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The mental health benefits of being organized

Student Living by

The concept of organization often conjures up the image of pastel bullet journals, meticulous desks, and obnoxiously-healthy salads stacked neatly inside an immaculate refrigerator. But for the majority of McGill students, whose busy academic and social lives often take priority over everything else, this interpretation of organization as an art form can feel inconvenient and unsustainable.

However, staying organized can be simple. Small tasks, such as keeping a clean room, planning out meals, or making the bed in the morning, have far-reaching benefits. For McGill students especially, organization is crucial for keeping track of one’s responsibilities, even contributing to healthier eating, reduced stress, and improved relationships by creating more time to live a balanced life.

A 2011 Princeton University study further proved the benefits of organization by looking at the effects of decluttering a desk on the brain. When studying in a disorganized space, clutter competes with the task at hand, restricting one’s ability to focus. The simple act of clearing a workspace may prove beneficial when studying.

For many students, however, the issue is deeper than decluttering; it’s finding the time to stay organized given McGill’s academic demands. Cleaning out a closet with three midterms and two essays due the next week can feel like a waste of time and energy, and isn’t always possible. But even the smallest actions can have powerful effects on mental health, making them worth the effort in the long run.

Although students have their own self-care routines, organization can be a simple way to maintain a healthy headspace. To Darian Mavandad, U0 Arts, organization is bliss.  

“[Being organized] relaxes me,” Mavandad said. “Being able to come home and having a clear desk where I can put my things down and begin my work is the most important thing. I’m always at ease when my room is clean.”

Staying organized can also help to ease the anxiety that those who aren’t as organized may have. Traits such as lateness, unresponsiveness to texts or emails, and messiness are all stigmatized, which can create a fear of peer judgement in some.

This is true for Emma Orazietti, U0 Arts, who worries that qualities associated with disorganization affect how others—particularly employers and professors—view her.

“[Being disorganized] absolutely has a negative impact on people’s perception of me,” Orazietti said. “No one wants to be thought of as lazy and disorganized, but that’s how it looks to the outside world.”

For students who consistently find themselves disorganized, there are tools that can make tidying up feel like less of a chore and more like an act of self-care. Apps such as 24me, a virtual personal assistant, and Evernote, which can be used to take notes and sync to-do lists across different devices, can help students organize their lives and manage their time, reducing stress levels.

Of course, having a consistently-tidy desk and healthy meals lined up days in advance isn’t always possible. For some students, it’s just not realistic. But by starting with small actions, such as creating to-do lists, students can decrease their stress levels and spike their productivity in the long run.

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