Simplifying Your Life: How To Get More Organized

Medically reviewed by April Justice, LICSW
Updated June 21, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

If you have trouble remembering where you put your keys, you often miss important phone calls, or you can’t seem to find space on your desk amidst all the clutter, you might benefit from taking some steps to get more organized. Over time, disorganization can take a toll on your mental health and make it harder to reach your goals. Making small changes to your routines and environment may help you boost your productivity, lower your stress levels, and improve your daily life.  

A man with a beard moves some moving boxes around a cluttred room.
Getty/miodrag ignjatovic
Take the first step toward a more organized life

Reasons you might find it hard to get organized

If you’re someone who’s always had trouble finding things, managing important tasks, or keeping your space neat, there may be an underlying reason.

Certain mental health conditions and forms of neurodivergence may make some people more prone to disorganization. For example, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can make it harder to focus and keep track of items and tasks.

Mental illnesses and related challenges that may affect organizational skills include:

  • Depression, which can make it hard to focus and have the energy to stay on top of responsibilities
  • Anxiety, which may lead to distraction and procrastination
  • Bipolar disorder, which may cause an individual to take on more tasks than they can reasonably handle, especially during manic or hypomanic episodes
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which can interfere with concentration and executive function
  • Compulsive shopping, which can cause a buildup of clutter due to unnecessary purchases

Some people may also just be naturally less organized, either due to personality or upbringing. Others might feel overwhelmed by clutter that has accumulated and are unsure of where to start in managing it. Regardless of your situation, simplifying your life and streamlining your space is generally possible—and it can have positive effects on your health and your outlook. 

The potential power of getting organized

As one article on the topic reports, a cluttered home environment can contribute to chronic stress, a weaker immune response, digestive issues, trouble interpreting the emotions of others, sleep disturbances, increased likelihood of consuming more calories and snack foods, and decreased life satisfaction. 

So in addition to mitigating these risks, some potential benefits of getting organized can also include:

  • Improved focus due to fewer distractions competing for your attention
  • A greater sense of control over your life
  • More time to spend on what matters to you
  • Increased productivity because it’s easier to find what you need and focus
A woman in a tan sweater sits on the couch and folds some clothes in her lap.
Getty/PrathanChorruangsak

How to get more organized: Effective habits you can start today

Especially if you’ve had trouble with organization for a while, getting things in order is unlikely to happen overnight. It’s usually more feasible and sustainable to start small and address one area of your life at a time. The following strategies are examples of habits you can work on building in the coming weeks and months to help yourself get more organized gradually.

Declutter your space

Cleaning up your physical space can be a way to gain a sense of control over your environment. To avoid getting overwhelmed, you might try working on one space at a time, like your desk, your kitchen table, or your countertops. Set a goal of only keeping what you need. A good rule of thumb may be: If you haven’t worn or used something for the past six months, consider selling it, passing it along to a friend, or donating it. 

Set routines

Following routines may help you be more consistent in your daily life. For example, you could try blocking off sections of your day for work, personal time, and chores. You might keep your essential items like car keys and glasses somewhere easy to remember and get in the habit of putting them back in the same place each time. You could also try making a to-do list of your daily responsibilities. There are a few ways you can do this, such as:

  • Listing what you need to get done in no specific order
  • Ranking tasks in order of priority, from most important to least important
  • Grouping tasks that relate to each other
  • Making time-based lists (daily to-dos, weekly to-dos, and monthly to-dos)

Ultimately, the goal of creating routines is to find sustainable ways of making your days more structured and predictable. 

Manage your digital life

There’s now a digital component to feeling organized for many people. Examples of ways to get digitally organized could include unsubscribing from email newsletters you don’t read and deleting social media accounts that are getting in the way of your focus or harming your mental health. You might also consider limiting notifications on your phone and computer to reduce distractions and setting boundaries for answering your phone and responding to emails. Sorting the files on your computer and getting rid of what you don’t need can also be helpful. 

Engage in financial organization

Simplifying your finances may help lower stress and give you more time and energy to focus on other things, too. You could try auditing your monthly subscriptions to weed out services you don’t need and setting up automatic savings deductions and bill payments. You can also try making a budget and setting limits on unnecessary spending, which may also help keep the physical clutter in your home at bay.

Prioritize your commitments

If it often feels like you have too many responsibilities to keep track of, it can help to be more mindful of the things you agree to. Practice saying no to commitments that don’t align with your values and interests and setting boundaries to protect your time and energy when you do say yes. If possible, see if you can delegate some of your work tasks to other people. You might also try starting each day with your hardest task to ensure you have enough time to finish it. 

A man in a button down white shirt leans over the kitchen counter to look at the lpatop open infront of him with a serious expression.
Getty/Cecilie_Arcurs
Take the first step toward a more organized life

Seek professional support

If you still find it hard to manage your clutter and to-dos, you can also consider hiring a professional organizer. These consultants can offer suggestions for arranging your space and staying on top of your responsibilities. Asking for advice from friends, family members, or colleagues on organizational methods that work for them can also be helpful.

If disorganization is taking a toll on your mental health or you’re having trouble staying organized due to a condition like anxiety or depression, you may also benefit from talking to a therapist. Through therapy, you may be able to get to the bottom of your organizational challenges, manage any symptoms of a mental health condition, and learn to shift your habits and thought patterns over time. 

Making it to regular in-person therapy appointments when you’re facing challenges with organization can be difficult, however. That’s where an online therapy platform like BetterHelp can be especially useful. You can get matched with a licensed therapist who you can meet with virtually from home, and you can use in-app messaging to contact your therapist at any time and have them respond as soon as they’re able. Studies suggest that online therapy may be an effective treatment for mental illnesses that may contribute to disorganization, from depression to anxiety and others.

Takeaway

There are several reasons you might have a hard time staying organized, from a mental illness to your environment growing up. No matter the cause, disorganization may make it harder to focus, stay healthy, and be productive, so taking steps to simplify your life may improve your well-being. This can look like reducing clutter, organizing your finances, creating routines, and prioritizing your commitments. Getting outside help is also an option if needed.
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