Organization and productivity hacks are a hot topic right now. From best sellers like Kingston’s “Clear your Clutter with Feng Shui” to the Marie Kondo “Bringing You Joy” method, there seem to be almost as many ways to ditch your clutter as there are plans to lose weight. While studies show that one in four Americans would like to, it’s not always the easiest thing to do.
There are scientific studies that back the benefits of being organized, which makes it worth your while. First, we’ll take a look at the causes and benefits, then show you how to implement them with easy hacks for organizing your home, work-life, family, meals, and social life.
Why do we accumulate clutter?
- It can (literally) hurts to throw things away:
It turns out that some people’s brains are built to create clutter and it takes actual physical exertion to reduce it. A Yale School of Medicine study of hoarders found that the action of throwing something away caused pain sensors in the brain to fire. It was literally hurting them to declutter. Also, clutter can be tied to identity and nostalgia.
- You are thinking about storage all wrong:
According to this article, storage is not a place to put all your junk. Instead, it should be about the convenience of use. Something that you store should be easy to access when you need it, not piled underneath a lot of unrelated items. The article goes on to quote declutter guru Marie Kondo who says, “Clutter is caused by a failure to return things to where they belong. Therefore, storage should reduce the effort needed to put things away, not the effort needed to get them out.”
Why be more organized?
- Decluttering makes your brain work more effectively:
A study from Princeton University discovered that an abundance of items around you makes it more difficult for you to focus.
- Organization can be better for your children:
Research shows that children from more organized households tend to perform more effectively in school and excel in future careers.
- Planning helps you reach fitness goals:
If you plan out your activity, you will are more likely to achieve your fitness goals. Planning meals means you are less likely to reach for unhealthy foods out of desperation.
- You sleep better in a clean environment:
A National Sleep Foundation study shows that a more organized bedroom means an improved night of sleep.
It is useful to look at organization from a multi-layered perspective. The three major elements to consider are organization of items, organization of time, and digital organization.
Wrangle your physical items:
- Everything in its place:
Designate spaces around your home for certain things and keep them organized. For example, you can organize your junk drawer, the shoes in your closet, or your desk at work. You can hide visible cables by tying them together with zip ties and labeling them with bread tags! Another great hack? Putting velcro on the back of remotes and game controllers to easily store them in the same place every time.
- Keep papers organized:
One of the best things you can do is invest in a paper protocol. Keep papers neatly nestled in “retain”, “archive” and “toss” piles. You’ll be amazed at how much paper you really don’t need, and you’ll know exactly where the paper you do need is!
- Know when to store it:
A good rule of thumb is, if you haven’t looked at it in six months (and it’s not seasonal), go ahead and store it out of sight or toss it. You can also store creatively–like storing stuffed animals in a bean bag cover so that it doubles as a comfy seat!
Improve your organization of time:
- Plan your meals:
Taking the time to plan meals for the week saves time (and money) and also leads to better diet choices. Use Sunday evening to plan for the week. Write down the meals on a sheet of paper and write it on a dry erase board in your pantry. You can cook several proteins at a time by using the same pan separated with foil, or cook large amounts of food in a crockpot. You can also pack ahead smaller portions of snacks for grab-and-go convenience.
- Prepare your clothes:
Taking the time to plan your clothing for the next day or even the next week will save you time in the morning. Particularly, planning your children’s outfits will give them a sense of structure and save loads of time in the mornings.
- Create a “Family Command Center”:
This is an area where family members can store their keys, shoes, calendar, leave notes for each other, or grab their lunch in the morning. Knowing exactly where to look when you need these items can be super handy!
- Plan time for loved ones:
Plan to talk to family members who don’t live near you at the same time each week, that way you will always have a “catch up” date scheduled. If you’re finding it difficult to make time for your friends, schedule a quick lunch date during the work day, during the time you would have spent eating anyway!
Organization your digital space:
- Clean your inbox:
If you are a digital hoarder it’s time to get to the bottom of it. Take 20 minutes every day to clean your inbox, and that also means unsubscribing from unwanted emails.
- Purge your social media:
Clear out your social space of brands or people you no longer wish to follow, friends you’ve lost touch with or photos you don’t like. You would be surprised how much a digital house cleaning can liberate you!
- Digitize whenever possible:
Take some time to scan important documents so that you can go as paperless as possible. Try to send communication, memos and important documents digitally. Keep your digital space organized by deleting unneeded files and folders or erasing your “downloads” folder.
Ultimately it’s the old adage “a place for everything and everything in its place” that generally allows for good organizational habits. In the below infographic, you can get more tips for organization broken up into each aspect of life. Check out the infographic below for the best tips!