When I give talks on Organizational Zen and ask attendees why they’re there, the #1 thing I hear is that they have clutter problems. Yes, nearly everyone you know has a clutter problem! Just knowing that kind of helps, doesn’t it? 🙂
But here’s the thing. In class, I save my thoughts and tips about decluttering for last. Why? It’s not that I’m being mean. It’s just that decluttering to me is a symptom of so many other things and my wish is that at the end of our time together, folks will realize that simply tidying up isn’t going to solve their problem.
What will? Figuring out how to nip clutter in the bud. Or deciding that clutter is not actually that big of a deal. And let’s start with that.
Before you berate yourself for not jumping in on an ongoing clutter problem, think about how important this is to you. Do you have an issue with clutter? Or do you think others have an issue with your clutter? If having stuff out doesn’t bug you, then I say let it be. An unmade bed and stuff on the table makes me a little nuts, but if it doesn’t matter to you, just enjoy your house the way it is. It’s your house!
Decluttering takes motivation. Knowing why you want to do something and then being present and really focusing on the task helps you breathe into it. So: If clutter is an issue, tackle it and you’ll feel better. If being messy is okay, then please stop thinking about tidying up and carry on with your other good work 🙂
Along with motivation, you need time to declutter. Knowing and accepting your current time limits helps you figure out if you have time to declutter, and when. If you have a lot going on in your life, then you shouldn’t feel bad that you have boxes in the basement that could be sorted. Those boxes will still be there when your other, higher priority stuff is done.
Of course, if decluttering is your #1 priority, then make time for it. Look at your calendar and figure out when you have a chunk of time to get started. You don’t have to complete the task if it’s big – like cleaning out a basement, garage, or attic. Just divide the space into smaller parts and tackle each one separately with its own separate time block. The bigger the task, the scarier it is, and the harder it is to get going. When you take on a small clutter project and succeed, you’ll feel great that you’re making progress and will have something fun to celebrate. And when you see the great results, you’ll be motivated to tackle the next segment. Yay!
Breaking a habit
If you have a constant clutter problem, then you have a constant clutter habit that you’ll need to break. Otherwise, you can clean up all you want, but if you go right back to leaving stuff on the table when you get home from work. Or not hanging up clothes after you take them off – or wherever your clutter issue is – you’ll be right back where you started within days. If you want the decluttered area to stay tidy, you have to change the habits that got you there in the first place.
Watch yourself for a week. What are you doing that is adding to your clutter problem? Then figure out what you can do to replace that habit. Usually, acknowledging what the issue is helps you begin to make a change and start a new habit.
Taking care of yourself
A key piece of Organizational Zen is understanding that if you aren’t feeling healthy, you probably aren’t feeling organized. If healthy eating and exercise aren’t a priority, then adding decluttering to your list is most likely not going to be successful. Tidying up takes energy and focus. If you’re lacking those, start there. THEN declutter.
Let me know if you have any questions or if I can help you. I’d love a new closet to organize 🙂
I’ll leave you today on an uncluttered path on a foggy Maine morning.
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