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How to Remarkably Reduce Anxiety with Simple Organizing

Reduce Anxiety

I don’t smoke, I don’t drink, I fold. That’s what I do. I find that the act of folding brings me to a place of inner resolve, where only I can go and emerge having found my peace. For me, it’s soothing.

When I’m on edge or feeling out of sorts, when exercise is a low priority, at that moment, just because, I roll up my sleeves and fold (anything but fitted sheets). I may even start to clear the clutter, reevaluate my schedule or straighten up the living room. For I know, in a few minutes, it’s going to bring me some needed calm.

Organization and anxiety or stress are inextricably linked.

The simple act of organizing can help you manage stress and reduce anxiety remarkably well.

Don’t believe me? Try it for yourself!

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The Organization/Stress Connection

Although getting organized can help to reduce anxiety and stress, the fact is, these feelings can also get in the way of you being organized.

It’s a catch-22 situation.

If your stress or anxiety are clouding the way, you may want to consider how many other ‘stressors’ you have and their impact on your life. Stressors come in many forms, whether it’s waiting on a report from your doctor after a medical test, dealing with a difficult boss or coworker, or simply rushing to meet deadlines each day.

The truth is, disorganization adds a tremendous amount of pressure to your life. That’s why organizing can be a stress-relief tool and often, a calming way to reduce anxiety.

Being organized takes a great weight off your shoulders. It gives you the space you need to tackle any external life challenges with grace. Click To Tweet

Plus, once you start taking the steps to get organized and notice how your stress and anxiety levels begin to wane, you’ll soon turn to it when the world feels chaotic.

The Benefits of Organizing

I know first-hand that there are many advantages to being organized. Whether you like organizing or not, you can’t deny that these physical and emotional benefits are worth the effort:

  • Improves your sleep quality
  • Reduces stress
  • Improves your relationships
  • Frees up time and energy which can be directed to other aspects of your life
  • Reduces symptoms of both depression and anxiety
  • Increases productivity
  • Improves overall well-being

Being organized impacts every facet of your life.

For example, a survey done by the Sleep Foundation showed that people who make their bed or change their sheets regularly sleep better at night.

Similarly, a study published in the Personality and Social Psychology Journal, found that women with cluttered spaces and “unfinished projects” were more likely to suffer from anxiety or depression.

Our minds and bodies thrive on order and routine which is why organizing can feel so cathartic and why we feel so much better in clean and organized spaces.

Organizer vs Perfectionist

As wonderful as organizing can be to relieve stress and reduce anxiety, it can become unhealthy if you use it to strive for perfection – which is an unattainable extreme.

There is a fine line between being organized and being a perfectionist. Perfect is unrealistic and a need for perfection can actually add more stress and anxiety to your life.

So, how can you tell the difference?

It’s all in the way that it makes you feel.

For an organizer, organizing feels like it lightens your load and leaves you feeling calm and in control.

On the other hand, if you feel worried or frantic because things aren’t ‘perfect’ as you organize, or if you’re paralyzed with indecision or just prone to procrastination, you may be dealing with a form of perfectionism.

As with most things in life, it’s all about finding balance.

4 Tips to Find Balance

One way to find balance is through strategic organization which helps you to prioritize in a thoughtful way and leads to aligned action.

Here are strategies that will help you simplify your life and reduce anxiety with smart organizing know-how:

  1. Set healthy limits – allow time for planning and organizing each day but give yourself a time limit (use a kitchen timer), so that you can move on to your other tasks too, for a truly productive day.
  2. Focus on worthy organizational causes – instead of trying to re-organize things that are already, relatively, in order, find the areas of real clutter in your life. Whether it be your email inbox, a junk drawer, or your messy closet. Turn your attention to these spaces one at a time and direct your energy into a worthwhile organizational activity.
  3. Ask yourself, as you’re completing a task, “does this have to be perfect or is it good enough?”
  4. Go paperless – heaps of paper in the form of bills, mail and receipts can make anyone feel anxious, so it may just be time to go digital and get rid of the paper mess once and for all. Besides, it’s more eco-friendly.

How Cleaning & Organizing Can Reduce Anxiety

So, just why and how does cleaning and organizing help to reduce anxiety?

It’s all about control.

Anxiety causes erratic energy and this energy needs a healthy outlet. That’s why you tend to feel the need to do something physical when you’re anxious. What you really want though, is to feel in control.

Although you may not be able to control certain situations, you can take control of your immediate environment through cleaning and organizing. The repetitive and familiar movements of folding the laundry, clearing away clutter, or sorting are an informal mindfulness practice of sorts that bring you into the present moment and out of your thoughts.

Summary

Your inner world and your outer world are more connected than you think.

Reduce Anxiety

Whether you organize to reduce anxiety or need to de-clutter in order to minimize life stressors, you can’t deny the end result – a calm mind.

With all the benefits connected to being organized, it’s no wonder that many people turn to cleaning when things feel out of control.

Remember to direct your energy to worthy tasks and don’t allow perfectionism to turn this healthy outlet into an unhealthy obsession.

What is your activity of choice to reduce anxiety and stress?

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Reduce Anxiety

Comments 12

  1. Ronni, I agree 100%! I love the way you pointed out that organizing is not about perfectionism. It’s impossible to achieve organized perfection that lasts longer than a minute unless you don’t live in the space. Go for good enough and appreciate the long lasting effects that brings to your life.

    1. Diane,

      I often refer to how perfectionism is a myth, especially when I have a client who thinks they can do it all.
      That alone causes so much stress. As you said, appreciate the long lasting effects. That’s what’s important.

  2. Love this post! I actually love folding fitted sheets because it gives me a tremendous feeling of accomplishment. If the rest of the world seems to be going down the tubes, by gosh I’ll have me a good looking linen closet. 🙂 I also love your point about organization vs. perfectionism – perfection doesn’t exist anyway, and clients are often surprised when I don’t pursue it. There’s a huge sense of relief!

    1. Sara,
      First of all, some of us need a tutorial on how to fold a fitted sheet. It always drives me crazy because I mess it up.
      I agree that our clients sometimes think that it has to be perfect. That’s such an unnecessary burden to carry around. That’s why I offered, “is it good enough?” Just that question brings relief.

  3. When I get stressed I organize. It calms me down. My sister does laundry. I think that a lot of people find doing the laundry soothing. Of course, there are also those who hate laundry LOL! Regardless, I do believe that there is a sense of control we feel when we get our physical lives in order. Maybe we can’t fix all the big problems we are facing, but we can do a bit to “control the controll-ables.”

    1. Seana,
      You are so right! I agree that organizing gives us a sense of control. As you said, there are many things we can’t control, but we can control our environment, our homes.
      I don’t think it matters if it’s laundry or folding or sorting a drawer or straightening up the kitchen counters that your messy family left before they went to sleep. ( lol) It all works, It’s all good, and helps us sleep better at night.

  4. Great tips and very motivating! I love to organize smaller, more detailed projects. They are just more satisfying to me. They may take longer to set up, but it’s super easy and quick when I have to use the organized space.

    1. Sabrina,
      As soon as you said smaller projects, I immediately thought of the time I was hired to organize a zillion buttons. These small little accessories became such a huge project.
      I’m glad that you found your own method that keeps you feeling good and grounded. We all need some of that.

  5. Ronni- You cracked me up when you said when you’re stressed, you fold, except NOT fitted sheets. I’m with you on that. I noticed a long time ago that I immediately start straightening and organizing when I’m feeling anxious. Then I saw the research on it and how the organizing process flips a switch in the brain, which creates this calmer state of being. But you brought up a great point. This doesn’t work in all cases. For those who find disorganization overwhelming or procrastinate because they aim for perfection, organizing can create stress. So finding ways to take baby steps can keep the overwhelm in check and help with progress forward.

    1. Linda,

      Now you have me laughing. I am absolutely not inviting a fitted sheet onto my list of things to do. I saw a how-to video today, by chance. She made it look so easy but mine never turn out quite as nice.

      It appears that so many of us turn to organizing as a calming method. I know that it works for me instantly. Whether it’s sorting or folding or straightening up, it gives me some needed balance and makes me feel really good.

  6. I definitely am the same way. I teeter on the brink of organization vs. perfection sometimes and I have to adjust my mindset every now and then. But, for the most part, having an organizational reset is just what I need to find the calm.

    1. Melanie,
      I really like the term reset. It suggests a simple shift in another direction. Definitely not onerous.
      I remember when my first daughter was born, I had to give up even the slightest bit of perfection, because I knew it would never fly. I would become a hot mess.

      Kindred spirits!

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