What is clutter? For the most part we think of clutter as things lying around in an untidy mess. Clutter accumulates over time. It slips into our homes when we are preoccupied with other things. A new job or baby starts taking up time we used to use maintaining our homes. We begin to have difficulty making decisions about “stuff”. At first it seems like our home is just a little messy but eventually it accumulates to the point where it becomes stressful.
Now that we are aware of the overwhelm of clutter throughout the home, how do we make it go away?
1. Know your why. There are many reasons clutter accumulates – overbuying, poor organizational skills, depression, or life events. But now that there is an awareness that the clutter is overwhelming, ask why this is bothering you now. Are you realizing that there is no place to relax in your home? Is the clutter in your office keeping you from getting your work accomplished or paying your bills on time? Has another family member started complaining? Knowing your why gives you motivation and direction on how to tackle the clutter.
2. Break down the decluttering project into small bites. Your why may well direct you to one area in your home. Your living room is important for realization and family time. Your office is important for your job and home communication. Your kitchen is important for health and good nutrition. Once you have decided what area to work in, break down the project into even smaller bites. If working in your office start with just the desktop or the floor around the desk. If working in the kitchen start with just the table or a countertop. By working in 10–15-minute bursts of time you can accomplish a lot. You see progress right away and that gives you motivation to continue.
3. Declutter the guilt. Clutter has accumulated for a reason. You are holding on to items that you have inherited or that were gifts but don’t have a place for or a need for in your home. You want to save the planet so you accumulate items that need recycling. You plan to get recycle as soon as you wash out those cans, cut up those plastic rings, sort the recycles, or figure out where to take them. Items have broken or torn, and it feels like they should be repaired rather than trashed. Magazines and papers have interesting material in them that you would love to read when you have the time. Yes, you don’t want to ruin the planet by adding to the landfill but it also not a good idea that your home becomes a landfill. Give yourself permission to toss all these items away this one time. Once your home is back under control, then be conscious of how you dispose of things going forward.
4. Close the loop. Once you have decided where the clutter goes, get it there. If you are taking extra kitchen ware to Fur Kids, schedule the drop off date and follow through. If you are taking glass bottles to the Farmers Market to recycle, schedule the date and do it. If you have a box of items that friends or family want, schedule a time to visit and gift the items.
5. Good enough is good enough. You only have so much time and energy. At the end of the day or after going through a couple of 10-minute decluttering sessions, congratulate yourself on what you have accomplished. It is probably not perfect, but it is much better than it was. There is always another day or time to go back and do more.
Once you are aware that clutter is interfering with your life, set up a plan that works for you. It’s OK to start small. It’s OK to ask for help. Just set a date on your calendar and work toward being clutter-free!
If you want help or just some accountability in getting rid of your clutter or working any organizational plan either outside or inside your home, join Diane Quintana and me on our Clear Space For You clutter support group.
Jonda S. Beattie, Professional Organizer owner of Time Space Organization, and co-owner of Release, Repurpose, Reorganize. She is based in the Metro-Atlanta area. As presenter, award-winning author, as well as a retired special education teacher she uses her listening skills, problem solving skills, knowledge of different learning techniques, ADHD specialty, and paper management skills to help clients tackle the toughest organizational issues. Jonda does hands on organizing and virtual organizing. For more of Jonda’s tips connect with her on Facebook.