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Why Organizing Your Desk can Help Organize Your Life

A universal cliché: the eternal battle between the child’s messy room and the parent’s demand for order. I know that many of you fought this fight too. Perhaps if you’re like me, you begrudgingly accepted your chore, knowing you couldn’t win (or risk the withdrawal of other privileges), while promising yourself that one day, when you were on your own, you would leave your clothes in whichever pile you felt like leaving them in.

Look around you – did you keep that promise to yourself? Are your things neat and tidy, the dishes put away? If so, what sparked your cleanliness conversion?   If not, do you feel happy in your clutter or a sense of nagging guilt?

Clutter and mess can have a profound effect on our emotional state. It can cause stress, bombard us with excessive stimuli, disrupt productivity, make us feel inadequate and be an external indicator of mental health issues like anxiety and depression. It can also impact your physical health too and worsening what could be an already vulnerable state.

An old saying: “cleanliness is next to godliness”. As a turn of phrase, it was recorded in a 1778 sermon but the idea itself harkens back to Babylonian and Hebrew religious literature and might prove that our parents, and their parents and so on, were right all along.

Today, the spiritual quest for cleanliness has been given renewed vitality with its latest prophet: Marie Kondo. A Japanese author whose best selling work, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up”, has been translated into dozens of languages, and the star of the Netflix series, “Tidying up with Marie Kondo”, Kondo’s goal has been to help others find the “joy” in tidying up; that is, keeping the things that spark joy and disposing of those things that do not. Since her show aired, thousands have taken up the challenge and have credited Kondo’s method with changing their lives.

This isn’t just pop science: there have been numerous studies that have made the link between cleaning and improved mental health and wellness. One study found that cluttered homes were linked to a higher expressed level of the stress hormone cortisol. In a previous blogpost, we covered the importance of a good night’s rest for your mental health. According to the National Sleep Foundation, 75% of people say they get a better night’s rest when their sheets are clean. This extends beyond physical clutter: pursuing organization and discipline in your daily goals and life pursuits can result in “fewer negative emotions”, according to another study.

Back to Marie Kondo. If you’ve got some mess and want to destress, consider her six basic tips for cleaning and spark some joy back in your life:

  1. Commit yourself to tidying up
  2. Imagine your ideal lifestyle
  3. Finish discarding first
  4. Tidy by category, not by location
  5. Follow the right order
  6. Ask yourself if it ‘sparks joy’

Ultimately, life is messy. Some people are more privileged with time, help and circumstance and can easily live a clean, clutter-free existence. It’s not so easy for everyone else, like single parents juggling multiple, messy children. Even if your space won’t grace the cover of “Cleaning Hygiene Magazine”, try to find some time to bring some order to your environment – it could help you achieve a happier you.


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