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Organizing and Your Mental Health

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and while this may come as a surprise to some, mental health and organization go hand-in-hand! Physical clutter has a tendency to create mental clutter, so to speak. A study by Saxbe and Repetti (2011) documented the correlation between families who described their homes as cluttered and chronic stress, depressed mood, and marital dissatisfaction. “The home can be a place to unwind from the workday, but when housework and home repairs compete for the attention of time-strapped [people], home can become more of a source of demands than a haven from the outside world” (Saxbe & Repetti, 2011). This is especially true for women, who exhibited higher levels of stress and depression in the study, suggesting that females may be more sensitive to the home environment or may feel a greater sense of responsibility for the home (thank you, outdated gender roles). The good news is that these poor mental health outcomes have a relatively simple solution: declutter and get organized!

Now, I know that I may have lost you at that last line and you are now rolling your eyes at my optimism - I realize that not everyone is wired like me and finds organizing fun, and that’s okay (I accept that I am somewhat of a weirdo). While the solution itself is easy, the process of organizing can be hard, especially if you haven’t done it before. Not only does it take time, but organizing usually requires you to make difficult decisions regarding what to keep and what to get rid of. This is especially true if you just have too much STUFF. If your bathroom cabinet is overflowing with products that you rarely/never use, rearranging them or purchasing fancy organizing containers is not always going to solve the problem (exhibit A: this video). This process of discarding items is referred to as “editing” in one of my favorite Netflix series, The Home Edit. Clea Shearer, co-founder of The Home Edit, notes that “Editing out your items is such a relief [and] it feels good. It’s really powerful to purge your items, and know that every single thing in your home, your apartment, is something you need, use, or love.”

Organizing has countless mental health benefits, including the following:

  • Increases focus and productivity

  • Improves sleep

  • Improves relationships

  • Boosts mood

  • Reduces anxiety and depression

  • Reduces stress

  • Allows you to gain a sense of control

Lastly, it is worth noting that organizing is also good for your physical health! According to an Indiana University study (2010), people with tidy homes tend to be healthier than those with messy spaces. The act of organizing itself serves as a mini workout of sorts, boosting your heart rate and triggering the release of the same feel-good endorphins that have been shown to help ease anxiety and depression.

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