After winter, we want to feel lighter, but are we still weighed down by layers of clutter in our home, yard, sheds, garages, basements and more? Clutter is the home issue that people who attend my seminars struggle with the most. Maybe clutter is simply a natural part of the human condition? Maybe not! The pervasive feelings around household clutter seem to be angst and guilt. We struggle with our clutter, and then we feel bad about our struggle. What is the answer?
Maybe we could just give up some of the angst. Recognize that clutter sometimes will come off in layers. It would be nice if it could all come off in a weekend cleanout in one giant purge, but because of human nature and real life, it often doesn’t work that way.
My college textbooks and paperwork are a perfect example of why clutter sometimes has to come off in layers. Since I had invested a lot of time and energy in studying, I initially felt the books and notes somehow represented who I was. I couldn’t purge this clutter at all years ago. It would have felt like throwing away my education! After a few years, however, I was able to toss the notes and textbooks for subjects that weren’t critical to my majors. Later, I recognized that I wouldn’t really go back to all the notes I’d taken, even in my professional field, so I recycled that box of paper too.
Finally, I realized the textbooks had become dated and it was time to let go of them too. Today all that remains are a few papers I wrote and kept because I got a kick out of them, and, I hang onto the illusion that my kids might get a kick out of them some day–as though they are going to have the time or interest to read Mom’s old papers (yeah, right).
I could beat myself up over the fact that it took me years to get rid of my college clutter, or I can accept it and get on with it. I learned that I simply needed to make it a habit to regularly address clutter, just like teeth brushing or laundry. I decided to drop the angst and guilt over the fact that I often can’t toss my clutter all at once. You can toss that clutter angst too!
Here are clutter-fighting techniques to peel back the clutter and reduce the negative thoughts:
Make it a habit to regularly "sweep" through a room, or even just a drawer. Cull out items that haven’t been used in a reasonable period of time. Keep in mind that our sense of time has a way of getting distorted. If I think I haven’t used that salad mold for a year or so, but that I might still use it again "someday," the reality probably is that I haven’t used it in over three years and that I won’t use it in the future either.
Pretend to move across the country. As I look at each item in a room, I ask myself if I would be willing to pack it up and move it across the country (this is my fantasy move to the location of my dreams). If I would not take it there, why would I let this item hang around here in my present day home?
Ask yourself what your grown children will do with an item you are reluctant to toss. What will they do when they find it in the bottom of closet someday? Will they know what it is? Will they know the family history behind this treasure? Will they recognize its value? If they will see no value in it, why hang onto it? If it has value, make sure your kids know the value (sentimental, historical, or financial) now.
Recognize evolution. Styles, colors, and technology constantly change for almost everything. Think about stereo equipment, deep entertainment centers for deep televisions, records, video cassettes, vacuum cleaners, microwavable dishes, and baby clothes, to name just a few. Ask yourself if the item you are clinging to will stand the test of time. If not, send it on its way now.
Schedule regular clutter clearing. It could be scheduled on your calendar on a weekly, monthly, quarterly, or semi-annual basis. Whatever works best for you!
It is okay for clutter to come off in layers, especially if we are willing to make it a habit to address our clutter regularly. People constantly change. That means that the stuff that is important to our daily life changes too. Our definition of clutter today isn’t the same as how we will define it tomorrow. Maybe clutter is kind of like an onion. We get to peel it off in layers.
Barbara Tako is a clutter clearing motivational speaker and author of Clutter Clearing Choices: Clear Clutter, Organize Your Home, & Reclaim Your Life (O Books, 2010), a seasonally organized book of clutter clearing tips that readers can pick and choose from to fit their personal style and needs. Sign up for her free monthly clutter clearing tips newsletter at http://www.clutterclearingchoices.com.
Barbara Tako is a clutter clearing motivational speaker and author of "Clutter Clearing Choices: Clear Clutter, Organize Your Home, & Reclaim Your Life" (O Books, 2010), a seasonally organized book of clutter clearing tips that readers can pick and choose from to fit their personal style and needs. Sign up for her free monthly clutter clearing tips newsletter at http://www.clutterclearingchoices.com.