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Adlen Robinson: A cluttered home may cause anxiety

When I was growing up, my mother was not what you would consider the most organized person. 

Of course when you are super young, you don’t really know anything about what is organized or neat and what isn’t — your life is just what it is. But even my earliest memories include memories of my love of organizing things. 

Anyway, no matter how much clutter might have been in our house, my little bedroom was always perfectly organized, neat and tidy. Most mornings, I made my bed — something I still do. There is something about a made up bed that just starts your day with a sense of order and purpose. 

I had one of those old-fashioned desks from an old schoolhouse — you know, the kind where you lift the desk top and store your supplies inside. There was even a little hole where in the “old days” your ink sat. 

I still have this desk and cherish my memories of sitting there writing stories and letters and trying my hand at calligraphy, painting and pastels. I loved organizing my art supplies in that desk and love that our children grew up sitting at that desk doing various tasks.

I read an article recently about new scientific data proving that clutter gives you anxiety. I completely agree. 

Have you noticed how much more productive you are when you sit at a well-organized desk, as opposed to when there are piles of papers you need to go through, file or address? 

Here are some strategies to help you banish clutter forever. 

• Assess the situation. Make a list of areas in your home or office that have become, or tend to stay, cluttered. You can’t fix something until you acknowledge the problem.

• Time how long it takes you to complete a task. This is helpful because often you build it up in your head that something is going to take you hours to finish, when in reality it might just take you 20 minutes. This helps your morale for the next time you have to do the task. 

• If you have a particularly large area to de-clutter, try breaking it down in steps. For example, if you need to clean out a closet, begin by pulling everything out of it. Maybe the next day sort through and gather a “give away” pile and load that into the car. 

The next day put the things you are keeping back in an orderly way. Doing a big project in steps keeps it from being too overwhelming. 

• Purchase containers, baskets and jars to help you organize your stuff. Sure it is an investment, but opening a drawer or closet and seeing containers goes a long way toward keeping items separate and orderly. 

• Even junk drawers can have some order. Invest in a lot of drawer dividers — I love the bamboo ones. They look great and keep junk separate yet accessible. 

• Purge, purge, purge. Do you really need 10 plastic container lids with no matching container? 

Are there four bottles of ketchup in your refrigerator—all one-third full? Consolidate. 

What about your clothes closet? Do you have things in there you haven’t worn in a decade or more? Time to purge and give to one of our many awesome non-profit thrift stores — remember you are likely helping someone who could use it. 

• Stay on top of the clutter. No matter how neat and organized you are, life happens and you will fall behind with your de-cluttering efforts. That’s OK. Try to come up with a system and a schedule to keep clutter at bay. Perhaps you get up 30 minutes early and spend that time tackling that latest pile of papers or filing some papers you need to. 

• Begin your day the night before. Nothing gets your day off to a positive start than when you spend a few minutes the night before making a few preparations. Get the coffee ready, make your lunch and/or lunch for the kids, set out your work and/or workout clothes, check back packs and get them ready, jot down a quick list of things you plan on accomplishing the next day. When our children were young and I forgot to do this — or just didn’t have the energy to, the next morning was always more chaotic than ever. 

Don’t let clutter stress you out and give you anxiety. Take a deep breath, write down those tasks you want to tackle and stick to it.

South Forsyth resident Adlen Robinson is author of “Home Matters: The Guide to Organizing Your Life and Home.” E-mail her at