The Benefits of Laughter Go Way Beyond Entertainment
It Gives Us Perspective
Have you ever been down about something and a friend makes a joke or says something that you can’t help but laugh at? It’s in this moment that laughing takes us out of the mind mush, making us forget for just a few minutes what the problem is.
Certified Laughter Yoga Leader Rhonda Lee, M.A.Ed., says, “Laughter brings us fully to the present moment, which is the same goal as meditation. In fact, if you are fully engaged in laughter, it is impossible for you to really focus on anything other than the laughter. It is during this pause that we are able to redirect out thoughts without trying, and a radical shift in perspective can occur. Also, laughter produces endorphins and boosts our serotonin levels as well. This means that our body has a chemical reaction that causes us to shift our perspective. And then there’s cortisol, the hormone produced by stress. Laughter actually causes this stuff to lower as well. You can’t not shift your perspective on events when this happens. It’s like magic!”
Laughter creates distance from the lost wallet and flat tire. It opens the space around the problem we’re facing, making it easier to handle.
It Makes us Take Ourselves Less Seriously
A couple of years ago when someone would make a comment about how I liked wearing un-matching socks, I would get defensive. The time I went to a hockey game and looked down to see two different shoes on my feet, I beat myself up over it. I responded this way because I didn’t know that laughing at myself could make the situation better.
“Laughter allows us fuller emotional expression,” says Jeffrey Briar, Director of the Laughter Yoga Institute in Laguna Beach, CA. “When we express our vulnerability (and survive), this teaches us that we can be our true selves without fear. When we are a little vulnerable at the same time as we are being playful, we accept ourselves just as we are — and as we are not. Laughter teaches us to love ourselves.”
Laughing at ourselves can help us improve our self-esteem by confirming that who we are, as we are, is unique. It gives us the opportunity to accept ourselves and to let go of judgment and criticism. As we do all of this, we not only improve our relationship with ourselves but also with those around us.
It Connects Us
There’s an old saying that a couple who laughs together stays together. Why? Because laughing binds people together, says Neuroscientist Robert Provine, Ph.D. Laughter establishes a positive emotional climate and a sense of connection between two people.
Laughter can make us closer to our partners, friends, and family. By sharing moments of joy together, we feel safe, comfortable, and loved. “People who laugh together,” says Briar, “enjoy being together. This is often true even if they do not have other things in common. Views on politics, religion or social values may differ widely, but even people who don’t share the same social values can enjoy sharing social laughter. Laughing with another person sends forth a powerful message of acceptance. Laughing with others in a non-judgmental, playful way generates spontaneous yet sincere feelings of friendliness and trust.”
It Relieves Stress
One way to combat stress, especially in the workplace, is to bring in some laughs.
A study on humor, stress, and coping strategies found that those in a group with a high sense of humor had less stress and anxiety than those who experienced the same everyday problems but with lower sense of humor. The high humor group also used more positive reappraisal and problem solving strategies than the low humor group. What this means is that humor can make us more focused and productive, not only in the workplace but also in our everyday lives.
It Shows What You Feel
It’s hard to keep laughter in, so much so that sometimes I’ll hear people apologize after they laugh. A wonderful effect of laughter is that it forces us to show what we’re feeling. It brings emotions to the surface in an acceptable form of expression.
“Laughter is a socially acceptable, safe way to express joyful feelings,” says Briar. “What many are not aware of is that by laughing we can also show, publicly, other feelings, such as vulnerability and a childlike intimacy. We can even express ‘iffy’ feelings like exasperation, frustration, bewilderment — but when such feelings are done as triggers for shared social laughing, the social consequence is usually compassionate — people feel for our less-than-wonderful feelings; and/or they join in the laughing. Laughter allows us fuller emotional expression.”
It Improves Mood
When something TV or in a book I’m reading makes me laugh, it’s hard for me to feel angry or sad. “When we are laughing,” says Briar, “we cannot be worried, anxious or stressed at the same time. Positive emotions generated by laughing exclude negative emotions. The practice of hearty laughter will dispel negative emotions like fear or resentment.”
The more laughter we have in our lives, the more upbeat we are in our day-to-day. And the more we can see it as a technique to boost our mood, the easier it is for us to use when we get down in the dumps.
It Boosts Creativity
Have you ever noticed that you get your best ideas when you’re relaxed? Well, because laughter relieves stress, it also has a way of opening us up to our creative power.
Lee says, “I have worked with many artists in using laughter to boost their creativity. Laughter de-clutters the brain and allows for clear and critical thinking skills to become more abundant. Also, laughter unifies the left and right brain, which can help us to unleash our creative skills.”
So the next time you’re wracking your brain to get something out on the page or come up with a million-dollar idea for your next presentation, try laughing for a couple minutes. If you want to explore the positive effects of laughter even more, check out Creative Laughter events. It may be just what you need to open the creative floodgates.
It Can Heal Us
Laughter, as already noted, has a therapeutic quality. Studies have also proved this to be true.
In an Integrative Psychology article on the therapeutic value of laughter, Norman Cousins, who wrote more than 10 books on humor and healing, wrote, “the therapeutic value of laughter relates to the abatement of panic and its effects more than to any specific biochemical manifestations or changes.”
Even if it’s just for an hour or two, laughter can relieve us from fear and anxiety.
The studies on laughter and its benefits have inspired laughter yoga, laughter meditation, laughter therapy, and humor therapy. And what’s great about laughter is that it’s an easy to access (and free!) technique that we can use daily to help us improve our lives.
Need Help dealing with Stress?
Everyone reacts to stress differently. Some react in healthy ways, utilizing exercise, playing music, perhaps watching a movie for a quick mental vacation, or spending time with friends. Others react to stresses in destructive ways – substance abuse, overeating, and the like.
As I was reading articles on business blogging, I came across a great article by entrepreneur Ali Brown on writing a success journal. What a wonderful idea! Not only is a success journal a constructive way to achieve and record your goals one step at a time, but it is also a self-esteem booster, which in turn, is also a stress reliever.
That being said, here is Ali’s article:
Posted on June 20, 2013 by Ali Brown
It’s said our purpose here on earth is to create, and I see achievement as simply stepping into our best creations. Whether it be making a million dollars, or making our most delicious batch of cupcakes ever, achievement inspires. It encourages us to keep bettering our best and also excites others to reach for the stars as well.
When you have conquered a goal or challenge that once seemed impossible, you feel on top of the world, and with that comes an enormous sense of pride and satisfaction. But that’s not all. Success is energizing and a huge self-confidence booster, as you realize what you are really capable of! So achievement breeds more achievement. For each goal you achieve, view it as the first step into a much bigger venture—it’s the end of one journey and the beginning of many more. And one great way to stay connected with your success is to RECORD it.
One of the best things I ever did for myself, and my success, was to start keeping a success journal. It’s my secret tool to winning big.
Buy a pretty notebook and keep it near your bed. Every evening, before you go to sleep, write down at least three successes from your day. If you find this a little daunting at first, remember this can be anything from big to small. My list often includes both. I remember chuckling a while ago when reviewing my list because it included: “I was honored as one of Ernst & Young’s Winning Women” along with “opted for a salad instead of burger for lunch” and “organized file cabinet“. That’s how life is, ladies (and gents). The crucial thing is to get started.
You can write your journal entries at any time of the day, but if you do it as I do—last thing at night—you’ll drift off to sleep in a positive frame of mind. I find sometimes it even helps me wake up with solutions to problems I had not considered the day before—my subconscious kept wanting to achieve while I was sleeping!
The value of doing this every day is that it will not only increase your self-confidence, but it will motivate you to do more. Try it and you’ll see—I promise.
I also love opening up my success journal when something is not going well. If I become discouraged over a project that isn’t coming together how it should, or I’m down in the dumps over a mistake that I made, I open my journal to help remind myself how much I have accomplished already.
The good news: Success becomes a part of you!
The act of writing down your successes daily—especially at night before you go to bed—fixes them in your memory and they become a part of you. Your journal will continually and actively remind you that you are an achiever. This will keep your momentum going and help create more success in your life.
So don’t wait any longer—go out today and buy a pretty notebook and beautiful pen and write down those successes tonight. Your first one could be taking action on this article!
Thoughts? Please share your comments below!
“Entrepreneur mentor Ali Brown teaches women around the world how to start and grow a profitable business that make a positive impact. Get her FREE CD “Top 10 Success Secrets for Entrepreneurial Women” at www.AliBrown.com“
Great article! However, “success” looks different for everyone. Therefore I will share with you my really, really honest Success Journal for today:
I successfully did not fall asleep at the wheel and kill myself and others on the way to work this morning. I strive to do the same on the way home.
I successfully did not devour the smores ingredients sitting on the second shelf of my cupboard this weekend. I purchased these processed non-nutritional items at the request of my visiting son last month that were never used. I assure you – they are alive and know my name. Why don’t brussel sprouts taste the same as chocolate, graham crackers and marshmallows? Why do postpregnancy bellies, even after 18 years, have the same consistency of jello after 2 million, 475, 987 abdominal crunches, sit-ups, and anything else aerobic and supposedly toning?
Why is my Success Journal things that I have successfully not fallen prey too?
Hey – I did something successful today – I wrote this entry!
– Hillary Saffran
Secret Pill for Stress Relief
“. . . The flea when jumping accelerates 50 times faster than a space shuttle. Although fleas cannot fly, they can jump over seven inches high and thirteen inches long, that is about one hundred and fifty times its own length. Without its outer shell it would get smashed by the velocity of the jump, and especially on its landing….” Insecta Inspecta World (hwww.insecta-inspecta.com/fleas/cat/jumping.html)
When you rolled out of bed this morning I’m sure you asked: How high can a flee jump? No? Me either. But, I found myself face-to-face with the answer to this fascinating question. Being somewhat creative, I wondered how I could use this useful and valuable information. So I did a little research.
Amazing as it sounds, when fleas are put into a container (as in a small, uncapped jar), the little rascals will literally jump out. If you place a sheet of paper over the top of the container, the fleas will jump up and hit the sheet of paper then fall back to the bottom.
Here’s what’s really interesting: After several failed attempts to jump out of the container, the fleas are “mentally reconditioned” and will only leap as high the sheet of paper – even after the paper has been removed. Their previous reality has been replaced with a new one that limits their performance.
That’s a worthy lesson for us to mull over. I believe many of us, based on personal experiences, are held in place (in our business endeavors, spiritual growth, personal development, personal relationships, etc.) by our own self imposed limits.
In some behavior, we are like fleas. For example, we were jumping high, but we got hit hard by a failed relationship, loss of a job, financial crisis, or ___(fill in the blank)____, and we are face-to-face with difficult times.
Understand that there is no physical barrier. But lots of folk carry on as though there is a ceiling that prevents them from breaking out and experiencing any kind of new reality.
Like the flea, some of us have learned that jumping high meant getting the snot kicked out of us, so we make mental adjustments to lessen the pain.
A heartbreaking side effect of that choice is, however, we limit our hope for the future.
My heart truly goes out to those who feel despair brought on by stress. I’m empathetic – I truly feel their pain. The sad reality is, faced with the personal challenges before them, many of my friends and acquaintances have limited their options by constructing the mental barriers I previously referred to.
They are like the fleas that will not jump out of the uncovered container. Not knowing what else to do, they ask fellow fleas, “How do we break free? How can we move forward? How do we get out of this mess? How can we succeed?”
Here’s a valuable principal founded on truth:
Don’t ask your fellow fleas what to do. If they held the answers for breaking free, they wouldn’t be in your position. In a worst case scenario, they will keep you from moving toward success by unconsciously doing their best to hold you where they are. Remember – misery loves company.
If you truly want to disentangle yourself from the tentacles strangling the life out of you, and if you want to experience freedom from your self imposed limits, seek out those whom are not limited by your mental obstacles. Find someone, a mentor, who is where you want to be. That person can help you much more than fellow fleas sharing the same limited mindset.
Here’s what I suggest:
- Clearly define where you want to be
- Answer This: Who can help you get there?” and “What am I willing to give in return?
- Set some target dates for successes
- Define how you will get there
- Work your plan and make adjustments as needed
- Connect with those not limited with your mindset
- Take one other flea with you on your journey
It’s now up to you. What will you do? Whatever your choice, you have chosen a path. Robert Frost concludes his famous “The Road Not Taken” by writing:
“I shall be telling this with a sigh
“Somewhere ages and ages hence:
“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —
“I took the one less travelled by,
“and that has made all the difference.”
I challenge to you is to take the “road less traveled” and shred the paper barrier.
Trying to Eat Healthier? Getting Stressed about Food? Does this Article Make My Butt Look Fat?
Are there days you look in the mirror and feel hopeful but other days when you can’t believe how tight your jeans feel at the waist?
I ask these 2 questions today because after over a decade of helping other women get past their “fat and frustrated” days…
I too still have those moments where I revert back to my old dieting mentality and think “Jenn, I can’t believe you ate that last night! NOW look at yourself!”
Know what I’m talking about?
We all do it from time to time but some more often than others.
Beliefs that Need Breaking
I had a coaching call recently with a client and she shared with me that she has dieted for so many years that she has these beliefs that she really needs my help breaking.
This is so she can get back to being the lean, energetic and happy woman she knows is hidden under all that weight!
With that in mind, here are 4 major dieting myths that can keep you feeling fat and frustrated…
And the truth behind each of them.
If I just deprive myself one more week, I will reach my goal weight!
Depriving ourselves creates a tug-o-war, emotionally.
Think for a minute when you tell yourself (or your kids) that they can’t have something…
You IMMEDIATELY want it don’t you?
So telling ourselves we can’t have something is clearly not the answer.
However I hear over and over again from countless women that starting Monday they are going to STOP eating those cookies or STOP drinking the wine…
Then come Thursday, they are right back at it and feeling like they have no self control. Not to mention when we get ourselves into a place of “just one more week.”
We set ourselves up to feel frustrated when our bodies don’t cooperate as quick as we’d like and then we want to give up versus setting no time limit because we are actually enjoying what we’re doing, knowing this is a long-term process and we’re going to enjoy the journey!
I have to eat bland, tasteless food like grilled chicken and broccoli or a salad to lose weight.
You can lose weight while still eating tasty and yummy food.
It’s more about food combinations and eating meals that stabilize your blood sugar levels.
This is so energy from fat stores will be used by your body instead of the energy from the food you’re eating.
It’s in your best interest to learn about the delicate balance of insulin and glucagon…
Two hormones that regulate blood sugar and can be your best friends if you let them!
Not to mention there are some simple spices out there that can make food preparation quick and tasty.
For example I made a delicious baked chicken by baking organic free-range chicken breasts or thighs in a 8×8 glass dish.
After marinating them quickly in Tamari (wheat free soy sauce), add cold-pressed organic olive oil, garlic powder, sea salt, ground pepper, basil and oregano.
Bake at 400 ‘till chicken is just slightly pink at the core….it will keep cooking once you take it out.
I then bake a handful of sweet potatoes for the family. Just place them on a baking sheet at 400 for about 40 minutes…
I usually do this while I plan to be home playing out back and I set a timer.
Once a fork easily passes through the center they are done. Sprinkle with cinnamon and butter and enjoy!
I will just do more cardio to get the weight off
Over the years I’ve seen so many women at the gym running on treadmills, taking cardio after cardio class…
But still never being able to lose that belly fat, reshape their hips or get the cellulite off their legs.
More cardio is not the answer to getting the weight off and will definitely not help you lose the belly fat.
If you’re doing cardio at an elevated level where you are unable to talk, then you’re in anaerobic state of exercise and you are no longer burning fat…
But are instead, burning the calories from the food you ate this morning.
In addition, until you add LEAN muscle to your body (and clean up your diet), it is not possible to reshape your hips, flatten your belly and get the weight off long-term.
It’s the lean muscle that gives you the ability to eat what you want from time to time (I eat whatever I want at least once/week) AND not have to worry about gaining weight.
You see, lean muscle, burns more calories at rest so you are always burning calories.
This is why fat people tend to stay fat and thin people with muscle tend to stay lean.
Get your body to the point where it’s got some muscle on it and now you’re leaning in the direction of permanent weight loss!
I will eat more salad and keep the calories low to lose the weight
I see this one all the time.
I will just eat more salad or I will skip a meal and that will cut my calories so the weight will come off for sure.
Then, come Monday morning, when you get on the scale after a week of eating more salad, you are pissed the scale only moved 1lb!
Why is that you might be thinking? Weight Watchers taught me that calories in = calories out.
Truth be told not every calorie is created equal!
100 calorie snack packs loaded with chemicals and additives will process very differently in the body than a 100 calorie apple!
Not to mention the chemicals and additives in all that diet food are destroying your metabolism and storing the chemicals in your hips.
Yup. I can always tell if a woman is eating a lot of diet food because she usually has accentuated hips and looks bloated.
The body needs to protect itself from all the chemicals so it adds water to the cells it stores the chemicals in so that they won’t die.
The truth is, no matter what your weight loss goals are, you need to add more joy into your life in all areas.
Find ways to enjoy the process of getting in shape and shedding unwanted weight and belly fat.
Find a weight training class you enjoy.
Not into group classes? Hire a personal trainer for a few months and see if they teach you enough that you feel motivated to work out on your own.
Never really learned how to cook quick tasty meals? Take a cooking class that uses few ingredients and promises to teach quick cooking.
Or hire a health coach who models a way of living you’d like to see yourself live.
I only cook meals that take less than 20 minutes because I don’t like to be in the kitchen very much.
When you make a conscious decision to find ways to enjoy your life more, the weight will come off. It just will. Promise.
About The Author
Jenn Edden, IAAW Premium Expert, is a board certified health coach and graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. She is nationally certified by the American Association of Drugless Practitioners.
Jenn specializes in helping women entrepreneurs with sugar addiction and stubborn weight loss. Jenn is also a business coach for wellness entrepreneurs struggling with clarity and confidence.
For those folks contemplating a pet, here’s some great information on pets for stress relief and happier living:
10 Reasons You Should Be Spending More Time With Your Dog
If there’s one thing we could all use a little bit more of, it’s time. (And money and chocolate– but that’s another story.) Your life is busy and your days are filled with work, errands, cleaning, families, and relationships. And if you’re in a time of transition – having a kid, starting a new job, getting married, etc. – your time is even more pinched. All of these things naturally affect your relationship with your dog(s) and how much time you’re able to spend with them. While some of us are lucky enough to spend all day at home with our pup, others get little precious special time with our furry friends. It should come as no surprise that no matter what your schedule is like, quality one-on-one time with your dog is super important, both for your pup and for you! You made the investment and important decision to get a dog, and it’s equally important to love them up as often as possible.
We know you probably don’t need a ton of specific reasons to spend time with your treasured friend-for-life, but we thought we’d round up ten reasons you really should be clocking extra hours.
10. They teach us to stretch, stop and smell the roses, and drink plenty of water.
Image via Dog Time
There’s a lot we could learn from dogs. Throughout any given day, you’re likely to see your dog stretch, stop and smell flowers while on their morning walk, greet a neighbor and gulp down plenty of water once returning inside. When you think about it, these are all actions we could benefit from doing ourselves. So imagine taking a day where you actively mirror what your pup is doing. When he/she stretches, you stretch. When they stop to wag their tail at a neighbor, you ask how they’re doing. While they’re slurping some H20, you grab a glass for yourself. This isn’t always doable, of course, but if you take the time to pay more attention and mirror when you can, you may find yourself in a better state of mind and routine.
Image via Meatball Candy
As you’ll see throughout this roundup, having a pet can help tremendously with many mental and health issues. And we’re just scratching the surface! In particular, kids and adults with ADHD have shown to benefit from working with and keeping a pet. Making a pet schedule and taking charge of the jobs on it can teach a child to learn to plan and be responsible. Playing with a pet is a great way for kids with tons of energy to release excess energy, leading to a better mood and better sleep at night. Pets can also help children with ADHD learn about self-esteem. If a person has autism, having a dog can help with sensory integration activities as they learn the way something feels against their skin and how they react to certain smells or sounds. It’s also important for children – and adults! – who have conditions like this to learn and see that something understands them and doesn’t get frustrated or confused.
Image via We Know Memes
More and more mental health therapists are using dogs in their therapy, particularly when it comes to couples counseling. Not only does having a dog in the office help patients feel more comfortable, WebMD points out that a “remark to or about a dog may show what’s really on someone’s mind.” The site spoke to one therapist who told them about a couple in his office who started arguing and their dog (who usually just slept during the session), got up and wanted out of the room. Not only did this demonstrate to the couple (who also have kids) how their fighting was affecting others, it also signaled a new way for them to catch themselves and step back. If your dog is reactive to your relationships with others, take their actions as a healthy excuse to hit the pause button, reflect and more calmly address the situation.
Image via Reviralist
Chances are, if you own a dog, you’ll be taking it on walks and to the dog park or along for errands every now and then. In which case chances are good people are going to want to talk to you. They’ll want to know what kind of dog you have, how old they are, where you got them, their name, etc. Especially if you’re at Petsmart or the dog park, where other dog owners are likely to be hanging out, the chance for human interaction is high. If you lead the kind of lifestyle (working from home, small office, etc.) where you don’t spend much quality time with other people, these little interactions can help you from spending too much time closed off from the ‘real world.’ It’s also not a shabby way to meet a date, if that’s something you’re looking for! Spending time with other humans and talking about shared interests (who doesn’t love talking about their pooch?) leads to a healthier mind and a happier life.
Image via Properly Ridiculous
There’s a reason therapists have been known to prescribe a pet as a way to help heal and deal with depression. While things like exercise, healthy eating, therapy, and time spent with loved ones is no doubt important for those grappling with the disease, owning and looking after an adorable furry friend has proven to be successful in helping all kinds of people with depression, including children and ex-military. While there are many reasons this is true, maybe the most basic and sweet is simply because no one will love you more unconditionally than your pet. They always agree with you, are there to listen and accept you for exactly who you are. No matter what you’ve done or what has happened that day – a stressful day on the job, a big fight with your husband or sister, a scary car accident, etc. – they show the same amount of attention and affection. Caring for you pet – simply taking he/she on a walk, feeding them and snuggling up for some House of Cards, takes you out of yourself and makes you feel needed, wanted, and important. There are a lot of ways you could be spending your time, but with a dog you know that you’ll get out what you put in. Not much else in life carries such a solid return.
Image via A Plus Animal Hospital
Aside from making your heart grow like the Grinch every time you see your pup do something adorable, studies show that dog owners have a significantly better survival rate one year after a heart attack. In fact, pet owners in general have a lower risk of dying from any cardiac disease, including heart failure. Considering heart disease is still the number one killer of both men and women, we could all use a little help keeping our hearts healthy.
Image via Pleated Jeans
We can’t blame you for skipping the gym this week. Or next week, or… you get the point. Time is money, and while you know exercise is great for both your mind and body, you’ve already got ten billion things on your plate. Luckily, dog owners are sort of tricked into exercise everyday, even if it’s just two or three thirty minute walks around the block to take their dog out each day. Less so, of course, if you’re lucky enough to have a backyard they can run around in. But a good way to increase time spent with your pet, their health, and your health is to commit to taking them on a hike, run, brisk walk, or other heart-rate-improving exercise. You can start with small goals – once a week, maybe on a Saturday morning – and then work up from there. If you can get to the point where you’ve incorporated three days a week of physical activity with your pet, you’ve just ensured a much healthier lifestyle for the both of you!
Image via Lot of Laughters
While not a cure-all (you’ll still, of course, need to watch what you eat and how much exercise you get), the fact remains that having a pet can help you manage your blood pressure. In one study of 240 married couples, pet owners showed lower blood pressure and lower heart rates during rest than people who do not have a furry friend. This was true whether they were at rest or undergoing stress tests. It’s also been proven that children with hypertension lowered their blood pressure while petting their dog. Cute and healthy – we’ll take it!
Image via Know Your Meme
Sure, therapy, exercise and a job you love are pretty great ways to improve your overall health and well-being. But so is having an animal! Anyone who has come home after a long day, feeling dejected and exhausted is sure to perk up a bit when they find their furry friend, tail a’ waggin’ as they wait for their human to get in the door and pet their head. According to WebMD, “your body actually goes through physical changes in that time that make a difference in your mood. The level of cortisol, a hormone associated with stress, is lowered. And the production of serotonin, a chemical associated with well-being, is increased.”
Image via Know Your Meme
According to The Book of Times: From Seconds to Centuries, a Compendium of Measures by Leslie Alderman, most of us spend about forty minutes a day with our pets. While the amount of money we spend on our pets has increased from 28.5 million in 2001 to 53 million in 2012, that average amount of time has yet to change in recent years. While it isn’t a particularly awful number, it’s something to think about and try to add to every week. Pets completely thrive off of time spent with their owners, and we do too! Studies have shown time after time that the amount of time we spend with our animals equates to better health in us too.
Featured image via Bonjour Brie
Are You Stressed Out by Clutter? Stress No More!
Quick Cures for Clutter
You may be putting off clearing out clutter because the task seems daunting and tedious—but it doesn’t have to be. Simply by breaking clutter-clearing into smaller projects, you can make progress in as little as five to 10 minutes at a time.
And you’ll be glad you did. Your living or working space will become much more pleasant and efficient almost before you know it.
Important: Be sure that each “mini-project” you do can be completed in the allotted time. The satisfaction and sense of control you gain will keep you motivated for the next mini-project and the next one.
Here, quick clutter-clearing steps for common clutter problems. You can do each step in 10 minutes or less…
KITCHEN: Organize Your Storage Containers
More on Decluttering
10 minutes: Cull and sort. Pull everything out of the container cupboard. Sort through what you have. Keep only the containers that you use most often and that have lids. Put the rest in discard/giveaway bags.
Put the keepers back in the cupboard. To save space, nest containers that are the same shape.
10 minutes: Organize the lids. Double-check that every lid in your collection has a container that it fits. Toss any stray lids. If you have more than one lid for a container you love, you can keep the extra, but don’t keep more than two lids for any container.
Stack lids of similar shape underneath their nested containers, or place all lids together on their sides in a single storage container so that they stand up vertically and are easy to pull out.
KITCHEN: Clean the Refrigerator
10 minutes: Clean just one shelf or drawer. By working in 10-minute chunks, you soon will get through the whole refrigerator.
Pull all items out of the section you’ve chosen, and place them on the kitchen table or counter. Throw out all food that is past its printed expiration date…any produce that is going limp…leftovers whose age you are unsure about…and anything that causes you to ask, Is this still good?
Wipe the shelf or drawer with a clean, damp sponge sprinkled with baking soda, then dry with a dish towel. Replace the fresh items.
BATHROOM: Organize the Cabinet Under the Sink
5 minutes: Measure and order. The inside of the typical under-sink cabinet is just a big, inefficient space. Solution: Fit your cabinet with stacking drawers. First, measure the inside of the cabinet. Then order stacking drawers online in plastic or metal mesh. Each stack should be at least two drawers high and narrow enough to fit on either side of the sink’s drainpipe. If you keep tall cleaning supplies such as glass or toilet bowl cleaners under the cabinet, allow space for those. Recommended source: The Container Store, www.ContainerStore.com.
10 minutes: Assemble and assign. Unpack and assemble the drawers, and decide what category of object will go in which drawer. Example: One drawer could hold cleaning supplies such as sponges, scouring powder and rubber gloves… one drawer could hold extra toilet paper and facial tissues…another could hold a hair dryer and accessories.
10 minutes: Toss and install. Pull everything out of the cabinet. Discard any used sponges, old razors and toiletries you no longer use. Place the drawers inside the cabinet, and put all objects into their new locations.
HOME OFFICE: Tidy Papers
10 minutes: Sort. The papers cluttering the surface of your desk represent to-dos. Quickly divide the papers into stacks, with one stack for each type of to-do. Examples: Call… write… pay… return… order… check with family member… brainstorm… file.
Label each stack by writing the category name on a sticky note and putting the note on top of the stack.
Remind yourself to do nothing else but sort in this session. Do not stop to read any of the papers or do any of the tasks. Otherwise you will never get through the clutter.
5 minutes: Set up a simple action system. Put each stack into its own manila folder. If you are a highly visual person, use colored folders. Write the task category on the front of the folder in large bold letters and on the side tab.
Keep the folders handy and visible. Either stack them on the corner of your desk, put them in stacking trays or place them in a vertical rack.
Whenever you have five or 10 minutes between other activities, you can go through one of the folders and take action. Often you can get through an entire folder in 10 minutes when you are focused.
BEDROOM: Clear Your Night Table
5 minutes: Choose what will stay. Decide what few objects you want/need on your bedside table. Examples: Reading lamp…alarm clock or mobile phone… book… small basket that holds reading glasses, bookmarks, highlighter, pen, small notepad.
10 minutes: Cull. Remove everything else from the table—many items will be objects that have found their way in from other rooms. Discard trash, and put items that belong elsewhere into a basket with handles, a small plastic tub or other portable container.
10 minutes: Carry the container around the house, and deliver anything that belongs elsewhere to its appropriate spot.
FAMILY ROOM: Organize CDs and DVDs
10 minutes: Choose categories. On a piece of paper, list the broad categories of your video and music collections. Use terms that you and your family would be most likely to think of when looking for a CD or DVD. Examples: Your movie categories might include action… comedy… kids… drama. Your music might be sorted by genre such as jazz or classical, or by mood, task or time of day you would be likely to listen to it, such as relaxing on Sunday afternoon… cleaning the house… working out… entertaining guests.
10 minutes: Sort and retrieve. Quickly go through all the cases—whether or not they contain their CDs or DVDs—and sort them by category. Then gather all loose CDs and DVDs, and put them back in their cases. Return the cases to their storage shelves, separated by category. If you like, label the categories.
If your collection is large, you can spend five to 10 minutes at a time alphabetizing each section to make titles or artists easier to find. However, don’t bother alphabetizing unless the rest of your family values the convenience and will commit to replacing recordings in alphabetical order every time.
Source: Julie Morgenstern, internationally renowned organizing and time-management expert, consultant and speaker based in New York City. Her books include The New York Times best seller Organizing from the Inside Out (Holt), which was developed into a popular special for PBS. www.JulieMorgenstern.com