How to Get Organized to Manage Stress

Being organized can help with stress relief

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Want a secret weapon for relieving stress? Getting organized. Putting in the effort of getting organized, especially if this organization extends to multiple areas of your life, can help reduce stress levels long term by requiring less last-minute scrambling in a variety of everyday situations. It can also feel empowering, so you experience new situations as "exciting" rather than "stressful," which can minimize the strength and duration of your stress response, or keep it from getting triggered in the first place.

However, getting organized is more difficult than it initially sounds. For example, how organized must you be? When do you know when you’re ‘organized enough’? (Do your clothes need to be hung according to color, or alphabetically? Must every minute be scheduled and accounted for in a calendar somewhere?) And what are the most important areas of life for getting organized?

The following tips for getting organized cover how organized to be, what areas carry the greatest benefits, and how to get started:

Organize Your House

A cluttered home can subtly drain you of energy; that much is pretty common knowledge. However, there are other hidden costs of clutter as well. (Clutter can drain your finances and schedule, too.) That’s why it’s important to organize your home. While you don’t need to have your books alphabetized or your shoes lined up according to the date you bought them, it is important to have everything in its place and have that place be somewhere that makes sense. There are a variety of ways to maintain an organized home.

Organize Your Time

Do you find yourself constantly rushing? Does your mind race with all that you have to do? And do you have trouble remembering it all? If so, you already know that living like this can be pretty stressful, don’t you? Getting organized with your time can make a huge impact on your life: Your to-do list can all get done, and it can stop occupying your thoughts.

In getting your schedule organized, remember a few important things. First, don’t overbook yourself. Plan only as many activities as you have time for. Also, be aware of what you need to get done and when—in a way other than keeping it all in your head. (I recommend David Allen’s Getting Things Done for a cohesive time management plan.) Finally, schedule in some downtime. If you’re always running, running, running, you may be less efficient overall because you’re tired of all the running. Schedule in some downtime, and you can really focus the rest of the time.

Be Proactive

Yes, you may consider being proactive with your problems to be part of getting organized in that it's a tendency to be organized with your approach to stress, which can be quite empowering. It’s important to notice and eliminate patterns of stressors so that your stress response isn’t constantly triggered. For example, if you’re having trouble with your kids, don’t just face each situation like it’s happened for the first time; try to notice patterns of behavior and address those patterns, so they won’t keep happening. (I like to call that ‘getting organized with discipline.”) If you find yourself constantly stressed in traffic, try to pinpoint why, and address those issues.

You can be organized in your life in a host of ways. These are three of the main ones. Give them a try, and start feeling less stressed today.

2 Sources
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  1. Roster CA, Ferrari JR, Jurkat MP. The dark side of home: Assessing possession ‘clutter’ on subjective well-beingJ Environ Psychol. 2016;46:32-41. doi:10.1016/j.jenvp.2016.03.003

  2. Häfner A, Stock A, Pinneker L, Ströhle S. Stress prevention through a time management training intervention: An experimental studyEduc Psychol. 2014;34(3):403-416. doi:10.1080/01443410.2013.785065

By Elizabeth Scott, PhD
Elizabeth Scott, PhD is an author, workshop leader, educator, and award-winning blogger on stress management, positive psychology, relationships, and emotional wellbeing.