Clutter-Freeing Yourself from the Chaos
By Just Loves Books, published July 25, 2005
Recently, the Dr. Phil Show and Oprah each did a program on people whose homes are overflowing with clutter. Interesting topic, the producers thought. What they didn’t expect, however, was the flood of calls and e-mails saying, “That’s me. I live like that.” One reason for the surprise is that people who have a problem with clutter usually are ashamed and live behind closed doors, not letting anyone in to “see their mess.” Many times, they feel they are alone in battling the clutter and wonder if something is wrong with them. Clutter is defined as “anything in our lives we do not use or love.” Being a clutterer should not be confused with being a “hoarder”. Hoarding is a psychiatric condition that affects less than one percent of the population. A hoarder obsesses over things, feels fearful about their possessions, and may even have difficulty parting with the things in their trash bins. Cluttering, on the other hand, affect millions of people. People collect clutter without much thought, but could make the changes needed to conquer it themselves if motivated. Living in a cluttered environment is not just a problem affecting our physical environment. Clutter drains your energy, affects your efficiency, and adds to your stress. In most cases, being a clutterer means spending hard-earned money for things we do not need or want, except in the moment. It also means that we could be paying a mortgage for a 2000 square foot house, but because of our “stuff”, only be able to use a portion of it as space for daily living. Clutter affects our social lives, our self-esteem, and our happiness. It also makes cleaning much more time consuming. Clutter can also mean not being able to locate the things we need. Stephanie Roberts, author of Clutter Free Forever! states emphatically that “clutter is disempowering.” There are as many reasons for cluttering as there are people. However professionals agree that there are some common causes. Depression, anxiety, or the need to control can all be causes.
Christy Best, Professional Organizer and author of “Clutter-Depression Connection” believes that “possessions, like fat, insulate us from the outside world, building a wall of junk which we can hide behind. Our clutter becomes an insular mechanism for shielding ourselves from pain.” Mike Nelson, founder of Clutterless Recovery Groups believes that “clutter is more than a problem with our physical environment.” He further states that “clutter is about our emotions and psychology, not just organizing skills” and “changing our outside without changing our inside is a waste of time.” Clearing the clutter from our homes and offices is not a one-time event, but a daily practice. Professional organizers, however, do offer some suggestions:
Tens Ways to Free Yourself from Clutter
01 Get Motivated
Make a list of your top five life priorities. Then beside each one, list the ways that coping with clutter interferes with that priority. Do you want to advance in your career, but being able to not find what you need means you miss deadlines? If one of your priorities is spending more time with extended family, are you avoiding asking the parents over because you don’t want them to see your home? Take a good hard look at the way clutter is affecting you personally and professionally.
02 Give Yourself Time
Don’t expect to conquer your clutter problem overnight. Building clutter took time and clearing it will, too. Set a time limit each day to devote to de-cluttering. It’s much easier to think of spending an hour or two cleaning out one closet than to face spending the entire day on the whole house or office.
03 Use Small Blocks of Time
If you’re stuck on hold with your dentist’s receptionist, clean out the junk drawer in the kitchen while you’re waiting. Got fifteen minutes before you have to leave for an appointment? Sort through a file drawer. These small amounts of time that would ordinarily be wasted can be used to give you a feeling of accomplishment.
04 Label Three Boxes “Keep”, “Give Away”, and “Throw Away”
When sorting remember the definition of clutter, “things we don’t love or use.” If it’s not something you love and would be upset to part with, or something that has been used in the past year, out it goes. Even if you feel the item is “still good” and “could be useful”, if you’re not using it, pass it along to someone who will. Don’t get side-tracked if you come across your old high school yearbook or misplaced photo album. Stick with the task at hand.
05 Be Ruthless
Remember your goal to live a happier, more efficient life. Make a quick decision about each item and move on.
06 Remove Immediately
Once you’ve decided which items to throw away, bag them and take them to the trash can immediately. If you have items to be donated, take them or arrange pick-up as soon as you finish sorting. Procrastinating is not freeing you from the clutter.
07 Get Your Family Involved
If you live with other people, chances are they contributed to the clutter problem. Get them involved in the sorting/purging process.
08 Stop Buying
You can’t clear out the clutter if you’re constantly bringing more in. Avoid impulse buying. Ask yourself if the item is something you really need and will use. Also ask yourself where you plan to put the item once you bring it home. Many people find it useful to follow the “one in, one out” rule. If you buy new books, donate old ones to the library. If your child gets new toys for his birthday, donate old ones to charity.
09 Deal with Things in the Moment
Beginning now, put things away as soon as you finish using them. Sort through mail instead of piling it on the kitchen counter. If you finish eating take-out food, throw away all the boxes, napkins, and drink containers. Clear off your desk before leaving the office each day.
10 Ask for Help
If your clutter seems totally overwhelming to you, Professional Organizers are available. Check the yellow pages in your local telephone directory. Organizers usually charge by the hour, give free estimates, and can accomplish a great deal in a short amount of time. If you can’t afford to hire someone, enlist the help of a friend or family member to help. There are also online support groups if you need some extra motivation. Most people who clear the clutter from their lives are surprised at just how free they feel. Their lives are so much simpler and run more smoothly. By creating a peaceful, serene environment, most find they feel peaceful and serene. Anne Morrow Lindbergh, in her book Gift of the Sea, said “for the most part, we who could choose simplicity, choose complication.” Begin today to free yourself from the complication of clutter.