The toll that clutter and disorganization can have on your life is universal—and deeply impactful. I’ve seen it again and again in my years helping clients all over the world edit and organize their homes.
Clutter makes it more difficult to relax, both physically and mentally. A disorganized space signals to our brain that our work is never done. Most critically, disorganization can leave people feeling depressed, overwhelmed, anxious, even paralyzed. When you look at clutter objectively and examine the negatives of a cluttered home juxtaposed against the positives of a streamlined and functional space, it is clear that taking even small steps to tame clutter can have a big impact.
Physical clutter bombards our brains with excessive stimulation. You know that nagging feeling you get when you have a big assignment to complete? A disorganized space distracts us and triggers anxiety because we’re never sure what it’s going to take to find something or—literally—get to the bottom of the pile.
Can you throw a party or host a friend without having to scramble to clean up in a panic? Would you wince if someone were to open a drawer to find something? When your home feels like something to hide or be ashamed of, it takes an emotional toll, commonly triggering feelings of guilt or shame.
Think of the dining room table covered in projects or littered with toys. I’ve worked with couples who were on the brink of divorce because the state of their physical surroundings triggered so much tension, hostility, and resentment.
Calculate the amount of time you spend looking for your credit cards, umbrellas, or car keys or how much time you’ve spent replacing everyday items that have gone missing. In addition to being a financial drain and time suck, searching for misplaced items makes you late. Taking the time to streamline your space and organize your life is practicing a very important form of self-care. Here are some immediate benefits:
Rather than frantically searching for things, you can spend that time working toward a goal, relaxing with friends, or curled up with your favorite book. Being organized is the quickest shortcut I know to saving you time, energy, and money.
Clarity and Control
Imagine if everything in your home served a purpose and had a clearly designated home. Organization enables you to efficiently find what you need and move through your day with ease.
A well-organized home gives you freedom to, say, easily host an event or start a new project.
Organization equals calm. There’s a reason we leave our home to relax at a hotel on vacation. These streamlined spaces give us a visual cue that it’s time to relax. Why not create the same feeling and aesthetic in our homes?
When you’re disorganized, it’s easy to lose track of things. Have you ever brought home lasagna noodles only to find that you have four boxes in the back of your pantry? When your possessions are organized, you know what you actually need. This practice will prevent waste and reduce your environmental footprint.
Now, here are a few actionable things you can do right now:
Most people try to organize their entire home all at once—when that doesn’t work, they get overwhelmed and give up. Start small. Tackle a closet, a surface, even a drawer. Then stop and admire what you’ve done before figuring out your next project. If you are overwhelmed, remind yourself that a series of small wins will add up to a massive transformation over time.
Be a Gatekeeper
When you realize that every item that enters your home will need to be organized, cleaned, cared for, and managed, you may start to think twice about the volume you allow through the door. Commit to being more intentional and thoughtful about what you bring in. Perhaps set up a donation basket to collect anything you no longer want or need.
Find a Place for Everything
Consider the items you frequently lose or misplace. Assign each of these items a designated home. This can be putting a small bowl by the front door for keys or a basket in your office to corral bills and mail.
Take care of your tomorrow self by prepping a day in advance. Consult your calendar so you can select your outfit ahead of time, prep meals, confirm appointments, and stock your tote with your necessities (i.e., to-do lists, workout gear, water, healthy snacks).
The truth is you don’t have to be an “organized person” to practice the disciplines of organization and decluttering. In a world where we often have little to no control, organization offers us an opportunity to create order and tranquility in our homes and our lives. All you need to do is start.
Ready to get organized? Stay tuned for my next book, Organized Living, available wherever books are sold this fall and for pre-order soon!
A version of this article was originally published in Goop.