Understanding our clutter helps us manage it easier
Is your clutter holding you back and stopping you from succeeding? Why do we have such problems with organization these days? Why do we hoard or collect things?
The world is so much more complex than just a generation ago. I read somewhere that we make more decisions in a day than our great grandparents made in a lifetime.
Can you imagine having to make a decision about which fabric you will purchase to make a dress that’s you’re going to wear for the next 5-10 years and that that dress will be one you wear a few days a week?
That was reality for many of the pioneers that settled in North America over 100 years ago.
Our lives today are soooo different. What with emails, requests, social media, news….there is so much that requires our attention these days – Information overload is very real. It’s easy to get overwhelmed.
Think about the number of emails we get in a day; the amount of decisions we make in the grocery store. White bread, brown bread, wholewheat, honey and oats, rye, cracked wheat, etc… all decisions we make daily. Aren’t we lucky to have such choice – but at what cost to our peace of mind?
So if we are making all these little decisions each day, and our attention is being pulled from place to place it’s easy to realize how when we come home we don’t want to have to make as many decisions or deal with lots of stuff to manage.
I think that’s the reason so many people buy too much stuff and often end up purchasing a “double” because they can’t find the original, time is valuable, and it’s sometimes just easier and faster to buy another one. Is that one of your reasons?
We’re on the move again!
We are also so much more mobile that we were a generation or two ago. I’ve moved a number of times in my adult life. Confession time here: Yes, I have slugged my stuff (doesn’t that sound terrible!) from one continent to another, and then from one side of the country to another, and then back again.
Down-sizing did happen each time but I still brought a lot of furniture, books, fabric, paperwork, dishes and collectibles with me. My excuse? There was money and time and emotion invested in these acquisitions and it would have cost me more to re-purchase them than to move them. I thought long and hard about what to take.
Yes, I did donate a lot before I left and, between you and me, I don’t miss what I donated. Does this sound familiar – are there some things that no longer work for you in your life? How can you get rid of the clutter that holds you back and stops you from enjoying your life?
Why do we save things?
If I could sum it up in one word why we save things I would use the word “Emotion”. Now emotion can cover a lot of ground.
Sometimes we have things because we wanted to “buy”. Sometimes it’s because we see something on sale and we think about the good feeling we will have “saving” money.
Emotion and money are so closely tied and frankly someone could write a book about that – oh, ok, it’s been done!
I’ve written more about the emotional reasons we hang on to items here.
Dig deep to uncover your reasons for saving things
Maybe we hankered after something as a child and were told that we couldn’t afford that – it now becomes the item we “collect”. Maybe we collect too much….that’s because there is emotion (no, you can’t have that – we can’t afford it – lack – leading to feelings of inadequacy)
If you find yourself buying more and more stuff you might want to think about the reasons why – really dig down, maybe talk to someone about it. It just might transform your life. Just remember- it all comes down to emotion.
Can you let your clutter go?
One of my friends moved her entire family from Holland to the US, taking 4 suitcases with them. She had such a clear vision of what she wanted her new life to be and the clutter (life stuff) that she had was going to not only hold her back from succeeding – it was going to bog down her whole vision for a fresh start.
It looked so easy – I envied her the ability to sell all her furniture, give away precious items, and start fresh.
I haven’t been able to do that. And, I’m fortunate enough that I haven’t had to. You don’t have to be so drastic but there are always areas in our lives where we have too much. What can you weed out?
Life changes= clutter
Maybe your family has grown quickly and some of the items you’ve kept no longer suit your current situation. It’s a valid excuse and maybe thinking about that will help you forgive yourself for your clutter and help you find a path back to a more organized space.
Down-sizing is tough. That’s where visualizing your perfect space is so useful. Once you have an image of how you want to live and how you want your space to look like and function you are able to let go of the clutter that is holding you back.
Emotion and clutter
I’ve been reading a lot about the emotional reasons of why we hold onto items. This need to keep and accumulate may be deeply rooted in your childhood. Once you have examined the reasons why you need “more” you can eliminate things. Emotion is probably the key reason clutter stops people from succeeding and holds them back. I’ve written a few other posts about that as well as it’s such a key reason for remaining stuck.
Do you love what you have?
William Morris, one of the founders of the Arts and Crafts movement is famously re-quoted as saying “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” That’s a great sentiment but how can we incorporate that into our lives?
I believe that starts when you think about how you want your house to look like.
Your perfect space
Before you do anything else, take the time and close your eyes and think about how you want the space to look like when you are finished. If you are doing this with someone else talk about your vision. It will make it clearer and more real.
Take a look at the post I wrote about creating your perfect lifestyle. It’s got a good questionnaire to help you think about how you want to live in your home. You can find it here.
Ok, so you’ve got a vision of what you want to achieve. Let’s get to work!
Base rules for removing clutter:
If you buy something new, give or throw away the old. This is such a good piece of advice, sometimes difficult to implement completely as there are always exceptions. That old pair of trousers that are so comfortable – I don’t want to throw them away but…oh, new painting trousers! Works for me!
Start with one room. Try not to tackle multiple rooms at once, you’ll get distracted. If you find an item that should be in another room put it in a pile just outside that room. You can take it to the proper room when you are finished.
I like to have a pile of items for giving away and another pile for garbage. My pile for giving away is usually bigger than my garbage pile but that will depend on which room you are working in.
Organizing like with like
Give everything a home or a proper place for things – it’s a good idea to store like with like (batteries, camping supplies, photos). For example, keep all stationary in one place. Stationary tends to drift throughout a house, somehow accumulating.
Out of sight, out of mind
When I work with clients I suggest that we move items straight into the trunk of my car. Items are then either dropped off at the dump or a charity organization. For my client’s it’s out of sight and gone quickly and easily – the decision has been made. One quick stop and there goes the clutter that holds you back. Oh wow, it can be that easy!
Use your lovely things!
It’s so easy to have collections of pretty soaps, toiletries, gift wrapping supplies, crafting supplies, etc. Use your beautiful things – don’t store them – use them! If you’re not going to use them – give them to someone who will enjoy and use them.
Paper is a huge issue for most people. It’s one of the areas I struggle with the most. This is probably the one area where clutter is holding me back and sometimes stops me dead in my tracks. Is that true for you as well?
We are bombarded with information and it’s challenging to keep up with knowing what to keep, how to store it, and why we should store it. It’s such a big issue that I’ve written about it here in a separate post.
“A place for everything and everything in it’s place”
This is something my mother said constantly as we were growing up. She puts things away in the same place every time it’s no longer in use so she always knows where it is. If it’s moved, oh boy!
Deal with items straight away! Edit continuously!
My mother is adamant about doing something right away. Sometimes the “things” aren’t things – sometimes they are decisions.
But…I like to think about the decisions I’m making. Maybe there’s a decision I just want to mull over, and ensure that I really am happy about it before committing to it. Everyone has their own way of dealing with things and you do what is right for you. The trick to thinking things over is not over-analyzing which can be paralyzing.
- Have a vision for your completed space
- Forgive yourself for becoming disorganized
- Make a home for everything you want to keep, putting like with like and everything in it’s place
- Edit away until you reach your perfect space.
- You don’t have to give it all away to be happy. Just be happy with what you’re keeping.