by Lauren Swanger, holistic health enthusiast and research journalist
Clutter. Clutter in your home. Clutter in your office. Clutter in your car. It’s all around you. It robs you of your space, takes away your energy, and drives you to the very brink of your sanity. It is insidious, diabolical, and controls your life, whether you want to admit it or not. It begins innocently enough, but before you know it, things are completely out of control. You look around and are absolutely at a loss as to how things got so bad so quickly. Thirty seven pairs of shoes? Another collectible toy that will never come out of its box? Six month old magazines and college text books? A jumbled mess of pens, string, screws, and dried out markers in your desk drawer? When did this madness begin, and how can you make it stop?!
Clutter makes us experts at avoiding the situation and creating excuses as to why we can’t get rid of certain things: it may be needed later, it’s got sentimental value, it will be worth money in 20 years, it’s one of a kind, blah, blah, blah. All of these reasons sound plausible on the surface, but they are all just innovative ways to avoid dealing with the issue. You’re intelligent; you know that not all of that stuff is irreplaceable or even important. Maybe the idea of having to delve into the mess paralyzes you with fear. You don’t know where to begin, so you don’t begin. You might decide to organize the clutter, but that doesn’t get you any further because you know deep down that clutter cannot be organized, it can only be gotten rid of. You know you must get rid of those things in your life that no longer serve you, bring you joy, or that bring you down and impact you negatively.
There is something very freeing about paring down the non-essentials in all of your living spaces. It will immediately reduce your stress level because you will not be worrying about where things are, or what you have to do next. You’ll be able to find things which will make you, and your life, much more efficient. An uncluttered area is always more attractive and inviting than a messy area and it will give you more room for working, playing, and relaxing.
Psychologically, eliminating clutter is difficult, but it is doable. Being attached to something in a sentimental way is understandable, but you can still part with that item and keep the memories it brought. Experts suggest taking photos of those things that you have collected or kept for years, but not used. You will still have the memories and a photo remembrance of it as well. Selling or donating your train set, or that collection of dolls will free up much needed space. Knowing that someone else is using these cherished items and enjoying them will create peace of mind. The value of these items will increase in your memory, yet will not sit unused or unloved.
There are several very simple steps to get you started on decluttering your living areas. The problem of clutter does not have to be solved in one sitting. In fact, it is probably much better if it is approached in small, constructive ways.
- Start with that messy junk drawer.
- Empty out its contents and decide what is essential.
- Throw away anything that is no longer useful, or is beyond repair.
- Items that don’t belong in the drawer should be set aside for another decluttering.
- When you are finished, congratulate yourself on a job well done.
- Continue on with another drawer if you are feeling motivated.
- Maybe even tackle a closet.
- Again, throw out those useless and broken items, while setting aside things that belong elsewhere.
In an example such as a bedroom, create four piles:
- one for things to keep,
- one for things to throw away,
- one for things to donate or sell, and
- one for things to keep that may need repair.
It is easy to become distracted here, but focus on one task at a time. Methodically go through your top drawer until you have emptied it of all nonessential items. Continue on until all drawers are done. Later, go through your closet using the same system. Remember, throw things away that haven’t been used in a year or more, if they don’t fit, aren’t comfortable, or if you don’t love them. And be honest with yourself here. You can plan to spend one hour a night doing these exercises, or a whole weekend. Either way, when you are finished, expect to feel very good about yourself and what you have accomplished.
Donate those items that are in good shape but no longer suit you or bring you joy. Contact your local consignment shops and charity organizations for a list of what they accept, and where your items may be dropped off. Aside from the tax write-off giving to charity can give you, the feeling that you have helped someone who is in need is priceless.
Remember that decluttering is an on-going process, but it can be virtually painless if you take it one step at a time and don’t allow yourself to become overwhelmed. Dedicate yourself to decluttering one area at a time, and one room at time. Remember that consistency is the key.