When I was in college I enrolled in a course one semester that started each day with a five-minute, silent meditation.
At the time, I dreaded it and thought the teacher would probably end up in some documentary years later for being a free-spirited cult leader (I’m working on being less judgmental, if you couldn’t tell).
But once I let my guard down and gave the course a chance, I found the lessons to be helpful in every aspect of my life.
The class wasn’t about meditation, it was about creating an environment that would foster your creativity. But it took a more in-direct approach.
Rather than “paint your walls fun patterns and buy pretty materials from your local art store,” it focused more on mindfulness, organization, efficiency and allowing space for high-quality life experiences.
By focusing on those practices, creativity would be more likely to come to you, as opposed to you trying to force it out of yourself.
Anyway, I’ve found that over time, a few of the lessons I learned in that class have really stuck with me. I’ve learned other tips from friends along the way, too. So I figured I’d share, in the hopes that maybe they’ll help you, too.
Tips for organizing and de-stressing your life
1. For decluttering your closet when you’re a packrat:
If you’re one of those people who can never decide what to get rid of, this trick will SAVE YOUR LIFE.
You’ll need two boxes or trash bags for this: one labeled “donation” and one labeled “to revisit in three months.”
Here’s what to do:
- Set aside 45 minutes to an hour to do this, or plan to spend 10 minutes before bed doing this every night this week.
- Go one-by-one looking at every article of clothing you own. Don’t skip anything. Grab it once, and answer two questions:
— Have you worn it in the last three months?
— Do you like it?
- If you answer YES, YES –> Keep it.
If you answer NO, NO –> Put it in the donation box.
If you answer NO, YES –> Put in in the revisit box.
If you answer YES, NO –> Go to #4.
- If you did not answer “YES, NO” to any items, skip to #5. Otherwise: — Ask yourself: Do you need the item?
If you answer NO –> Put it in the donation box.
— If you answer YES, ask yourself: Can you replace it?
If your answer is NO –> Keep it.
If your answer is YES –> Put it in the donation box.
- When you’ve finished sorting everything, donate what’s in your donate box. Anything in your “revisit” box should be packaged and stored for safe keeping.
- In three months, ask yourself if there’s anything you miss from your box or bag. If there is, open it and put the item(s) back in your closet. If you don’t miss anything, donate the box. NOTE: If you’re unsure, donate the box. Don’t keep something unless you’re positive you want it back.
2. For crossing tasks off your to-do list when you’re a procrastinator:
This plan of action takes some time to set up, but I promise: It’s SO. WORTH. IT.
First: Set three small-sized baskets or medium-sized jars next to each other.
- Label the first canister: Minutes
- Label the next: Hours
- Label the last: Days
Second: Write every to-do you can think of on separate 3X5 notecards. Feel free to cut your notecards in half to save paper.
Third: Separate your to-do cards into the baskets based on how long you think they’ll take to complete.
Finally: Get in the habit of completing a certain number of “Minute” tasks per day. Then when you have more time, grab a task card from the other baskets.
PRO TIP: Always, always, ALWAYS start with a “Minutes” task. We humans thrive on instant gratification, so being able to throw a card (or five) into the trash quickly will motivate you to keep going.
3. For keeping the house clean on a daily basis
(You know, as opposed to letting it turn into a complete pigsty Monday through Saturday, and then spending all day Sunday marathon cleaning.)
I learned this tip a few weeks ago, and I love it because it’s so simple: Never touch something twice.
So basically what this rule is saying is if you buy a shirt and rip the tags off, don’t allow yourself to set the tags down on the dresser only to have to pick them up a second time to transfer them to the trash. Get it?
Only touch it once. Same thing goes for the bag it came in: trash it, recycle it, save it. Whatever!
But don’t “temporarily” set items somewhere they don’t belong because temporarily tends to turn into “indefinitely.”
4. For starting the day off with a clear and calm mind:
Take five minutes to sit or lay on the ground in the morning in complete silence. Close your eyes or focus on one point. Try to clear your mind. Picture a blank slate. Try to quiet any thoughts or worries that pop up. Remember how it feels to rest like this, and when you’re stressed later in the day, come back to this feeling.
5. For enjoying each moment, instead of living on cruise control:
Next time you have a daily task that requires zero thought (think dishes or driving), try to focus on what naturally fills your mind.
We tend to use chores like these as a time to zone out or stress out, by thinking of all the things we still need to do.
STOP. Don’t do that.
If you’re driving, look at the colors of the cars around you. Feel the car air conditioning on your hands. Actually listen to and enjoy the music playing, or better yet, turn it off and enjoy the silence. Be mindful of where you are, what you’re doing and how you’re feeling. Make a memory of this moment. This is mindfulness, and by practicing it, you will give yourself more time to breathe and live in the moment. Don’t let life pass you by.
6. For reflecting and finding the value in your life:
Take some time a few nights a week to journal. Write your thoughts, your feelings, funny or sad moments and more. Even if something doesn’t seem important, or if something is sad that you think you don’t want to remember, write it down. You may not realize why something is happening right now, but maybe in a few months or years you’ll find the journal, read through it and suddenly everything will make sense.
This is also a nice way to slow down and appreciate your belongings, relationships and experiences.
7. For immediate relief during a time of stress, panic and/or anxiety:
Ever have those moments where every scary or stressful thought possible pops into your head at once and you feel like YOU JUST CAN’T DO IT?
This tip is for those moments.
When this happens, you need to ground yourself. You need to come back to reality and exist in the here and now.
- Something you can SEE
- Something you can SMELL
- Something you can HEAR
- Something can FEEL
- Something you can TASTE
And not hypothetically. List literal things you’re experiencing in the moment. This gives your brain something to focus on and will hopefully calm your heart.
8. Forgive yourself
You’re going to forget to journal. You’re going to wake up too late to meditate. You’re definitely going to procrastinate on chores, and you’ll probably forget all the tips on this list by tomorrow.
But you know what? Forgive yourself.
You get literally nothing from holding grudges. Take any energy you’d be putting into anger against yourself and channel it into positive energy for your next goal.
You are valuable. Your thoughts, your time, your body, your personality. Everything. They are WORTH something. So don’t invest yourself in negativity, which will grant you nothing in return.