[dropcap]Most[/dropcap] houses have a junk drawer or a similar dumping ground for items that seem to have no place. But what do you do when that designated space grows and becomes overwhelming? Time to simplify and get organized. Minimizing your belongings and putting everything in its place can also create a happier, healthier lifestyle.

Certified professional organizer and founder of Organized Living in Tulsa Anne Spero says it is a known fact that clutter causes stress.

“I see firsthand over and over how stressful being disorganized is for my clients’ lives and relationships,” Spero says.

If disorganization increases stress, does simplification create happiness? Spero says yes.

“Paring down your belongings of unneeded, unused and unloved items does relieve depression symptoms, which increases productivity and gives you the time to do things you enjoy,” Spero says. “Letting go of ‘stuff’ gives you more control and it provides more space. [pullquote]One of the things I encourage is not to run out and buy a bunch of cool containers – yet.[/pullquote]You will spend less time looking for things, and family members know where things are located, so the whole family benefits.”

In addition to creating a more peaceful and controlled environment, organization can make you healthier.

“Since stress affects people physically, decluttering will also improve their health,” she says.

Integrative medical practitioners suggest that purifying your environment gives you more energy and improves the digestive system in addition to clarifying the mind.

But before you can experience the physical and mental benefits of organization, you must commit to a decision. To get organized, first you must minimize your possessions. The Becoming Minimalist blog lists benefits of owning fewer possessions such as spending less, making your home easier to clean and giving you more freedom.

Spero says that deciding to purge is a huge first step. But don’t buy more things right away to help you simplify!

“One of the things I encourage is not to run out and buy a bunch of cool containers – yet. Containerizing comes after the sort-and-purge phase and, if done too soon and without knowing what to get, the containers often become part of the clutter,” Spero says.

Deciding what exactly is clutter can be tricky though. Spero suggests asking yourself these questions about unnecessary items: Does this bring value and joy to my life? Do I love it? Do I use it?

“Most of my clients begin in an extremely overwhelmed state, so these questions are a good start to narrow their thinking,” Spero says.

Once you’ve minimized your belongings, then the true organization can begin. It should be easy to access commonly used items, and they should be kept near where they are used. Every thing should have a place, but not necessarily have its own container.

The minimizing and organizing process is not easy, but, in the end, the tough decisions are still worth it for almost everyone who decides to purge and simplify, Spero says.

“Clients feel so good about themselves after a successful organizing session,” Spero says. “The joy they experience is unmatched, and I often see tears and hugs.”

Minimizing your belongings can also add to a sustainable lifestyle. When purging, unneeded but functioning items can be donated. Or host a yard sale and sell items online. You also won’t be as likely to make the mistake of purchasing something you already own if you know what you have and where everything is in your home.

If a lack of motivation is holding you back, Spero recommends thinking about the process in terms of what you want to surround yourself with.

“The only things you want around are what you use and what you love,” Spero says. “The rest is clutter.”

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