people to think, brain storm, and problem solve.
- Clutter frustrates us by preventing us from locating what we need quickly (e.g. files and paperwork lost in the "pile" or keys swallowed up by the clutter).
When you read this list, were you nodding your head in agreement to anyone of these statements? I was.
Do you ever feel like all this clutter is distracting you from your life and your purpose?
For me, clutter is a distraction, so I have had to clear away excessive stimuli from my life. In our modern day of technology, it may seem strange to some, but my iPhone is not connected to my work or personal email. I have even turned off all notifications. The dinging, buzzing, and ringing were all distracting me from my purpose. Piles of papers, mail, etc... visually distract you and pull your attention.
Do you have trouble relaxing at home or work physically or mentally?
This visual, physical, and mind clutter makes it difficult or even impossible to relax. Look around you? Is there clutter? Are there technological distractions? Is your mind focused on your to-do list? There are a couple of rituals that I have adopted that have really helped me in this area at home and work. I love lotions and potions. My morning skincare ritual is all lined up in order of the process. Before I begin my work day, I clean my desk and office. Taking 15 minutes to do this, allows me to be focused and organized throughout the day. I love to-do list, because I feel a sense of accomplishment to check the items off the list. There is a digital tool that I was introduced to me a couple of years ago called, Asana. It is perfect for my personal life, as well as, I can communicate to my associates and ensure the work is being completed on time without having to spend excessive time sending emails following-up with them. Meditation has been a great tool that I have used over them past couple of years to free my mind. I do this to start my day and sometimes, I will stop my day and do it to refresh and refocus myself.
Do you find that clutter signals to you that your work is never done?
Emails are the ones that really get me feeling overwhelmed. I have a habit of answer emails Monday through Friday from 9AM - 10AM and 4PM -5PM. Every email is tagged and filed away in its appropriate folder. I love seeing that there are no emails in my inbox. It leaves me with a sense of accomplishment and not that there is work still left undone.
Do you feel anxious wondering how long it is actually going to take you to get to the bottom of the pile?
Recently, our housekeeper and her husband took a two-week vacation. This left my partner and I to clean the house and do all the laundry. It literally took me an entire Saturday to do all the laundry for the week. Of course, I wanted to fold the laundry. There is a certain way the towels must be folded; and yes, I do have a folding board for shirts, sweaters, and jeans. The dry cleaning was back, and it had to be taken off the wire hangers and hung on the wooden hangers. There is a certain way that I like to live. I kept looking at the loads of laundry. It seemed like I was never going to get through them. I am so grateful for our housekeeper, Eloisa who takes care of this for us each week, so I don't have to do it. It allows more time for me to focus on my purpose, my relationships, and provides me free time to enjoy.
Have you ever felt guilt or embarrassment for not being more organized when someone drops by unexpectedly to your home or office?
My mother always ensured our home was ready to receive company at a moments notice. I remember one Christmas when the vacuum cleaner belt broke. She threatened to cancel Christmas. My dad went out and bought her another vacuum cleaner belt, and the festivities continued, on schedule, as usual. She could not bear the thought of the house not being perfect for family. Like my mother, for many of you, it can make can cause feelings of guilt of embarrassment if your home or workspace isn't neat and tidy.
In her book, "The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are", Brené Brown says, “Perfectionism is a self destructive and addictive belief system that fuels this primary thought: If I look perfect, and do everything perfectly, I can avoid or minimize the painful feelings of shame, judgment, and blame.”
Does this sound familiar or have you ever felt this way?
It is my experience that sometimes, my best thinking is done in silence or in nature. Sometimes, I will hike Runyon Canyon or simply take a meandering walk through my West Hollywood neighborhood of Norma Triangle to simply clean my mind and get me out of my workspace. I often choose to in silence, without the distractions of television, social media, or email. This is another reason why I clean my workspace first thing in the morning and meditate. It is clearing the mental and physical clutter, so I am more free to express myself creatively, think, brainstorm, and solve problems.
Do you ever feel frustrated by your clutter that is preventing you from locating what we need quickly?
I am all for streamlining processes and working in an efficient manner. It saves me time. As fashion icon Tom Ford has said, "Time and silence are the most luxurious things today."
In my office, I use Asana as a template for every client. There is an order of operations in which to follow. There is a design binder for every project separated by room. I can easily locate drawings, furniture, fabrics, finishes, etc... all in one place. There is a separate project binder with the contracts, proposals, invoices, purchased orders, and weekly status reports. Let's not forget about my calendar. There are activities on my calendar that are nonnegotiable. Everything else get's scheduled around them. At home, I have a place where my RayBan sunglasses, my Breitling watches, my Prada wallet, my keys, my turquoise bracelet, my leather bracelet, and keys. They always go in the same place, as these are the items I need to walk out the door everyday with everything I need. It wasn't always like this. I was panicking as I went through every room in the house looking for these things. It is about creating a habit. Everything has a place and everything in its place.
I had an amazing mother. She was a wife, a mother of three, and a school teacher. Somehow, she always managed to do all the laundry, the dishes, clean the bathrooms, the entire house, and we were always ready for company to drop by at any minute. I don't know how she did it.
Growing up, I never realized how clutter and organization had such an impact on me. I had spiral notebooks and folders for each class that were color coded. My work was always neat, orderly, and on-time. Inherently, these were traits that I learned from my mother - even though I wouldn't realize it until later in life when I was on my own.
Take a look around your home and your office. How is clutter impacting your life?