Studies show that one in four Americans would like to be more organized. With the amount of clutter in our homes mounting to historic levels, stress rises along with it.
Living an organized life can allow you more time to foster relationships. Organization can also improve productivity in the workplace and foster a better overall image of yourself. The popular New Year’s resolution goes far beyond aesthetics, however, and can have profound effects on your overall health.
The Scientific Benefits of Being Organized:
- Being organized reduces stress: Women surveyed in a UCLA study were more stressed and had higher levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) if their homes were described as “cluttered”.
- Living an organized life helps you eat better: People who worked in a clean space were twice as likely to choose an apple over a chocolate bar than people who worked in a cluttered space for ten minutes. Disorganization stresses out the mind, making people want to compensate with food.
- Being organized helps you stick to your fitness goals: People who have a plan and record their progress stick with diet and exercise programs better.
- Organization boosts productivity: When you expose your brain to too many stimuli it has a hard time focusing. When you are organized there are less competing items for your brain to focus on, thus making you more productive.
- Being organized helps you sleep better: Keeping your bedroom neat may benefit your sleeping habits. In a survey by the National Sleep Foundation, those who had a bed that was clean and fresh reported having a better night’s sleep.
Organize Your Home:
Studies have shown that having cluttered spaces can cause upset because you are overloading your brain. It sends the signal to others that you are not efficient and organized. UCLA’s Center on Everyday Lives of Families (CELF) studied 32 middle-class families. They found that managing the volume of possessions was such a problem in many homes that it elevated levels of stress hormones for mothers.
They also found that men were much less likely to feel this stress, which adds to tensions between the husbands and wives. The more cluttered the house, the more anxiety the women felt. There are tons of little hacks that you can implement to slowly clean up your spaces and keep them clean.
- Give every drawer a purpose: Clean out every drawer in your house and organize them with shoe boxes, old jewelry boxes or dividers. You can use egg cartons for smaller things, too. Make sure that every drawer houses a specific set of items to keep them organized for good.
- Hide visible cords: You can buy cord clips to run wires behind your desk or entertainment center. Bundle cords together using zip ties and then label them with old bread tags to remember which is which!
- Set up a paper processing station: Stacks of papers can look cluttered. Adopt a paperwork action plan and stick to it by buying three paper trays and labeling them “Action”, “Archive” and “Toss”. Move them about as needed and keep your “Toss” tray clean!
- Use your bed for storage: Either buy a headboard that has storage or make your own under-the-bed storage out of old dresser drawers. Using the often underutilized areas around your bed to house miscellaneous objects can help keep your room organized and clutter free. You can even store folded bed sheets under your mattress to keep them out of sight!
- Put collections or unused items in storage: The rule of thumb when deciding what to store should be: if you haven’t used it in six months, put it in storage. You can store seasonal items until the same time next year. Store collections or heirlooms for later use.
Organize Your Work Day:
Having an organized work environment can lead to less stress and greater output. The brain doesn’t respond well to exposure to various stimuli, putting it in overload-mode and diverting attention away from more important activities. In this way, cleanliness can affect productivity.
HLW International LLP conducted a study on 400 managers and employees, finding that employee productivity levels were “highly influenced” by the cleanliness of the place that they worked. Additionally, employers whose offices were untidy had a harder time recruiting new hires.
Alternatively, digital clutter can be just as stressful as physical clutter. Clutter on your digital devices can lead to distraction and encourages multitasking. Studies show that multitasking with electronic media caused a greater decrease in IQ than losing a nights sleep!
Organization in the workplace has profound effects on output and overall workplace satisfaction. Here are some little things you can do to get organized at work:
- Clean your inbox: A super full email inbox can feel overwhelming. Take some time each week to unsubscribe from things you don’t want, tie up loose ends and delete old emails you won’t need to reference later.
- Prepare for Monday on Friday: Take the last 30 minutes on Friday to anticipate what you will be doing the next week and make preparations necessary. Thinking about the week ahead will make you more prepared.
- Digitize when possible: Cut down paper clutter on your desk and in your office by digitizing everything possible. You can scan and send documents that need to be signed or request that correspondence be digital.
- Everything in its place: Keeping everything in its place in your office is one of the best ways to stay clear-headed. Keep your pencils in one drawer and your paper in the correct tray or folder. Assign a certain place to store your planner or a place to set your coffee mug. Be sure to keep as much empty space as possible on your desk to keep it organized.
- Organize your digital world: Go through your computer and get rid of any duplicate files. Create folders and subfolders for organization and erase the files in your “downloads” folder. Try to get rid of any visible files on your desktop and choose a soothing or beautiful desktop image. Having a fresh, clean digital work area will help you stay more relaxed and productive.
Organize Your Family:
Having a clean home and structured family life can have lasting positive effects on your children. Parents who keep their homes clean are more efficient and organized, which can over into their children’s habits.
A University of Michigan study indicated that the cleanliness of the homes children grow up in can predict their educational attainment and future earnings. Over several years, interviewers visited subjects homes and rated overall cleanliness on a five-point scale. 25 years later, researchers assessed the education level and earnings of the young adults who lived in those homes.
Out of the 3,395 young adults studied, the ones with the cleanest homes had attained more education and earned more money, as a pattern. There are small hacks you can do to keep your life and the lives of your children organized.
- Store game controllers out of sight: Glue velcro on the back of gaming controllers to store them neatly and ensure they’re always put back in the correct spot.
- Plan out small children’s outfits in advance: You can put entire outfits in plastic bags and label them with the days of the week. They also sell hanging clothes organizers if you’re willing to purchase them.
- Store stuffed animals in a bean bag cover: Store stuffed animals in a bean bag cover for storage that looks less cluttered. Your children can sit on them or easily access their stuffed animals if desired.
- Create a family command center: Create an area close to the door where family members can put their shoes, keys, umbrellas or mail/papers they need. Set up a notes and calendar area as well to keep everyone on the same page.
- Include a toy drawer or two in your kitchen: Kids love to play in the kitchen while their parents cook, but cleaning up their toys afterward can be time-consuming. Designating a drawer or small area for “kitchen toys,” like crayons and paper or pretend cookware sets keeps the kids entertained and the mess to a minimum.
Organize Your Meals:
Having an organized kitchen and meal plan is linked to better food variety, diet quality and a lower body weight. In a study from the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, those who planned meals were less likely to be overweight and obese. They were also shown to have a healthier diet.
Planning a menu, going grocery shopping, and cooking food yourself leads to higher quality meals. Studies have shown that eating out of the home is a risk factor for higher calorie and fat intake, as well as lower micronutrient intake. Studies have linked eating out frequently with the risk of becoming overweight.
Planning to cook your meals at home using fresh, quality ingredients can add benefit to and even lengthen your life. Here are some easy tricks to weave into your daily life:
- Season meat three ways in one pan: Use tin foil to separate off sections of the same pan when cooking protein. Since there is a barrier, you can use different kinds of marinades and cook them at the same time without spillover. You will likely want to use the same kind and size of meat so that they will have the exact same cooking time.
- Plan ahead and freeze: You can cook large amounts of food quite easily in a crock pot. Cook enough for several meals, divide it up and freeze for later! You can freeze them as individual servings or family size depending on your needs.
- Make your smoothies in bulk: Wish you could enjoy a smoothie at work? Buying one every day is too expensive and making one is too time-consuming! You can make your smoothies in large batches, then store and freeze them in food pouches like these. Once they thaw a bit, they’ll be ready to enjoy!
- Attach a dry erase board to your pantry door: Clean out the things that you aren’t going to use. Also, plan things that need to be used into your menu for the week. Attach a dry erase or chalk board to the inside of your pantry door so it’s easy to write down items you need to get at the store.
- Create grab-and-go portions: Portion out raw veggies, fruit, chips or cheese and put them in plastic bags. Place them each in sections of your fridge, ready to grab and put in a lunch box or have as a snack.
Organize Your Social Life:
Organizing your social life can not only help you make time for everyone who you care about but can lead to an overall feeling of satisfaction. The Department of Sociology at the University of North Carolina reports that taking time for social interaction relates to better physiological functioning and lower risk of physical disorders.
Conversely, having an unorganized life and cluttered spaces can lead to social isolation. Isolation has been shown to lead to disrupted sleep patterns, weakened immune systems, and higher levels of the stress hormone. Another study found that social isolation can lead to a greater risk of heart failure.
Researchers at The University of Texas found that fostering strong relationships with friends, family and significant others leads to better health and a longer life. Here are some small ways to organize your social life and nurture relationships:
- Schedule coffee or lunch dates: Having trouble finding time for your friends? Fit them into something you do every day to ensure you keep those relationships alive. Plan to have lunch together or get coffee or happy hour after work. Even if it’s just for an hour, the benefits include less stress and improved mood!
- Clean up your social media accounts: Deleting people you don’t interact with or brands that you don’t care for anymore can feel liberating. Go through and delete any accounts you don’t use or un-tag any old, unflattering photos while you’re at it.
- Set your phone to airplane mode while charging: Ready to head out for the night, but realize your phone is critically low? Setting it on airplane mode will help it charge much faster, leaving more time for you to socialize.
- Plan consistent catch-up time: Pick one day a week as a dedicated time to call your parents, grandparents, siblings or other family members. Try to dedicate the same time each week so that it becomes a part of your schedule and enjoy the perks of organized bonding.
- Use a date jar to help you decide what to do: Write down fun activities or restaurants you want to try as you think of them. Rather than debating where to go or what to do on date night, pick an idea from the jar!
Cleaning up your physical, mental and digital spaces can reduce stress, lead to healthier lives, help your children become more successful, improve productivity and allow you to foster relationships with loved ones.
UCLA | University of Minnesota | Hindawi Journal of Obesity | National Sleep Foundation | HLW International LLP | University of Michigan | International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity | University of Texas