Clean vs. Clutter

Clean vs. Clutter

I love being a Martial Arts Instructor.  Unlike educational instruction, we have opportunity to really connect with our students and families which is a great privilege.  This evening, one of my parents asked if we could sit down together with their child who was having difficulty keeping up with daily chores, namely keeping their room clean.  I started thinking immediately about the many conversations I’d had with my own children growing up and myself as well regarding this topic.  Personally, I came to recognize that my moods and behavior could be directly linked to how my home looked at any given time.  Now, I’m not a messy person in general but I did begin to notice that my mood seemed to reflect the tone of my kitchen and laundry.  Was that an accident?  Or could there actually something to that?  I decided to do little research and found some pretty interesting insights.

Well, it turns out that there actually is a connection between organization and emotions.  Here’s what I found from some studies conducted.  

  • Clutter bombards our minds with excessive stimuli (visual, olfactory, tactile), causing our senses to work overtime on stimuli that aren't necessary or important.
  • Clutter distracts us by drawing our attention away from what our focus should be on.
  • Clutter constantly signals to our brains that our work is never done.
  • Clutter makes us anxious because we're never sure what it's going to take to get through to the bottom of the pile.
  • Clutter creates feelings of guilt ("I should be more organized") and embarrassment, especially when others unexpectedly drop by our homes or work spaces.
  • Clutter inhibits creativity and productivity by invading the open spaces that allow most people to think, brain storm, and problem solve.
  • Clutter frustrates us by preventing us from locating what we need quickly (e.g. Homework, sports equipment lost in the "pile" or keys swallowed up by the clutter). 

There’s much talk these days about the lack of focus, attention to detail, mental clarity and all around emotional well being of children and youth today.  I’ve had many opportunities to see bedrooms, playrooms, lockers, backpacks, you name it and guess what?  Most kids keep their areas and belongings pretty messy.  Is it possible that our kids are not lacking in creativity or focus but lacking in motivation and healthy energy due to surroundings that create a constant drain.  Stress, fatigue, anxiety, depression are all symptoms that arise from disorganization.  Of course, there are other serious factors that cause these issues as well that do need to be addressed medically but shouldn’t we check the batteries first before we call a technician?  By making a few small changes to your daily habits, you can usher in significant improvements to your lifestyle.  Try implementing a few of these suggestions to declutter.

  • Tackle de-cluttering as a family. If clutter has invaded your entire house, don't tackle the job alone. Get the whole family involved by starting with a room everyone uses and making each person responsible for a section. If you're on your own, start with one area at a time and finish de-cluttering that area before moving on to another. This will give you a sense of accomplishment as you see your successes little by little.
  • Create designated spaces for frequently used items and supplies so that you can quickly and easily find what you're looking for when you need it. However, try to make these designated spaces "closed" spaces, such as drawers and cabinets. "Storing" things on open shelves or on top of your desk does not remove those visual stimuli that create stress and lessen the amount of open space that your mind "sees.
  • If you don't use it, don't want it, or don't need it, get rid of it. You can toss it, recycle it, or donate it (one person's trash is another person's treasure), but don't keep it
  • When you take something out of its designated space to use it, put it back immediately after you're finished with it. Sounds simple, but it actually takes practice and commitment.
  • Create a “To Do” check list for school.  Write down when homework or projects are due so you have plenty of time to get to them in a timely manner.
  • Don't let papers pile up. Random papers strewn everywhere can be Public Enemy #1 when it comes to stressful clutter.   The key is to be conscious of what you bring and what others bring into your spaces. Go through these papers as soon as you can, tossing what you don't need and storing what is necessary in its proper place.
  • De-clutter your primary working space before you leave it. It's normal to pull things out while you're working in a space, but make a habit of cleaning off your work space before you go. Not only will this give you a sense of closure when you leave, it will also make you feel good when you return to a nice, clean space.
  • Make it fun! As you're going about and cleaning things out, put on some of your favorite tunes. The more up-beat, the better! Not only will you enjoy the tunes, the time will pass faster and you'll probably work faster than you would without the music.

By creating a habit of putting things away, we make our environment a place of peacefulness.  When we’re at peace we are able to; think, focus, dream, create, problem solve and rest.  There’s already enough stimulus coming at us at warp speed.  We all need a place to decompress and get away from the hurriedness of the world.  If we can teach our children to practice peace early in life, they’ll lead healthier more stress free lives as adults.
















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