Michigan Association of Police

Adapted from an article in the MESSA DiscoverYou March/April 2021 newsletter

Looking around your home, it may not feel like much of an oasis these days. Your counters and tabletops might be cluttered with magazines, lesson plans, Sharpies and the remnants of yesterday’s lunch. Maybe your living spaces are overflowing with more stuff than the norm.

A lot of living has been happening in homes across Michigan over the past year — the 24/7 work-from-home, parent-at-home, stay-at-home kind of living that’s been made necessary by the pandemic. With few breaks from the homestead, things can (literally) start to pile up.

Having too much clutter in your home can increase stress levels. A study done by the Princeton University Neuroscience Institute found that the chaos of clutter limits your ability to focus and makes it harder for your brain to process information. Call it visual-stimulus overload.

Clutter has also been linked to increased levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which leads to tension and anxiety. As those feelings increase, so may your sense of helplessness of ever digging out of the mess.

Spring is here, so it’s the perfect time to reclaim your space from the mess and dive into some hardcore spring cleaning. Here are some tips to get started:

  • Start with the room you use most: In her book “Organizing Plain & Simple,” Donna Smallin suggests starting in the room where you spend the most time. Success in an often-used space will help motivate you to keep going. If an entire room is too much to tackle, start with a defined space like a counter, a table or desk. Every success will spur you to do more.
  • Be patient and set realistic goals: It likely took a while to accumulate all that clutter, and it’s going to take some time to rein it in. It’s not realistic to think you can clean up and organize a 1,000-square-foot basement on one Saturday afternoon. Break the daunting space into smaller zones to make the job more manageable.
  • Schedule time to clean and declutter: Block out time on your calendar — “Sunday, 1 p.m., organize closet!” Committing a plan to paper makes you more likely to follow through.
  • Get help from housemates: Your partner may not be bothered by clutter, and they may not realize the toll it’s taking on you. Explain your feelings and what you hope to achieve. Get them to buy-in and help. When they see how much more at ease you are in a tidier home, they’ll appreciate the effort even more.
  • Find online resources: There are many ways to approach organizing and decluttering your home — find the one that suits you. Marie Kondo popularized the magic of tidying up, and blogs like Pinch of Help and The Home Edit offer continued and colorful inspiration. There are experts who do this for a living, so seek out their tips and tricks to see which style of organizing and decluttering works for you.

    It may take time, patience and work, but your home can be the oasis you need and deserve.

    MESSA DiscoverYou is a bi-monthly health and wellness newsletter available to MESSA members. For more about MESSA health benefits and services, call (833) 341-6276 or visit www.messa.org.