Why are we polite to the store cashier but sometimes come home and snap at our spouse or children? Why do we clean harder for company than we clean for ourselves? Our society seems backwards, if you ask me. I propose that we could clean for our partners, children, and yes, even ourselves with more enthusiasm than we clean for acquaintances or strangers (we could even strive to be more pleasant to our home companions too).
Try a new approach as you weed out fall clutter in preparation for winter: Make your living spaces and storage spaces look like company is coming, but do it for you! You deserve to enjoy life in an easy-to-clean, uncluttered, organized home. Treat yourself and your family with the respect that many of us save for strangers: Create a home space that honors and supports you and your family. Get rid of the junk.
Look at your possessions through the eyes of a stranger—as though you are company coming to your house. Pretend to be a stranger when you peek into your closets, cupboards, and drawers. When I see my "precious" stuff through an outsider’s eyes, I see it for what much of it is—junk. Ouch. If a stranger would call it junk, then that is probably what it is.
Keep only what is still beautiful. Something that looked great two years ago may now look faded and worn. Or, maybe it has simply lost its attraction as we have moved on to other more interesting things. Sadly, many tired items continue to reside in our homes. We loved them once, but now the attraction has faded and we are off to other things. When your junk’s season has passed, it is time to send it on.
Keep only what is currently useful. If you aren’t using something, you are storing it. It clogs your space. Worrying and wondering about keeping it drains your energy. It steals time because you must take care of it, and it seizes you with the guilt of the alleged "I’ll get back to it someday." Because things accumulate and take up a lot of space, they prevent new stuff that would be more useful from entering your life. You don’t get to have the latest technology or take on a new hobby that interests you because your dwelling is already bulging at the seams. Get rid of things that were useful in the past to make room for what would be useful to you now. Be kind to yourself. Give yourself room to grow.
Keep only what is seriously sentimental. Seriously. The moments and the memories reside in you, not in your stuff. You are the one who had the experiences you associate with the stuff, and besides, your stuff can’t talk! Take a photo. Write in a journal about the memory. Keep a photo album or scrapbook to share your special memories with others. If you still "need" to save the sentimental item itself, maybe you could save just a piece of it. A button or a swatch of fabric is easier to save than the whole jacket. From a dated collection, choose two or three favorite pieces, and consider passing on the rest.
For you and your family
Finally, be thorough. Be thorough for yourself and your family. Clean out all the spaces you live in. Remember the car–you are in your car every day, which is more often than you open some drawers and closets. Make this a clean haven rather than a roaming junk-mobile. Clean the inside of the car. Wipe off the dust. Clean the insides of the windows. Have a trash container in the car, and keep a trash can near where you park your car, so that every time you get out of your car, you can take your litter with you and dispose of it. You wouldn’t want friends to climb in to a messy car seat, so why would you want to either?
Don’t forget your laundry area. Though it isn’t a company spot, you and your loved ones probably spend a lot of time there. Treat yourself by making it as pleasant as possible. Toss out odds and ends, mending that never got done, and laundry products that aren’t part of your current repertoire. Install shelves or cabinets above the washer and dryer to store what you need there, and create a clean flat area to fold there if you can. If you have wall space, put a corkboard or picture frame that holds a collage of family photos and happy memories to ponder while you do laundry!
After the laundry area, think about your garage. After all, you walk through this area every time you come home or leave. Who wants to be pulled down by the old junk that manages to breed in the garage? Donate the outgrown toys. Toss the unused lumber, and recycle those cardboard boxes.
As the days get shorter and the temperature drops, I try to do a fall clutter control sweep through all areas of our home. As we prepare to burrow in for winter, I want our nest to be as uncluttered and pleasant as possible. It sounds corny, but if you think about it, even animals don’t foul their own nests. Why would we?
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.
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