How To Get Organized When You Are Overwhelmed

Whether you’re a student trying to keep up with school and work a part-time job or someone with a job, family, and other obligations, the organization of life can fall by the wayside. Often, we don’t realize how unorganized we are until we come across a super-organized friend or coworker who makes you wonder how they do it.

For those dealing with any underlying mental health conditions like anxiety or depression, life can feel like we’re wading through quicksand. Tackling organization while dealing with symptoms of mental health issues can feel insurmountable.

Even without any conditions, most people work the majority of the week, raise their families, and try to cram the rest into nights and weekends. It’s honestly enough to cause most people to feel like they’re not successful in at least some areas of their lives.

So, what’s the solution? Getting organized! A lot of people are currently floating by just thinking about what they need to do to make it through the next hour. That may be part of the reason why you feel overwhelmed since there’s no end in sight.

If you’re like most folks who know what they want to get organized, but it’s just another thing to add to your mile-long task list, this guide is for you. We’ll help you get through the thick of it and come out on the other side feeling renewed and ready to walk into any situation with relaxed shoulders and revitalized energy, such as:

  • The benefits of organization
  • Adopting the right attitude
  • Changing your frame of mind
  • A quick look at personal development
  • Breaking organization down into actionable steps

Once you get organized, you’ll be wondering why you hadn’t had this revelation ages ago!

What Are The Benefits of Getting Organized?

There are times in our lives where we feel so busy that we simply can’t get everything that needs doing, done. For some of us, the more we have to do, and the more overwhelmed we feel, the more likely we are to do nothing since it feels like either way, we’re not succeeding.

While it’s an entirely valid way to feel, it’s all part of being in the wrong mindset, which we’ll discuss a little later. For now, let’s talk about some of the benefits you’ll reap when start getting organized.


Gone will be the days when you feel like a chicken running around with your head cut off. Once you get organized, you’ll have better concentration and feel like you; you know what you want to achieve. Your new center will allow you to be a better decision-maker and envision where you’re at now and where you want to be in the future.


You’ll find that you become more productive at home and work when you jump on the organization train. Because everything has a time and place that you prepare for, you’ll be getting a lot more done in a shorter amount of time.

Rather than feeling like you’re doing more, you’ll be reducing the amount of time and energy you waste, meaning you’ll feel like you’re doing less while achieving twice as much.

Time Management Skills

If you’re like me, it’s possible that you’ve mocked a person or two under your breathe when you asked for help, and they suggested you work on time management. OK, maybe you’re not that passive-aggressive but still.

Hearing that our inability to get things done is our fault can be a hard pill to swallow. Rather than casting the idea off forever, jump in and take advantage of the advice. Once you organize your life and prioritize tasks, you’ll be the king (or queen) of time management.

Lower Stress Levels

Read this one like it’s shining in gold and making that “entering heaven” noise you hear in movies. Because that’s how you’re going to feel when you find, in time, that you’re seriously achieving everything you want, feeling much less burdened, and find that your stress levels have gone way down.

Getting organized isn’t about finding more time; time is finite; you only have the same 24 hours in a day that everyone else has. However, you can create a day that works for you and gets the most important things done quickly, creating “more” time for the rest.

Work-Life Balance

There was a time that I would have said, “Work-life balance, what’s that?” That’s because when we’re not productive at work, we work longer hours to get things done. Bringing work home with you, whether in the form of actual tasks you’re doing at home or the weight of what’s on our shoulders for the next day, it cuts into the time we spend at home.

We have less quality time spent with those we love at home, less time spent accomplishing home tasks like dinner, laundry, and grocery shopping. But, it doesn’t have to be that way.

Adding the right structure into your day will help you create the work-life balance you deserve.


Setting and achieving goals will become a habit worthy of addition. Being efficient and organized will allow you to visualize the things you want to do, make a plan, and achieve your goals. Your personal life and your work life will become more gratifying with each of your wins.

The sense of accomplishment will help fuel you, even on the days when you’re feeling bogged down.


As you add structure into your days, you’ll come to realize that doing so allows you to become more creative and flexible. Before, there were probably times when things happened to you, and you just had to deal with them, pushing everything out further and making you feel like you’re just putting fire after fire out.

As you become organized, tasks are more like tiles you have laid out. When a new one pops up, rather than throw you for a loop and ruining your day, you find an appropriate place to put it or switch some things around. You’ll already know where you have some leeway, and making things work is no longer overwhelming.

Increased Energy

Wading through your day with the same disorganization day in and day out is exhausting. With organization comes clarity, which will provide you with a new sense of enthusiasm and energy to help you get through your days a little brighter.

A Life Free From Chaos

Organization is a tool that people use to lead lives free from chaos. Everyone experiences disorder from time to time. However, when you’re organized, you can find a path through even the most chaotic moments, and that’s what makes organization so invaluable.

Remember, organization is a choice. All of those people who seem to have it all together didn’t get handed a perfect life on a silver platter. They have responsibilities and tons of things to do just like you. But they worked hard to fit all the pieces of their day together so that they could glide through it gracefully, and you can do that too.

Adopt The Right Attitude

If you’ve never heard the saying, “Your problem isn’t your problem, your problem is your attitude about the problem,” I want you to take some time to think about what that means. My best friend and I have a shortcut we use when texting since we’re both busy moms with work, kids, and school schedules to manage.

A quick, “I’m spiraling,” text lets the other know that whatever’s going on, needs a perception change, stat. Rather than offering advice about the problem or trying to solve it, we know that what the other person needs right now are a new perspective and an attitude adjustment.

Having the other say something that sheds new light on the issue is usually enough for us to feel like whatever it is, is entirely achievable rather than overwhelming like we thought it was.

Hans Selye, the scientist responsible for the stress theory (theory about stress concerning disease), said, “Adopting the right attitude can convert a negative stress into a positive one.”

If you’re ready to adopt the right attitude and move forward with your life, keep on reading.

Get In The Right Frame of Mind First

If you feel like organization is all or nothing, you’re not in the right frame of mind. Remember that achieving something like an organized life is not something that happens overnight.

Have you ever spent a weekend feeling down and decided that you were going to jump straight into a diet on Monday? You paired that up with a 5-day per week exercise regimen too. And, you did it for a week or two, maybe less. In the end, you weren’t successful.

That’s because significant life changes like that aren’t sustainable, do some people go all in and succeed, sure. But, is it the best course of action for the majority, no. When you’re ready to get organized, understand that it’s a process. You’re going to adopt a growth mindset and realize that each day is one step forward in the process, and in time, you’re going to achieve all that you want.

Consider Your Why

Part of the process of becoming better at anything, organization included, is knowing your “why.” Corey Poirier, the multiple-time TEDx Speaker, wrote an article for Forbes Magazine, which you can find here if you’re interested in diving into what makes your “why” so important.

Here’s a quick synopsis: Finding your purpose may not be immediate, and it may take some time. If you’re surviving by floating from day to day now, it’s going to take some action to get you to plan your days for success. It’s not impossible, though.

It can be helpful to sit down and consider the benefits of becoming organized that we talked about earlier. Feel free to write down your purpose and your why in a notebook that you can flip back to in times of need.

There will be times like after you’ve been sick, had a bomb dropped on you at work, or coming back from vacation when you just can’t muster the motivation to get back into your groove. That’s when you’ll need to think about your why and jump back into it most. Here’s an example of what I come up with when I follow the same prompt.

  • Being organized allows me to plan chunks of my day where I turn off my mental to-do lists, stay away from my work and personal phones, and spend quality, uninterrupted time with my kids.
  • Being organized helps me feel successful even when there are things that seem like they need doing because there’s a plan for them.
  • Maintaining my organization allows me to feel confident in myself, which has helped me further my career aspirations while not feeling like I’m sacrificing in my home life.

Here’s a small example of how your why might play out in your real-world situation with that attitude adjustment we talked about earlier. Let’s talk about laundry, which just might be the world’s collectively least favorite chore to do.

For some reason, being perpetually behind on laundry is something that plagues tons of people. I mean it, ask all your friends about their laundry situation and then laugh at the commonality!

I used to feel the same way; it seemed like no matter how often I was doing laundry, there was also more of it to do in some state of washing, drying, folding, or putting away. I always felt like I could not be successful at the simple task of laundry, and it made me feel bad.

Now that I have a why and a plan, I don’t even think about laundry. I do the laundry at my house every Wednesday and Sunday. Wednesday, one load of absolute must-haves gets washed, dried, and put away all in one go. The rest gets done on Sunday. With my plan, I’m never behind. I never feel like it’s not complete because it doesn’t need to be till those days.

It was a little hard to master the art of actually completing the task down to putting it all away, but now that it’s a habit, it takes no time at all, and it’s never even a thought that crosses my mind.

The small habit of having a laundry plan has relieved me of considerable stress and anxiety about something that does matter since we all need clothes to wear, but that shouldn’t be taking up any of our mental energy.

So, sit down, grab a pen and paper or your laptop, and write out a few of the reasons why you want to become organized and how doing so will bring peace and reduced stress to your life.

Consider Personal Development

Personal development is essentially the investment you make into yourself to become an effective manager of yourself. Does that make sense? It’s like committing to becoming a better person by getting out into the world and making things happen for yourself rather than waiting for them to happen to you.

We won’t dive too much into personal development since there are tons of resources on the topic already. But, here’s a quick list of places to start, in case you’re interested.

  • Reddit is an excellent place to start, try the sub-Reddits of self-improvement, productivity, or getting motivated.
  • Udemy is an e-learning website that will teach you how to do or learn just about anything you can think of it. It’s an excellent source for anyone looking for personal development.
  • If you’re not listening to TEDx Talks, you’re missing out, give it a try here.
  • If you have access to iTunes and you’re into using apps, you might like The Habit Factor, which will help you track goals and progress.

The many benefits of personal development are similar to those of being organized. But, most importantly, personal growth can help you build the confidence you need to achieve your goals and stay on track.

Put Other Things On Hold

Earlier, we talked about not having the all or nothing attitude. Getting a hold of your life and becoming organized will take some time and a little bit of elbow grease. On that same note, that means it’s OK and probably even encouraged that you put some things on hold. If you want to get your entire house organized and have a garage sale, there’s no need to rush it.

Focus on getting each piece of your house just the way you want it while designating an area of your garage to store and collecting things for your garage sale. By waiting until the time is right, you’ll have collected items from all over your home that you know you’re through with, and you won’t have a haphazard garage sale this weekend with tons of extra things strewn about your house.

If your issue is that you feel like you consistently bring work home with you and neglecting household tasks, start by organizing your workday and achieving some goals there before you start messing with your home-life organization. You’ll get there in time, but for now, a little bit of focus on your primary goal of not bringing work home will accelerate your progress.

The Best Way to Break Organization Down into Actionable Steps

If you’re someone who needs to see know how everything is going to play out before starting something, then feel free to make lists and plans on plans. Whatever you need to do to make yourself feel like everything you want is attainable, do it.

For most of us, rather than feeling burdened that so many changes have to happen for us to become successfully organized, it’s easier just to have smaller steps to take in the right direction.

You can start small and start rolling with the snowball effect. Remember my laundry example from earlier? I was doing some form of laundry seven days a week, but now I only do it two days a week. That means I just created extra time in my day on five out of the seven days of the week.

It’s the perfect example of the snowball effect. Now, I have anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes extra on those five days to do something else, and so the snowball begins to gain momentum. Think about a small task that you can work on that will help you gain traction in your day to day routine and start there. The rest will follow in time.

Take It One Step At A Time

Don’t get consumed with how far left you have to go. Instead of thinking about all of the things you have left to do, all the things that are coming up, just think about the goals you set for today and accomplish them. Remember that each day that you make progress is a success.

Start With A List

Now that you’ve had some priming on raising your mindset to set yourself up for successfully tackling the organization of your life, it’s time to make a list or two. Some people like to have separate lists for separate areas of their life. Here are some examples of checklists you might want to think about, or you can just make one big compilation, whatever works for you.

  • Organizing at work to become more productive
  • Organizing your house to reduce the stress you feel there
  • Organizing your personal life – chores, tasks, appointments, kid schedules, etc.

You know which parts of your life could use some tuning, don’t be afraid to be honest with yourself.


Once you’ve written down all of the areas of organization you want to tackle, it’s time to narrow down the list, get specific, and prioritize. Use a highlighter, number your tasks, or re-write your list in a way that suits your priorities.

As a pro-tip, one of the first things you may want to do is carve out a small block of time for yourself. For thinking, for being unbothered, and for clarity. If you’re a morning person, let everyone in your house know that you’re taking your me-break (10 to 15 minutes ought to do it) and not to talk to you or ask you for things before the morning hustle and bustle begins.

If you’re a night person, don’t be afraid to say the same thing and send everyone out to play, watch tv, or off to shower so that you can take your me-break.

Do whatever helps you feel relaxed during this time. Have coffee, a cup of tea, or take 15 extra minutes in the shower to think. Don’t feel guilty for sending your spouse or kids away or ignoring your BFF’s call, either. In time, your new organized lifestyle will allow you to give that time back to other places, but for now, you have to build the habit of creating time and space in your life.

In my house, I get out of bed when my little ones are still sleeping. I grab a book from my nightstand and head to the kitchen to brew coffee. You guys, I’m a little nutty, and I want to be at the coffee pot as soon as the coffee is ready, so I just crack my book open at the counter and read a few pages while the coffee brews. I soak up every minute of my me-break.

Then I make my cup and sit down to flip through my planner and see what my day looks like, check the weather, and maybe read a few more pages. Even when my planner looks crazy for the day, I start the day feeling relaxed and unrushed, and it carries me through the day in a stress-free mood.

For you night owls, you can get the same benefits from a nightly me-break that lets you unwind for the day and head to bed without any stress!

Set Some Goals

Now that you’ve got a list and some priorities. It’s time to start setting some small goals for yourself. Implement a daily goal, a few things you want to accomplish by the end of the week, and maybe something you want to achieve by the end of the month. The goals can be related or completely separate.

Here’s an example of some goals for work organization, just tailor it to your tasks.

  • Daily Goal – Spend 10 minutes at the end of each day, uploading any completed documents into the computer system, and put all paperwork into their soft files to avoid a stack of completed paperwork on my desk.
  • Weekly Goal – Pull 2-3 files and hole punch everything from the soft file and put it in the correct section, spend 30 to 45 minutes on this each Friday.
  • Monthly Goal – Make sure all files are up to date and ready for any upcoming supervisory reviews.

Here you can see the flow of how my 10-minute daily goal helps me prepare for my monthly audit with my boss. My files are in order, all the tasks are complete for my data, and I can quickly answer any questions about my cases since I took a few minutes each day and week keeping things in order.

Wrapping Things Up

What you may have noticed about this guide is that it didn’t tell you to put things away as you use them to get organized. It also didn’t say you should run out and buy a bunch of containers to hold your junk. You can certainly do that if that’s what helps you. But, the reality is that becoming an organized person is a mindset shift.

Once you work your way through this guide and develop a plan for yourself, organizations will come to you, rather than you chasing it like an elusive rabbit down a hole. When you feel like you’ve hit peak levels of organization, you’ll find it’s relatively easy to maintain for the long haul.

Good luck on your quest to become organized!

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