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Clear out the mess, keep out the stress: 4 ways to living an organized lifestyle

You’re working on your papers and getting ready to study for that midterm quiz before spring break. Somehow, you just couldn’t focus. The voice in your mind keeps reminding you that you have to send an email to your professor, take the trash out, feed the cat, trim your nails, and do grocery…

Now, take a pause. If you are reading this at home, look around your desk. If you’re in an office, look around your cubicle or workstation. Do you find your space cluttered with papers, books, stationeries, and probably food and other junk?

Stress and mess has an interesting correlation. We want to get organized to reduce stress, but it is stress that keeps us from getting organized. Clutter can play an important role in how we feel about our homes, offices, and ourselves, said Dr. Sherrie Bourg in Psychology Today. The messier our living or working spaces are, the more our minds will be bombarded by stimuli – visual, olfactory, tactile – that may cause our sense to work overtime to focus on things that are less important.

This explains why we get tired and stressed out easily when we are surrounded by stacks of papers, random post-it notes, and trash that are laying around for no reason. According to Dr. Bourg, clutter constantly signals to our brains that our work is not done. Mess also creates feeling of guilt and embarrassment, hence may inhibit creativity and productivity.

So, in order to lift these great weights from our shoulders and to make room from creativity and productivity (quite literally), we should take a few minutes to make these adjustments:

Eliminate junk.

If you haven’t used it for the past two weeks, you probably don’t need them. Look again around your desk, I bet you’ll find at least 10 items that you don’t use on a regular basis. No, you don’t need 12 pens and 2 staples in the penholder. Flip through those papers that have been sitting there since the start of the semester. You will probably find things that are there because you just “don’t have time” to go over them. These are junk. These are things that constantly remind that your work is never done. By simply keeping these things out of your sight, you will be surprised by the relief you’ll experience.

Unless you can put a date and time to it, say no.

Setting boundaries and limitations is the first step to leading an organized lifestyle. It is not required of us to participate in every event happening around our school, office, or community. Though many a time that “yes” comes out from our mouth like a knee-jerk reaction, we should learn to say no. If you choose to do a favor for others, make sure you can account to that while still handling other responsibilities well, such as family and work. My personal way of responding to others’ requests is this, “Let me see if I can put you on my calendar here…”

They are called organizers for a reason. Use them.

My personal favorite is an app called Any.DO. The app allows me to add items on a digital to-do list. What makes me choose this app over others is simply its clean and uncluttered interface. You may use other means of organization such as a planner, pocket calendar, to-do list, or other creative methods to realign your work. My experience tells me that keeping this habit of persistently organizing things is difficult at first. Once you’ve gotten a hold of the practice, you will find it a second nature of planning your time and day.

Golden rule: if you can do it now, do it now.

Why wait when you can deal with things immediately? If you get into a habit of tackling things as they come, you will find yourself having more time in a long run. This is because you don’t need to “find time” to complete them if you can spend the next 30 minutes finishing them up. A lot of the time, you will find the task much easier than you have imagined if you try to do it right away. Delete or throw away junk mails, sign paperwork, create new folders for your documents, wash those dishes as soon as you’re done with them. That way, you don’t need to spend the weekend filtering mails, going through paperwork, organizing your desktop, or doing dishes.

If you find yourself unable to focus on your task, you’re probably distracted by the things lying around you. Why not take half an hour today to just clear out the clutter at the place you work and your life less messy?

Our society as a whole is moving toward a technologically minimalistic culture. You can tell from the computers and new gadgets design, such as Windows 8 interface and Apple’s composition, that less creates more. For a better living experience, you should, too, lead a cleaner and less occupied lifestyle.

This post was written by:

- who has written 103 posts on University Chronicle.

Jason Tham is a graduate student in the Mass Communications and English departments and he contributes regularly to University Chronicle. He can be contacted at thja0905@stcloudstate.edu.

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