April is Stress Awareness Month. Most people are already aware of stress in their lives! But did you know stress is a major cause of clutter? There is schedule clutter because we have more tasks, obligations, and activities than we have hours in the day. There is physical clutter, which overwhelms our homes and workplaces and is caused by bringing in more items. There is information clutter due to the overabundance of newspapers, TV channels, internet access, and magazines.

One of the most effective ways to reduce clutter is to attack it at the source.

Let’s start with external clutter. Did you know that the minute you bring something in from the store or add an activity to your schedule that doesn’t have a home, you have created clutter? That’s right, homeless items or tasks are a huge source of clutter. The moral of the story is to never add something to your space or schedule unless you can assign it a home.

This concept leads to two other sources of external clutter: lack of organizing skill and space limitations. Organizing is a learned skill, and yet it is very rarely taught in schools or universities. There are several ways to overcome this obstacle: check for organizing classes taught in local colleges, read articles and books about organizing, or hire a professional organizer. Now some of you got excited when I mentioned space limitations. But let me clarify that this is only true about 20 percent of the time. More often it is a case of having too many items or not using space in the most efficient manner!

Another cause of external clutter is other people. Work colleagues or household members who add to clutter often do so because they don’t know where an item should be placed or aren’t aware of your crowded schedule. Demonstrate to the person where an item should live or learn to “say no” when asked to participate in an activity.

Since life never remains static, situational clutter can impact us. Examples might include life transitions such as marriage, divorce, death, birth, moving, etc. or emergencies.

Finally, there are social and cultural influences which lead to clutter. These are the TV ads which tell you why you can’t live without something or the “keeping up with the Joneses” syndrome.

Now, internal clutter, is your personality traits, habits, or challenges, which generate clutter in your space or schedule and often require “special attention” to surmount. For instance, fear can lead to clutter. If someone fears failure, they may not declutter or get organized because they are afraid of not completing the task “correctly” or up to someone else’s standards.

Creative people often fear that getting organizing will lead to a loss of creativity. Many people panic at the thought that as soon as they dispose of an item, they will need it and that without that specific item, “life as they know it” can’t continue.

A person’s needs also contribute to internal clutter. A person may keep items because they need to be distracted. Getting “lost in clutter” makes it easier to avoid social gatherings, provides a reason for missed deadlines, and leads to excuses to many of life’s mishaps.

Awareness of external and internal clutter is foundational to conquering the schedule, physical, and information clutter which clogs our personal and professional lives and leads to our high levels of stress.

Author's Bio: 

© 2011 Janice Russell. North Carolina’s first Certified Professional Organizer in Chronic Disorganization, Janice Russell, and her firm, Minding Your Matters® Organizing, have built a reputation for helping business and residential clients organize their space, items, documents, and time using the flexible structure principle™. Janice’s workshops on topics such as tackling the “no time” trap, perishing paper piles, and stopping “stuff” from being overwhelming are dynamic, informative, and practical. Minding Your Matters® is dedicated to helping people achieve organization with lasting results™ in their personal and professional lives. Janice is highly regarded within her industry. She is Education Chair for the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) and past president of the North Carolina Chapter of NAPO. Janice is the author of Get Organized This Year! For more information, please visit www.mindingyourmatters.com or call 919-467-7058.

This article may be reprinted as long as it’s reprinted in its entirety including the signature line.