Is clutter creating chaos in your life? Here's advice on getting through your day without stress a lot more energy.
Like everyone, Frank Gelini has stress in his life. But he never feels overwhelmed by it. The retired insurance underwriter credits his calm to organization. He has a place for everything.
|Organization reduces stress.
|Keep important items near you.
|Set up a system.
|Even though we can't control our world, being organized helps us "feel" control, reducing stress.
|Organization creates clarity.
|Organize as you go. If something needs to go upsairs, take it with you when you climb the stares.
|Change Frazzled to Focused
He and his wife, Doris, work on to-do lists every morning at breakfast. He has files stored neatly in a cabinet for just about everything. He keeps the things he needs all the time close by, and the things he rarely needs in a cabinet in the garage.
"When you streamline processes and organize, there is no question you reduce stress
," says Diana Brock Makes, an organization consultant based in Arizona.
Getting and staying organized not only reduces stress; it gives you the feeling of greater certainty in an uncertain world. You may not be able to control whether your business will break last year's sales record, but you can ensure that you'll be able to find that dossier on your competitor.
Staying organized encourages the good kind of stress. Studies have shown that a feeling of control
is the key to whether stress is an exciting motivator that stimulates creativity and optimism, or a total energy drain that leaves you feeling helpless and pessimistic.
Organization also creates clarity
. A work space cluttered with creeping rows of boxes, stacks of paper, old telephone books and spare computer parts threatens clarity and efficiency. "You get distracted by reminders of the projects you haven't completed," says Makes, whose business is called The Efficiency Experts.
Case in point: Makes recalls a bakery that did a wonderful job of baking wedding cakes but a poor job of keeping track of orders.
They were getting lost. Staff was tripping over itself. The boss was getting mad at his help but the problem wasn't their fault. They were a team that wasn't reading from the same script. They needed to get organized or else risk the reputation of their business.
Here are the five basic rules to getting organized:
1. If you do it often, follow a procedure.
Whether you run a business or a household, you need a procedure
— one that consists of a beginning, middle and end. The procedure must also assume consent by all those concerned. For example, mom, dad and three teenage kids all agree that when you answer the phone, you take a message, include a phone number or e-mail address, and put the message in a tray.
Once the system is in place, you have to be willing to review it. If someone on the team or in the family disagrees with the procedure, he or she will stop participating. You can always replace the procedure with a better one. A procedure serves you, not the other way around.
2. Let importance dictate proximity.
Your mom probably told you, "Everything should have a place." True, but that's only a start. Next step is to let the importance dictate where the place is. There is no mystery to why you keep your wallet, keys and spare change on you. You don't want to struggle to find them — ever.
Now, you wouldn't carry around a copy of your grandmother's recipe for Russian tea cakes, but it should be close at hand during the holidays. In fact, all your holiday recipes could be moved to a temporary spot during the season, and kept elsewhere during the rest of the year.
3. Join the electronic revolution.
You could scour your entire house in search of the scrap of paper that has the name and number of that contractor you met three years ago, or you could do a quick "find file" on the computer.
At work we keep everything on our computers. Home is often a different story. But the convenience of online bill paying and other electronic tools can all help to get you organized and reduce stress in your personal and professional life.
4. Use discipline to de-stress.
In Home Comforts: The Art & Science of Keeping House, Cheryl Mendelson coins the term "neatening." It's basically organizing as you go.
When you go upstairs, take something with you that belongs up there. When you use a plate, wash it, dry it and put it away.
5. Do less, but do it better.
Reconsider the belief that it's all important. According to Makes, when the small things are put in their places, you start to see not only the inefficiencies, but also the mass of trivia that has buried you for too long.
Bottom line: you can't really prioritize until you organize. Remember this and you will strike a double-blow against stress.