Getting Organized To Reduce Stress

by Ramona Creel

Clear Out Some Clutter

There's a direct relationship between clutter and stress — more of one causes more of the other. When you are surrounded by piles, it's hard to relax, to feel at peace, to be contented with your living or working environment. You can't focus, you waste a lot of time looking for lost items — and you may find yourself in a bad mood for no other reason than the fact that all the “stuff” is driving you crazy!

When you are stressed out, it's easy to lay things down where they don't belong (“I”ll just put it here for now”), creating another stack It's really a vicious cycle. But that first step toward eliminating the clutter that is clogging up your space and draining you of energy is easier than you might think.

I'll bet that if you looked around your home or office right now, you would find at least a half-dozen things that you could easily live without. Get rid of them! These may be small items — like a used-up bottle of shampoo or a piece of junk mail. But the simple act of clearing out even a tiny bit of clutter will lift a weight off your shoulders, and maybe inspire you to dig a little deeper into the piles. Each day, try to let go of at least 5 pieces of crap you don't need, don't want, and don't care about that are cluttering up some part of your life. This is a very reasonable and achievable goal (and if you happen to get caught up in the action and toss out a whole boxful of junk, good for you!)

Speak Up

One of the biggest causes of stress in modern society is that sense of obligation — the “I have to” syndrome. We pile more on our plates than we can possibly manage, then get frustrated when can't seem to fit it all in. No wonder you're stressed if you're trying to work a full 40-hour week, take care of the house, tote your kids to 15 different afterschool activities, chair the PTA fundraiser, and plan the church bake sale — I'm exhausted just thinking about all you have to do, and it's not even my life!

The ironic fact of the matter is that most of the responsibilities we dread and the to-do's we procrastinate on are self-inflicted. Have you ever agreed to take on a chore out of a sense of guilt, then almost immediately regretted the decision? It's time to learn how to say the word “no!” You are not required to participate in every activity, serve on every committee, or personally handle each problem that comes your way. Lose that knee-jerk reaction of saying “yes” every time someone asks you to do something. You must know your limits! It's better to tell someone “no” than to accept the additional responsibility, become overwhelmed, and do a shoddy job.

Another key to reducing your stress levels is learning how to ask for help. Seeking assistance is not a sign of weakness, it's actually proof of your strength. You recognize your limitations and know where your time is best spent — you aren't afraid to let someone else step in and take an unnecessary burden off of your shoulders so you can focus on those things that are most important in life. Good for you!

Deal With New Paperwork — Now

Paper, paper everywhere, and not a drop to drink (okay, I know that's mixing metaphors, but it sounded good!) How much stress does that stack of paper on your desk or kitchen counter cause you? Do you loathe mail-call each day — knowing you will be inundated with catalogs you don't want, solicitations you resent, and junk mail you're just going to throw away? Do you ignore the piles, hoping they'll just go away on their own? Welcome to the wonderful world of information overload! I have always thought it ironic that Congress spends so much time on “Can Spam” acts — when the crap in your mailbox is much more annoying, difficult to get rid of, and damaging the the environment!

There are two tricks for keeping paperwork under control. The first is to deal with the stack, as it comes in, each day. Rather than tossing your mail into the pile, sort incoming paperwork as you receive it. Throw out the junk mail, envelopes, and inserts — then group the rest according to what you have “to do” to it. If you make time in your schedule each day for tackling your paper, you will find the job much easier than you ever would have imagined.

The second step is eliminating as much of the excess as possible. If you receive something that you don't want, take a second to call the company and have yourself removed from their mailing list. Or if a solicitation includes a “no postage necessary” reply envelope, send it back with a note telling them to stop contacting you (this costs the organization money, and they are very likely to take you seriously!) It's going to be time-consuming, but not nearly as time-consuming as sorting through a huge pile of junk mail every day!

Plan Your Day The Night Before

Does it seems as though you are always at loose ends? Do you forgetappointments, run late, or walk out of the house without everythingthat you need? With so much going on, it's easy to feel as though your schedule is out of control — and that is stressful in and of itself! However, you can rein in the craziness by simply investing a few minutes the night before.

Setting aside time at the end of the day (when things are calm and you can think clearly) to plan for the NEXT day will keep you from having one of those chaotic mornings that we all know so well — where you're running around trying to do a million things at the last minute, forgetting something important, and starting your day off on the wrong foot.

What does that mean in practical terms? Set out anything you need to take with you in the morning (purse, briefcase, files, books, movies to return, whatever), locate your car keys, and place them all by the door. Pickout your clothes and jewelry to speed up the “getting ready” process (nothing slows your morning down more than the question, “What should I wear today?”) And remind yourself of yourfirst appointment so there are no nasty surprises (like “Oh crap! I had a 7 AM dental cleaning I forgot!”) You will start your morning in a much more centeredand relaxed mood without all of the rushing around.

Make Time For Yourself Everyday

This is a hard one for most people. We are so accustomed to giving all our time away to other people and saving none for ourselves. We think of “me time” as selfish, lazy, even possibly wasteful — wrong! “Me time” is essential for maintaining a sense of balance in the world, for recuperating from the daily stresses and recharging the old batteries. Pay attention to how you feel and behave when you HAVEN'T had any down-time in a while — you get crabby faster, little things irritate you more, and you have a hard time enjoying even fun activities. That's stress at work, and the only solution is to walk away from EVERYTHING for a bit and spend some quiet time with yourself.

When I say make time for yourself, I don't mean time for chores and errands. I'm talking about time for relaxing and doing something you truly enjoy. It doesn't have to be a long break — 15 minutes and a cup of tea on the back porch might be plenty (my favorite way of chillaxing is a glass of wine, a good book, and a hot bath!) If you can take that little break every day, you will be amazed at how your outlook toward life improves, and how much better you are at everything you do. And DO NOT blow yourself off just because you get busy — you have to respect your time as much as you do everyone else's, and treat yourself as a priority.

© Ramona Creel, all rights reserved. Ramona Creel is a modern Renaissance woman and guru of simplicity -- traveling the country as a full-time RVer, sharing her story of radically downsizing, and inspiring others to regain control of their own lives. As a Professional Organizer and Accountability Coach, Ramona will help you create the time and space to focus on your true priorities -- clearing away the clutter other obstacles and standing in the way of that life you've always wanted to be living. As a Professional Photographer, Ramona captures powerful images of places and people as she travels. And as a travel writer, social commentator, and blogger, she shares her experiences and insights about the world as we know it. You can see all these sides of Ramona -- read her articles, browse through her photographs, and even hire her to help get your life in order -- at And be sure to follow her on Twitter and on Facebook.