Picture this: You get home from a long day at work only to find mail scattered all over your kitchen table, an unmade bed, and three days' worth of clothes piled up on the chair in your bedroom. There are a few dirty dishes in the sink, and odds and ends are piled on the surface of your coffee table. Does that image make you your pulse quicken? You're not alone. In fact, research has found that when women described their homes as "chaotic" or "messy," they were more likely to have higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
"Our external spaces reflect our internal state," explains home decluttering expert Cary Fortin. "An orderly, organized, simplified home supports and encourages a calm, focused, content mental state. Crossing the threshold into your home when it's organized, you'll notice your shoulders drop, your heart rate decreases, you breathe more deeply because everything is as it should be. Life can be hectic; a decluttered, organized home can serve as an antidote to that overwhelm."
As happiness expert Gretchen Rubin so eloquently puts it, "Outer order contributes to inner calm." So what steps can you take to create outer order? Here's what the experts have to say.
Try decluttering and see what happens.
Fortin points out that what is often perceived as disorganization is simply a result of too much clutter. So start by spending a day or weekend decluttering. "Clutter reminds us of all the things we've left undone, all the chores that need to be accomplished, all of the stuff we have and don't really need," she explains.
And that feeling of "things left undone" leads to a nagging feeling of anxiety that's almost as easy to ignore as a blouse you never wear that's taking up precious real estate in your closet. "When you keep putting off getting organized, it inevitably leads to a constant, low-grade feeling of dissatisfaction," Fortin adds. "When you have only objects that you love and need, when you've purged all the excess and stagnant energy, it's simple to put everything in its place. So before you go out and buy bins or a label maker or color-coded systems, make sure that the things you're trying to organize even deserve the precious space in your home."
Set an intention.
All goals start with an intention, and decluttering and getting organized are no exception. "Set an intention to get organized, then give yourself plenty of time to get things right," suggests professional organizer Maeve Richmond. "The best systems are the ones that have been time-tested, so dive right in, but take things at a jog, not a sprint. Long-term change sticks when we slow our roll and do things right, and rarely when we rush."
If getting organized were an overnight job, everyone would do it. But the truth is, cultivating a home that's clutter-free and organized takes time. "Unfortunately, one full-throttle decluttering weekend won't do the trick," explains Richmond. "Getting organized is more than just reducing your clutter footprint. It’s about identifying what makes you happy in life, what items you wish to surround yourself with, and then creating systems that support your needs. It takes a while to get the wrinkles out of anything new."
Want more ideas for how to get organized? Here are three ways to make organization into a habit.