Personal Productivity

The No Mess No Stress Equation

wrote this on July 10, 2013
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By just looking at the amount of things you own, the way you organize them, and how you treat them after you finish using them, I’ll be able to get a good idea of how much stress you’re under..  Impressed?

You see, there’s a direct correlation between the amount of things you own, how you organize them and your level of stress.

The more you own the more you stress.  The more you organize the things you own, the less mental availability and focus you have left to do other things.  It’s a simple, albeit not obvious, equation.  Most people err to think that organization reduces stress; it does, but only to a point.

So why do we own so much? You can say that the answer lies in our past…

  • Some might say that it’s a part of a more primitive mechanism, urging us to collect things and hoard supplies for the hard times ahead of us. Much like a dog buries a bone in the back yard.
  • Others do so because they did not have these items while growing up and acquiring them/ collecting them provides a sense of comfort and security.
  • Some things we keep because we feel guilty.  We feel guilty we bought those expensive pants and never wore them; we feel guilty we bought that self help book and never read it.

The stuff we own gives us such a guilt trip that it blinds us to a simple fact: we don’t need all those things and it’s probably best we throw them away.

But for some reason, throwing away something you own is extremely hard…Right!

reduce mess reduce stress


A recent study conducted by Yale University School of Medicine found that we’re going to keep an average 10 items out of 50 acquired or otherwise possessed objects, which in the long run can translate to a lot of unnecessary clutter laying around.

This doesn’t include only physical clutter. This also includes software, apps, unfinished pending projects, drafts, etc. The longer the item stays in our possession, the more we get attached to it and ultimately, the more “painful” it gets to throw it away.

In Yale study, researchers were able to identify why the act of letting go of items is so painful to us that we’ll fight tooth and nail to avoid it.  Apparently, when we let go of an items we grew attached to, the same parts of the brain which are responsible for us feeling physical pain – the anterior cingulate cortex (where physical pain is registered) and the insular cortex (where the sensation of pain is judged as to its degree) light up.

Our brain is extremely territorial and guards everything we own; any change to the status quo and we associate feelings of pain.

That’s how we find ourselves with countless items we don’t need which distract us by competing for our attention. We have a limited amount of attention and we need to manage it wisely.

The no Mess no stress eequation on IQTELL

Reduced mess = reduced stress

1# Adapt a minimalistic approach to owning things and life in general, you’ll be much happier.

2# Learn to let go of the things you own even if it pains you, you’ll feel lighter.

3# Adapt a one tool to rule them all approach to organizing and managing your work and tools.

Stay Zen, until next time.

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2 responses to “The No Mess No Stress Equation”

  1. Daniel G Taylor says:

    Haim, you’ve done it again – thank you. In 2011 and 2012 I cared for my Grandma who has dementia. My projects got pushed to one side to give her the care she needed. Now that she’s moved into a nursing home, the task has fallen to my partner and myself to declutter and organise her house. She’s hoarded for 50 years in a two-storey four-bedroom house with a 60 foot (about 20 metre) garage. She stopped cleaning in the 1990s. Nothing has taught me the minimalist ethic more than taking on the task of sorting out what a hoarder has left behind.

    • Team IQTELL says:

      I hear you, minimalism is a lesson we learn the hard way.

      I think that hoarding is hard coded to our behavior due to our upbringing, people in the 40’s – 50’s were hoarders (I think it’s due to post war trauma) and they were the one’s to educate us.

      Breaking a bad habit requires a wake up call and you definitely got one :)

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