Depression and Anxiety vs. Clutter and Disorganization: A Vicious Cycle (and How to Break It)

Is your home cluttered and disorganized because you’re depressed or anxious?

Or are you depressed and anxious because your home is cluttered and disorganized?

If you have a messy home and are suffering from symptoms of depression or anxiety, the answer is probably “yes” to both.

It’s a vicious cycle :

This post will closely examine the relationship between clutter and disorganization, and depression and anxiety. I will also give you some methods for trying to break through depression and anxiety in order to address the clutter and disorganization in your home.

The Effect of Depression and Anxiety on Clutter and Disorganization

In her “Dysfunction Interrupted” column on PsychCentral, Dr. Audrey Sherman noted that the biggest problems depressed people report are chaos and disorganization. She stated, depression“Emotional baggage has a way of building up, and then expressing itself in an outward display of turmoil.”

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) 5, there are many debilitating symptoms of depression. Among these, I’ll focus on those with the strongest relationship to clutter and disorganization:

  • Slowed thinking and a reduction in movement-This could create difficulty in figuring out how to declutter and organize as well as curtail the movements needed to perform these tasks.
  • Fatigue or loss of energy-If you’re so tired it’s a challenge just to get out of bed, it may be beyond your capability to summon enough energy to take on the challenging work of decluttering, organizing, and maintenance.
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt-With such feelings, you may not believe you deserve to live in a beautiful and functional home.
  • Difficulty concentrating and making decisions-Lack of concentration could promote distractions and making choices about what to keep or discard may feel impossible.

Nicole Reiner, a New York-based therapist, stated, “The combination of lethargy, lack of motivation, and negative thinking can make something like cleaning one’s home feel like an insurmountable task.”

The Effect of Clutter and Disorganization on Depression and Anxiety

In a Psychology Today article, Sherrie Bourg Carter, Psy.D. discussed several of the negative effects of clutter:

  • Clutter overloads our senses, causing them to work harder, with unnecessary stimuli.
  • Clutter redirects our attention from the things we need to be focusing on.clutter
  • Clutter reduces our ability to physically and mentally relax.
  • Clutter tells our minds that we are never finished.
  • Clutter increases anxiety because we never know when we’ll get to the bottom of the pile.
  • Clutter creates guilt feelings because we think we should be organized and embarrassment when someone visits unexpectedly.
  • Clutter causes frustration when we can’t find things that we need.

Furthermore, in a UCLA research study, researchers found women whose spaces were cluttered had higher levels of cortisol, a stress hormone which gives rise to our fight or flight responses. They also experienced higher levels of depression.

And I can speak from personal experience that the amount of clutter, and the anxiety that it results in, can be overwhelming and paralyzing. This can lead to avoidance, allowing the clutter to remain or continue to grow.

The mind responds well to order. When it perceives nothing but a room full of clutter and disorganization, it struggles to maintain focus. Regina Leeds, an author of 10 books and personal organizer with 30 years of experience, said, “Chaos in physical space means chaos in one’s mind.”

Breaking Through

“Cleaning your home is a way to show up for yourself, and a reminder that you care about the quality of your life,” Reiner says. “Decluttering can show us that we can face what seems unmanageable and get past it (and let go of what doesn’t serve us anymore).”

So what does it take to break through depression and anxiety and be able to effectively confront the clutter and disorganization in our homes?

There’s no magic wand or quick fix. I’m sorry if that’s what you were looking for. Believe me, I wish I had a wand (then again, I’m a big Harry Potter fan).

The fact is, those of us suffering from depression and anxiety symptoms will probably have to work harder at making a dent in our clutter than someone who isn’t. That said, it’s not impossible.

If you’ve read Decluttering and Organizing – The 2-Part Formula for Success, then you know that decluttering comes before organization, so start by just focusing on that. Even just decluttering will make a huge difference in your home which can create momentum.

When you’re feeling tired and depressed or anxious, don’t think about everything that has to be decluttered. Start small. Pick a clean-dishesdrawer, shelf, or box. You could also pick one obvious thing that’s bothering you, like the dirty dishes in the sink. Set a timer and work on that for 5-15 minutes, your choice. If the timer rings and you feel like continuing, go for it. If not, that’s okay. Look at your results and remember, it doesn’t have to be perfect. Give yourself a pat on the back for what you did accomplish. Focus on how you’re feeling. Accomplishment? Happy? Pride? Great! Focus on and remember those feelings and use that memory for the extra push to get you going next time.

Another trick that I use to help manage my anxiety is to watch a show with commercials (sorry Netflix, this doesn’t include you.) Try to pick something that you will be able to pause by using a watch-tvDVR or streaming channel or device that allows for this. Pick a show and, every time it goes to commercial, pause it and go work for 5-15 minutes. You know it won’t last long and you’ll be back in front of the TV where you can focus on your show instead of your clutter. This helps me because I’m able to get in several quick sessions and not think about it in between them. My anxiety stays in check and I feel a real sense of accomplishment when the show is over.

So, what do you do when you’re having a bad day? If it’s one of those days that you can barely get out of bed, maybe you won’t get in your 5-15 minutes. Be kind to yourself; avoid negative self-talk. Remind yourself that you’re struggling right now. It’s okay. Hopefully, you’ll feel a little better tomorrow. And if you’re really having a good day, try to get as much done as you can without burning yourself out. That way, on the next not so great day, you won’t have as much clutter to bring you down.

Living in a clear, organized, and clean environment has been proven to elevate your mood. It allows for feelings of hope and can motivate you to tackle other basic tasks around your home, such as doing bills and taking care of your personal self-care needs, like cooking a healthy meal for yourself. Living with less reduces distractions and will be easier to maintain.


Depression and anxiety along with clutter and disorganization created a vicious cycle.

Depression and anxiety interfere with our ability to plan, physically function, concentrate, and make decisions about what to keep or discard.

Clutter overloads our senses, distracts us, and increases anxiety, guilt, and frustration. Living in a constant state of chaos increases cortisol levels, is overwhelming, and can be paralyzing.

While there’s no quick cure to break through depression and anxiety to create a clear and organized home, you can start with small areas and short chunks of time to get you started. Give yourself compassion on tough days and make the most of good days.

I know you can do it!


P.S. I hope this post has been of some value to you. I’d love to hear your comments or questions. Please feel free to share your stressors and successes here!

40 Ways to Get Organized, Part 2

Are you feeling overwhelmed and believe you need more organization in your life but think you don’t have the time?

Getting organized doesn’t have to be all or nothing and it doesn’t need to happen overnight. Doing little things here and there adds up.

I’m giving you 40 ways to get organized. If you need to catch up on the first 20 organization tips, click 40 Ways to Get Organized: Part 1. You’ll find the remaining 20 here:

21) Have a Place for Everything and Put Everything in Its Place

If you’re tired of wondering where things are, this is a great rule to follow. Find a home for each item in your home. When you need to use the item, you’ll know where it is and when you finish with the item it is important that you return it to its home. Get the family onboard by making sure they know where things are too.

22) Choose the Simplest Solution

The more complicated something is, the less you’ll want to use it. So, when figuring out a solution to a problem, pick the simplest option.

23) Leave Your Keys and Wallet or Purse in the Same Place

Pick one place to use as the drop zone for your keys and wallet orkeys purse. This location will likely be near the exit of your home so that when you are about to walk out the door, what you need is right there. No running late because you misplaced the keys!

24) Declutter Your Wallet or Purse

Every day, when you get home, give your wallet or purse a quick once over to remove unneeded items. Remove receipts, business cards that belong in your home office, or even your change.

25) Do the Dishes

Make doing the dishes everyday part of your routine. Fill or empty the dishwasher as need and wash what must be cleaned by hand before dishes start to build up and before food has the opportunity to dry and harden on your pots and pans.

26) Clean as You Go

Clean kitchen counters and bathroom sinks daily and they’ll never be difficult to clean. Furthermore, a clean looking sink will make you more reluctant to pile dishes and things inside of them.

27) Pick Up as You Go

Like cleaning as you go, picking up belongings that you find out of place when walking from place to place in your home will go a long way towards maintaining organization.

28) Declutter as You Go

Keep a box in a convenient location for the clothes you realize no longer fit and other items that need to be donated. When you find a broken or unused toy, go ahead and put it in the trash.

29) Complete Your Laundry

When your laundry has finished drying, don’t just pile it into a basket or throw it onto the couch. Go ahead and finish the job by laundryputting your laundry where it belongs in your drawers and closets. You’ll be glad you did when you don’t have to go digging through a pile of wrinkled clothing trying to find that shirt you need.

30) Put a Bouquet on Your Table

One tip for keeping the clutter off of flat surfaces in your home is to put a bouquet or some other form of decor (place settings, candles, etc.) on your tables. This act reduces the chances that you’ll pile the table high with things that don’t belong there.

31) Do Daily Pick Ups

I love this one; it’s been very helpful in my own home. At least once a day, schedule a time to do a quick pick up of your home. Set a timer for 5, 10, or 15 minutes and go to town picking up anything out of place and returning it to its home. Small bursts of picking up will help keep your home in shape while preventing you from feeling overwhelmed. This is a great activity for the whole family to participate in too!

32) Utilize TV Commercials

Use commercial times to get things done. Shred a couple of papers. Take the newspaper to recycling. Put a dish in the dishwasher. Return a book to the bookshelf. The options are endless.

33) Organize Your Errands

If you have various errands that you need to get done for the week, schedule to do errands that are in the same area all at once. It’ll save you time and gas.

34) Tend to Your Clothing Immediately

When you take your clothes off, don’t just lay them across a chair. Put them in their place, whether that’s on a hanger or in the hamper.

35) Manage Digital Clutter

In today’s world, digital clutter is becoming more and more of an issue. Try to deal with pieces, such as photos, as they come in. Go ahead and delete the blurry photos and save your remaining pictures to digital folders or tag them as desired. Now you’ll know where the photos of your kids and grandma at the family reunion are so you can easily and quickly access them.

36) Set Up Digital Folders

Computer folders and subfolders are a great way to organize your computer data, from documents to photos and videos.

37) Use a Grocery App

There are many apps available now that will allow you to grocery-apporganize your grocery shopping by setting your own food categories and filling in your grocery list as you begin to run low on foods. You can also organize your categories in the order you will encounter them in the store. No more running back several aisles to pick up the items you missed!

38) End the Dread

There are always tasks we dread doing. Instead of putting them off to the end, grit your teeth and get that task done first. Then you can continue on with other tasks without the dreaded action hanging over your head, distracting you.

39) Make Labels

Use labels to identify what’s in your pantry organizers, what your drawers contain, and what is in your storage containers. When you label, not only will it help you know where things are, but it will help your family to return things to where they belong.

40) Put Everything Away at the End of the Day

End your day on a good note by putting away things you’ve used and are still out of their assigned spaces.

So, there you have it: 40 Ways to Get Organized. Remember, things didn’t get the way they are overnight and it will take some time to reach your organization goals. That’s okay. Just pick a couple of these tips to start. Even just 5 to 15 minutes a day can make an impact.

I know you can do it!


P.S. I hope this post has been of some value to you. I’d love to hear your comments or questions. Please feel free to share your stressors and successes here!

40 Ways to Get Organized: Part 1

Does it ever feel like it’s impossible to get your home, your work, or your life organized? Do you feel like there’s never enough time in the day? Are you feeling stressed and overwhelmed?

Getting organized doesn’t have to be that way.

There are many small, everyday ways to get organized and help you stay that way. Here are 20 easy ways to get you started:

1) Create and Follow Routines

Establishing routines for certain aspects of your day will help your day flow more smoothly and ensure that certain tasks get accomplished. For example, you may have a morning routine that includes starting the coffee and checking your e-mail. Your after work routine might include starting a load of laundry or reviewing your to-do list. At night, you may prepare the coffee maker to be turned on in the morning and do some relaxing yoga.

2) Make the Bed

I admit it. It wasn’t long ago that I started making my bed every day. I thought, “If no one sees it but me, what does it matter if my bed is made? I’m just going to crawl back into it tonight anyway.” I kept hearing that making the bed every morning was so important to getting yourself organized though. I figured that, as a home organizer, I should at least give it a try.

What I found was that I like seeing my bed made. I also like that, if I make my bed every day, it’s quick and easy to get it made since Made Bedmy sheets and blankets don’t get nearly as messed up as they do over time. This makes it less stressful when I’m expecting a guest with little warning (my cats would go nuts if the door to my bedroom got shut and they couldn’t get in there). Making the bed every morning also just starts my day off productively with a small sense of accomplishment and a feeling of pleasure at the neater looking room I’ve instantly created. So, I say, if you’re not already making your bed every day, give it a try! What have you got to lose?

3) Utilize Spare Time

You may be thinking, spare time? What spare time? Spare time includes those minutes when you’re waiting for something else to happen. For example, while dinner is cooking, you could be switching out the dishes and wiping down the counters. When you’re waiting in line, work on clearing out your email (see more on that later.)

4) Follow the “One In, One Out” Rule

This rule means that for each item that comes into the home, another item must go. Ideally, these items would be like, or similar, items. For example, if you buy a new book, especially if there’s no more room on your bookshelf, then another book should be removed from your home. If you buy a new decor piece, an older one should go.

5) Shoot for Inbox Zero for Your E-Mail

Inbox Zero means having the goal of maintaining an empty inbox. It involves going through your e-mail every day and addressing each item by deleting it, returning it, taking other action on it, or putting it into the proper digital e-mail folder for later reference.

6) Manage Incoming Paper

Various kinds of paper can lead to clutter very quickly. To prevent this, it is helpful to deal with it as it comes in daily. You can immediately throw away junk mail, file what needs to be kept, shred sensitive documents that don’t need to be kept, and take action on items such as bills or place in a pending area, such as a paper tray, to deal with at a later time. To make sure that “later” doesn’t become “never”, you can establish a specific day and time each week that will be used to take action on your pending items. For other magazines and newspapers, they should be moved to an area where they will be read and should be put into recycling by the time the next issue arrives.

7) Create a To-Do List

A to-do list can take many forms. Some prefer a traditional paper method while others might utilize an app for their smartphone. Personally, I prefer to add to-do items to my Google Calendar. It makes it easy for me to expand my to-do list to tentative times over the week and make adjustments easily as needed. I also like that I can make additions and changes using my laptop, tablet, or phone so I can make alterations at home or on the go and have all devices sync together.

8) Prioritize

It’s important to know what to-do list items are the most important so that they can be taken care of first.

9) Review Your To-Do List

At the end of each day or the end of your workday, you should review your list to determine if everything was accomplished or if certain items need to be moved to the next day.

10) Leave Room In Your To-Do List

Having a to-do list is a great tool and it can be tempting to fill up your schedule. It is also important, however, to leave space for the unexpected that will inevitably pop up from time to time so that such an occurrence doesn’t throw off your whole day.

11) Use Color Coding

Color-Coded-FilesColor coding systems, such as for your files or your digital calendar events, can make it easier and quicker to identify what you’re looking for.

12) Set Reminders

Another reason I love going the digital route with my schedule is because I can set up reminders minutes, hours, days, or even weeks in advance of a task or event. This ensures that I will remember this item and also have the time necessary to prepare in whatever way I need to.

13) Set Alarms

Alarms can be used for more than waking you up in the morning and timing how long you cook your food. Alarms can be used to schedule your work and rest periods throughout the day, which can improve your productivity.

14) Lay Out What You Need for the Next Day

To help your morning run smoother so you can get out the door, it helps to prepare the night before. Decide what you will wear and get your outfit ready. Not only will you not waste time trying to decide what to wear in the morning, but you’ll also have the opportunity to note if something is wrinkled or otherwise not ready to be worn so that you can address the issue the night before.

15) Prep Meals The Night Before

You can put out the dry ingredients for breakfast and prepare lunch for the next day. This will save decision-making and time in the morning and allow you the opportunity to make adjustments to your plan if needed.

16) Utilize a Pick-Up Zone

This could be a table near the door or a mud room in which you place items that will be needed for the next day. You can put an umbrella here if it’s calling for rain. You can also put a gym bag, briefcase, or backpack here as well as shelf stable lunches or a package that needs to go to the post office.

17) Do It Now!

If it’s going to take less than 2 minutes, do the task now.

18) Say “No”

It can be easy to get roped into so many activities and responsibilities that you run yourself ragged and still don’t have time to take care of yourself. That’s why it is important to attempt to start using the word “No” more often. Really take an N0inventory of what you have committed yourself to, what you realistically have time to do, and what you actually want to do. Then, start implementing the word, “no”. “No, I don’t think that will work with my schedule.” “No, I’ll have to pass on that.” You can also find ways to say, “no,” without actually using the word specifically. “I’m not available in March. Perhaps you could check back with me after that?” “I don’t have any availability right now, but I’d love to see you at some point.”

19) Delegate

When possible, ask for help. If you don’t have time to work and take care of everything at home, but you have a family who lives with you, ask them to pitch in. Is there someone at work who could take over or assist with certain responsibilities?

20) Keep Objects Near Their Place of Use

When we give an object a home that is located far from the place it is typically used, the likelihood of that object being returned to its home goes down and the chance that it will remain where it was used goes up. For example, if newspapers and magazines are kept on the shelf on the far side of the living room and you do your reading on the couch, then the coffee table is apt to become strewn with reading material. Instead, perhaps try placing an attractive tray on the coffee table to organize these materials. You could also try placing a magazine rack beside the couch for this purpose.

Small Actions = Major Impact

As you can see, there are many small ways that you can get your home and life organized. You don’t have to do all of them. Just pick a few that are a good fit for you and your life and give them a try!

Stay tuned for 40 Ways to Get Organized: Part 2!

You Can Do It!


P.S. I hope this post has been of some value to you. I’d love to hear your comments or questions. Please feel free to share your stressors and successes here!

Decluttering and Organizing – The 2-Part Formula for Success

Is your home the relaxing and put together place you want it to be? When you need something, do you know exactly where to find it or do you find yourself digging through clutter in frustration?Stressed Are you always planning to get organized but don’t even know how to get started?

Today, we’ll be looking at the cornerstones of getting and maintaining a functional and stress-free home, decluttering and organizing. We’ll examine what decluttering and organizing are, why they are important, and how they work separately and together to achieve the desired result for your home.

Ready? Let’s go!


The purpose of decluttering is to reduce the amount of stuff in your home. Decluttering can be difficult. It can be hard to let go of items that you’ve spent a lot of money on, that you imagined using for some purpose that you never got around to, that has good memories attached to it, or that you think you may be able to use someday.

QuestionTo begin the process of decluttering, you must ask yourself a few questions about your belongings. Is the item in question in use and serving a function within your home? Is it currently in reasonably good condition? Do you still enjoy having the item or does it have significant sentimental value?

If the answer to these questions is no, then the item needs to be removed from your home. You must now decide on a method of discarding the item. Does it simply need to be thrown in the trash or the recycling bin? Can you sell it and, if so, where and how likely are you to follow through with doing so in a timely manner? Would it be quicker and easier to donate it to a charitable organization or give it to a friend or relative who would really enjoy having it?

Decluttering and letting go of items can be a difficult process but it can also improve the appearance of your home, decrease stress, and allow you to focus on the things you really use and love. It also paves the way for organizing!


Organizing is a process which can make it easier to know where things are in your home when you need them, faster to retrieve them, and more simple to return when you are done with them.

It involves setting up systems for the management of things in your home which entails finding a place for each item that you have and making each of these places somewhere that is both logical and functional for you. In most cases, such a place would be either close to where the specific item will be used or where you will remember to look for it when it is needed.

containersAdditionally, various forms of storage products are often purchased or improvised to contain items in a neat and easy to access way during the organization process.

Organizing can require thought and time but, once accomplished, can result in systems that you can maintain and which will create a more beautiful and restful home the whole family will enjoy.

One Without the Other

Individually, decluttering and organizing will only take you so far. For example, you may declutter your home and have less stuff to dig through when trying to find something. However, you still may not know where the desired object is because you haven’t given that item a place to live, making it easy to find and return after use.

Conversely, you may just want to get to the organizing and skip the decluttering. You may get excited about all of the organization products out there and believe that once you have these products, you will finally be organized. When you organize without decluttering first, though, you will spend far more time and energy than necessary by trying to organize items you no longer use and have a more difficult time finding places for each item within the limited space of your home. You will also need to buy storage products to fit a greater amount of stuff which, if you decide to declutter at a later time, will prove to be a waste of your hard-earned dollars.


As you can see, for the best results in your home, you should first declutter as much as possible. It’s a big step in reaching the goals you have for your home and should not be overlooked or put off until later, after you’ve organized. Once the decluttering has been organized-homefinished, you’ll then be able to put systems in place to organize and maintain your home, making it easier to clean and resulting in less frustration and stress and more time and relaxation.

I know you can do it!


P.S. I hope this post has been of some value to you. I’d love to hear your comments or questions. Please feel free to share your stressors and successes here!