Declutter, feel better

The pleasure of order

Remember that first day of school? I had my new sharp pencils, my pens, my clean notebooks fully stocked with paper, my clean backpack (free of wadded up papers, extraneous junk, and dirty gym shorts). It was the fresh start that always felt so good. I was pumped, ready, organized. Nothing could fluster me, yet.

Flash forward to me screaming through my room looking for missing homework, plowing through my backpack looking for that permission slip due today, and digging like a gopher through piles of laundry for that volleyball uniform for the game today. The stress. Oh, the stress.  

Cluttered space = cluttered neurons

So why do I still let my purse turn into a bag of useless junk that also contains those three things I desperately need multiple times a day? It’s hard to say. Being rushed is my main excuse, but that doesn’t explain why I don’t correct it at least once or twice a week. I do know that I feel so much better when my purse is tidy and orderly, my desk is neat and stocked, and that junk drawer greets me with the tape, scissors and tape measure I need right away. And I am not alone. Studies show that people who describe their home spaces as cluttered and full of unfinished projects are more inclined to feel depressed and anxious. Those who describe their surroundings as tidy and in order rest easily, sleep better and feel healthier. (1)

Clutter, turns out, is stressful for the brain. Mess and disorganization can even drive you to harmful coping mechanisms such as procrastination, fatigue and even poor eating decisions. One study showed that those working at a messy desk for 10 minutes, versus those working at a tidy desk for 10 minutes were twice as likely to choose a chocolate bar as an apple for their snack after. Disorganized mess is not just an efficiency issue, it’s a health issue. (2) Who knew?

What’s the big deal?

Some of you out there are on autopilot when it comes to remaining tidy and organized. We envy you. I kind of want to misplace something of yours so that you have empathy for the rest of us. But pat yourself on the back knowing you are saving time, more productive, and are even reducing your stress, thereby improving your health. If you are a clutterbug, however, and the prospect of “getting organized” is overwhelming because you think you will need too much time (or a new house so you can start over), start small. Just take on your purse. How about that one make-up drawer? Maybe just the middle console in your car. You know the one — filled with gum wrappers, pennies and keys to unknown locks. Baby steps. The sigh of satisfaction the next time you open up that space is totally worth it.

If you get on a roll, and want professional tips on how to organize your work space, check this out!


  1. Fowler P. How Cleaning and Organizing Can Improve Your Physical and Mental Health. Shape website. Feb 2015. Accessed Nov 10, 2016.  
  2. Vohs K, Redden J, Rahinel R. Physical order produces healthy choices. Psychological Science. 2013;24(9):1860-1867.
Kara Chine

About Kara Chine

Kara Tabor Chine lives in Encinitas, California with her husband and two teenage children. She is a native Texan, but graduated from San Diego State with a degree in Communication and Journalism. After getting her teaching credential at Point Loma Nazarene, she taught high school literature for 6 years, followed by a decade of designing video and web-based teacher training. Kara has also taught English abroad off and on for 10 years, to both children and professionals, in Italy and Switzerland. Her passions include travelling back roads of Italy, beach volleyball, hilarious dark comedy, wine drinking on the beach with the hubs, and laughing with her wacky creative kids.

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