“My life is a mess.” These were the words I said to my best friend with a mascara smudged face after hours of crying about my existential crisis. What she said next changed my life.
She told me, “You don’t always have to have it together, but you do have to take steps towards getting it together.” Per usual, her tough love advice was true. Getting your life organized may not mean things are always perfect, but it will help you gain clarity to be more productive and efficient to have more time for what matters most. And better yet, organizing your life will help you feel more like yourself again.
If you feel like you are too far gone to get your life organized, this article is for you. In this article, I will give you the loving nudge that my best friend gave me to help you discover simple ways you can organize your life starting now.
Why you should get organized
While getting your life together may just sound like another cliché you should add to your “someday to-do list”, the science indicates getting your life together can have profound effects on your well-being. A study that followed small business owners over a period of 2.5 years found that the greater your sense of control was, the better you performed under stress. And the more you felt in control of your life, the more likely you were to be successful in your pursuits.
Better yet, you might even shed those unwanted pounds when you get organized. Researchers found that participants who were in a more organized environment were more likely to choose healthier snacks than those in a disorganized environment.
Who doesn’t want to be more successful and lose weight at the same time? Sign me up for a more organized life now if those are the benefits!
What happens when you are disorganized
It turns out there are more downsides to being disorganized than simply not being able to find your keys when you’re already running late for work. A study performed in 2010 demonstrated that a lack of organization increases cortisol levels and negatively impacts your mood.
Another study found that being in an environment with lots of clutter reduces your ability to focus on the work you need to do. While the researchers’ findings are particularly related to physical clutter, it has also been postulated that mental clutter would have similar effects on your ability to focus.
I know when I am feeling disorganized in my life my procrastination skyrockets to all-time high levels. Lacking a sense of direction and clarity has made me feel totally stuck more than once.
Recently, I had to change jobs. This threw me into a massive chaotic downward spiral, which resulted in me choosing to self-indulge Grey’s Anatomy reruns non-stop. It wasn’t until I sat down with my life coach and made a step-by-step plan of next steps that I could actually breathe again and start taking action.
5 ways to get more organized
So now that you know you want to ditch the chaos and discover how good it feels to live an organized life, where do you start? These 5 steps will help you kickstart your journey to creating an effortlessly organized life.
1. Figure out what your priorities are
It’s hard to get organized if you don’t have a sense of what your priorities are. If you think it is more important to go disco dancing with your friends on a Tuesday night instead of finishing that report you’re supposed to have on your boss’ desk Wednesday morning, then the organization of your life will reflect those priorities. And come Wednesday morning, your disco dancing self may be facing a less than happy boss.
Once you know what matters to you, you can create systems that help you assure that the most important things get done. And if dancing is more important to you, that’s totally fine. But it’s important to prioritize what matters to you, so you can create systems that lead you to where you want to go.
This can be as simple as taking 5-10 minutes to write down what you value the most in your life. This list could look like relationships, your career, your health, etc.
Once you have prioritized those items that mean the most to you, organize your life in a way that reflects those values.
2. Choose an organization system or two
Now I know for most people what comes to mind when you say the word organization is a good old-fashioned planner. And for some, a planner is an excellent tool to stay organized. For others, the planner is a great dust collector that sits hidden away in that bottom desk drawer.
If using a planner in the traditional sense is not your style, you may want to try one of these other options:
- Use your phone calendar system.
- Use an app that has a to-do list function.
- Create reminder notifications on your phone for important events/dates.
- Use sticky notes in places where you are sure to see them consistently.
It really doesn’t matter what system you use. It’s just important to have a system or two in place because we all know how unpleasant it is when Aunt Mary reminds you for the fortieth time that you forgot to call her on her birthday.
3. Create a morning or evening routine
When I say “morning routine”, do you immediately picture a yogi with a cup of tea chanting “ohm”? Yeah, me too. I used to think morning or evening routines were reserved for people who had tons of extra time and had already achieved inner peace.
Turns out that those of us who are lacking in the inner peace department may need morning or evening routines even more. Your morning or evening routine can be as short or long as you would like. But creating a consistent pattern can help your brain focus and create a clear sense of organization for your day.
Some ideas of things you may want to include in your morning or evening routine could be:
- Writing in your journal.
- Creating a gratitude list.
- Going for a walk.
- Calling a loved one.
You get to create a routine that works for you. And as you implement this routine consistently, you are bound to find yourself feeling more at ease and organized throughout the rest of your day.
If you want more help on creating a happy routine, here are 7 mental health habits that you may be able to incorporate.
4. Clean your space
There is something about laundry strewn all over the floor and week-old dishes sitting in the sink that doesn’t scream, “You’re living your best life”. Unless you find yourself inspired by the smell of mold, cleaning your space can be a great first step in organizing your life.
When you have a clean space, you can think clearly. And when you think clearly, you make better decisions all around.
I used to be in the habit of not washing the dinner dishes until the next morning. A few months ago, I started practicing the habit of not going to bed with a dirty kitchen. And as much as I hate to admit this, I have noticed a significant drop in my stress level in the morning from implementing this one little change.
5. Seek outside help
Sometimes the best thing we can do when it comes to figuring out how to get organized is to realize we can’t do it alone. As a self-proclaimed independent woman, this one can be a bit tricky for me at times.
Outside help can come in the form of a friend or family member. Or you may need an objective third party who is trained in these matters - like a therapist or life coach. There's more than one way that therapy can have a positive effect on your mental health.
I personally have invested in a life coach who has played an incremental role in guiding me through both the good and the bad that life has thrown my way. It can be scary to be honest and authentic about your struggles with another human. But I think when you are vulnerable and allow another person to step in to help, that is when the magic happens in your life.
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So maybe you’re reading this thinking your life is a mess. As someone who has been in your shoes more than once, I’m here to tell you it’s time to clean it up. Getting organized in your life will reduce your stress and give you that boost of energy you need to succeed in what matters most to you. And who knows, you may even avert your own existential crisis simply by getting organized.
Do you live an organized life? Or do you need an extra tip to help you along the way? I'd love to hear about your experiences in organizing your life in the comments below!