Clear Space, Clear Mind: Expert Tips on Clearing the Clutter

By Bonnie Joy Dewkett

“Simplify, Simplify, Simplify” –Henry David Thoreau

So much of our identity is tied to our material possessions; our homes, our clothes, our cars and our gadgets.  We identify ourselves through these items instead of through our actions. We end up spending so much time and money caring for our items, storing them, maintaining them, that we sometimes don’t have time to do the things we love anymore.

For example, many people have camping equipment in the garage because they love going camping.  However, they have such a large home that they simply can’t get away from caring for it on the weekends in order to maintain their large home.  Their time is spent caring for their stuff, instead of for themselves.

It’s often said that life is about beginnings and partings.  The first is in our relationships.  From the first moment we come into the world, our arrival is celebrated.  And from there on we are faced with meetings and partings and the joy and sorrow of each.  However, our relationship with material goods begins at the same time.  When a new baby is born, how do we celebrate?  We buy them and the new parents stuff.  When someone passes, we often bring the family stuff to help ease their sorrow.  Our journey through life is marked by the accumulation of stuff.  Breaking this cycle is difficult.  However, the first step in doing so is to recognize it and learn to celebrate in other ways.  By celebrating in other ways, we are giving a true recognition to the event itself, the people involved and their importance to us.

When you first stop and think about your stuff (clothes, shoes, electronic devices, just for starters), it all seems very meaningful to you. You simply can’t imagine parting with all the things you have.

Try this.  

Visualize your life without the excess stuff.  Would you be able to make it out of the house more quickly and with less stress in the morning?  Would your kids have more room to play?  If you weren’t always looking for things you can’t find, would you be able to play with your kids in the yard?  If your garage were clean,  would you be able to pull the car inside and better care for it?  If you had more time in your day, could you squeeze in a workout?  What if the only clothes in your closet were clothes you actually wear and feel good in?

Your stuff doesn’t care about you. It’s a cold, harsh reality that your stuff takes up space in your home and life but doesn’t pay you rent. We spend time cleaning and caring for all of our items instead of taking care of our health, and we even sometimes avoiding having people over to our homes because we feel the clutter is too embarrassing.

We all deserve to live better, more fulfilling lives that are filled with relationships instead of stuff.  The time to start living a simpler life is now.  Today.  I know what your next question is.

How do I start?

Here are 10 helpful tips to help you de-clutter and organize your home.  You can start today!

1.     Start by writing down your organizing goals.  Don’t start with “organize the garage.”  Start with WHY you want to get organized.  For example, “I want to organize my family room, so that I have more time with my kids” or, “I want to organize my closet, so that I have a less stressful morning routine.”

2.     Next, write down the space you want to organize.  From there, identify the smaller steps you will need to take to do so.  This will make the overall project less daunting, and will create a great “to-do” list.  For example, in a garage, you may write down the following:

a.     Clean out gardening supplies

b.     Sort through tools

c.     Hang bikes on wall

d.     Throw away or recycle any non-working items

3.     Don’t run out and purchase organizing supplies before you have begun your projects.  Instead wait to see what you need, measure, and then head out. While you don’t want to spend a ton of money on these supplies, make them pleasing to you so that you enjoy them, and most importantly will use them.

4.     After you have identified the steps, you should then schedule the time on your calendar to get these tasks done.  Writing it down, and making a date to complete the tasks, increases the chances you will stick to your goals.  After all, you make other appointments, like getting your hair done, and don’t miss that, right?

5.     Think about how you unload your dishwasher.  You take the clean items out of the dishwasher and put them where they belong… glasses with glasses, plates with plates, etc.  It’s a quick and easy process because everything has a home.  If you treat your home the same way, getting organized is a snap.

6.     As you progress through your organizing project, reward yourself accordingly.  If you accomplished a big goal get a manicure, or go to a movie.  Do something that is rewarding, but won’t bring new clutter into the home.  This will keep the momentum going.

7.     Tell all of your friends and family you are planning on getting organized.  This will also help motivate you.  Many times they will ask you about how you are doing, and you don’t want to disappoint them, right?  And, organization is catchy!  Offer to trade time with them, such as offering to baby-sit their kids, in exchange for their help.  Or, help each other with similar projects at each other’s homes.

8.     Clutter around your home is a result of delaying action on an item.  Instead of putting something away, you decide to do it later. Change your mindset!  Try this: If it takes less than two minutes to put something away or finish a task, do it right away.  It will take you longer to readdress the issue later on.

9.     The Ten Minute Tidy– Set aside ten minutes a day for all family members to put items away.  If you have five people in your family, and everyone participates for ten minutes, that’s almost an hour’s worth of clean up time going on in your home every day!

10.  Plan your week ahead on the weekend.  Make sure you have clean clothing, your kids are prepared for school activities, and you have groceries for the week.  Planning your meals for the week, saves time and frustration figuring out what is for dinner when you are already hungry!

You will find that spending an hour of weekend preparation can save you several hours of time during the week.   Instead of spending time and money on acquiring new things, spend the time honoring the event, in your heart, mind and of course, with your loved ones.

Bonnie Joy Dewkett is a Certified Professional Organizer and founder of The Joyful Organizer.

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