Organize With Mindfulness

“And this mess is so big, and so deep and so tall, we cannot pick it up. There is no way at all!” ~ Dr. Seuss

Mindfully organizing your home is a powerful way to bring more ease and joy into your physical and mental space. Instead of forcing yourself to adhere to some external criteria of how your home “should” look or how your closets “should” be organized, mindful organizing helps you to create your own criteria for how you want your space to look and feel, and ultimately be organized.

One compelling reason to make time for organizing is to create space for what is truly important in your life. Most agree that the most important things in life are not your stuff! But stuff can get in the way of living a life of fulfillment and ease. Many of the folks we work with feel they cannot go out and engage fully in life with so much STUFF hanging over their heads.

Have you ever gone on an organizing blitz and noticed how good it feels to know where things are? The mental-physical connection between you and your stuff explains why organizing makes you feel so good. Releasing physical objects and activities that no long bring you joy eliminates not only physical clutter but “mind clutter” too.

If you’ve ever had a sinking or heavy feeling when entering a disorganized room, you have experienced the effects of “mind clutter.” Even stuff that can’t be seen takes up space in your mind. If you have been unhappy for some time about disorganization in your life, you may feel that you don’t even “see” the problems any longer and that they have no effect on your mental state. But even if you’re not aware of it, it takes mental and psychological energy to pretend disorganization and clutter don’t matter.

Experts agree that physical clutter can take a toll on your happiness and create “mind clutter.” In her book “5 Reasons To Clear The Clutter Out of Your Life”, psychology professor Susan K. Whitbourne cites the following reasons to eliminate clutter:

  1. Low subjective well-being
  2. Unhealthier eating
  3. Poorer mental health
  4. Less efficient visual processing
  5. Less efficient thinking

Whitbourne writes: “… cutting through the clutter can benefit your physical health and cognitive abilities. Start getting out that trash bag, whether virtual or physical, and you’ll soon feel better able to enjoy your surroundings while you think more efficiently and cleanly.”

Why Organize, Mindfully or Otherwise?

There are many more reasons why organizing is worth your time and energy. When your home and office are organized, there is less chance that you will:

  • Make duplicate purchases
  • Waste time looking for things
  • Miss payments
  • Need emergency repairs
  • Miss opportunities

Instead, you will:

  • Be able to consolidate trips
  • Have no need for off-site storage units
  • Be available to spend time with those you love
  • Be prepared for projects and events
  • Have less missed opportunities
  • Experience less anxiety
  • Get more sleep!

Being organized can save significant time too, which allows you to make more conscious choices about where your energy goes.

There’s a connection between living in disorganized, cluttered spaces and feeling unfocused, claustrophobic and overwhelmed. Thankfully, it is possible to approach organizing as sacred work and learn how to address the challenges that arise when you assign meaning to the things that you own.

Once you are clear on your reasons for taking time to organize, what are the benefits of organizing with mindfulness? Isn’t organizing hard enough without adding this extra layer? Not at all! Mindful organizing, though it requires more presence and awareness at first, will actually make your organizing efforts more effective and offer more lasting results. You will learn much more about simple and practical ways to apply mindfulness to your organizing efforts as we go along, so keep reading!

The first step towards making any kind of change is to actively notice people and objects in your life. Social psychologist Ellen Langer has done fascinating studies on the power of our beliefs to shape our biology. Ellen states that the “practice of actively noticing new things is mindfulness.” She suggests the simple mindfulness practice of sitting at the dinner table with someone you have known for years and observing them as if for the first time.

You can apply a principle called the beginner’s mind to your organizing challenges and see obstacles as stepping stones to a deeper understanding of yourself and your things.

Shunryū Suzuki, a Zen monk who helped to make Zen Buddhism popular in the United States, offers us this perspective:

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s, there are few.”
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