The road to clutter free

Clutter — you can’t live happily with it [in my opinion].  You can live quite well without it.  And most of us know this – intellectually. We just have a hard time actually developing the habits to keep it at bay and become clutter free.

No one is really immune to clutter or the hold it can have on you. Not a job goes by without a client saying to me, “There is just so much clutter”, or “I feel so cluttered.”  Even outside of work, I consistently hear people remark about the clutter in their life and how stifling it is – how overwhelmed and even depressed it makes them feel.

So let’s get rid of it – for good!

To really make sense of how you can rid your life of clutter, it’s probably best to define it – clearly.

Clutter is defined by good ole Webster as “confused or disordered collection”.  I’ll take it step further to say it’s confused collection because you haven’t given it the proper a home. Or, perhaps, it doesn’t have a real purpose (or both).  In some cases, the home is the trash or another part of the house, or someone else’s house.

In every case, when you don’t have a clearly identified home for what you let into your space, things pile up, or get stuffed in any open space. And clutter becomes what you see, and feel, in that space.  Not pretty. Not fun.

But I have some sure-fire steps to get you started on the road to clutter free, and some practically scientific ways to keep you clutter-free for a long, long time.

To get clutter free:

1. Make the time! Clearing clutter won’t get done by itself. You need to carve out time to do it.  Because no one ever really gets excited about clearing clutter, we tend to schedule over the time we have carved out. Put it on your calendar. Leave yourself a reminder note — do whatever it takes to hold yourself to the task.  Just 20 minutes a day will help you reduce your clutter. Do that for a week and you’ll notice a huge difference.

2. Pick one area! Clutter can suffocate you and completely overwhelm you so when it comes time to tackle it you want to pick one area of your house — perhaps the one where you spend most of your time — and start there. Don’t take on the full scope of your clutter problem at once; it won’t get you anywhere fast. Pick one room and one area of that room to get started.

3. Have a vision!  Every room should have a function and you should have a clear understanding of what you want the function of each room to be. When you begin to clear clutter, with your vision close at hand, get rid of what doesn’t inform your vision for your space positively.

4. Start with the obvious! Make some quick decisions on things you know are trash/recycle, remove them from the space and dispose of them properly and immediately. Sometimes just doing this makes a big dent in a space and that can offer great motivation to do more.  Plus, we all need small, quick tasks that offers some instant gratification!

5. Question the tough stuff! As you progress with your clutter, you’ll run into things that are harder to let go of or difficult to make decisions on. Ask yourself, “Do I like it?”, “Do I need it?”, “Do I use it?”.  The things you keep should make you feel good, should fit; they should have a purpose, and be used, even if used infrequently. And they should have a proper “home”.

6. Don’t wait! Don’t put off for tomorrow what you can certainly start today. Make becoming clutter free a priority! The longer you wait, the bigger the task becomes.  Not only will the clutter grow but as it grows so will your loathing for the task.

7. Get help!  Consider working with a professional to help you get un-buried from clutter. Sometimes, working with a non-judgement (and unbiased) person who can work with you to tackle the clutter is all you need to get you on the right track.

8. Remind yourself you deserve it! You deserve a clutter-free space that allows you to live stress-free, find what you need without frustration, and have a calm home. Don’t focus on how you got buried; focus on taking the steps to freeing yourself from it.

To stay clutter free:

9. Do the math! The secret to keeping your space cleared of clutter is simple math: If you let in more than you let out, you will eventually bury yourself with stuff.

10. Make it a habit! Clearing clutter isn’t something you do once. You have to make it a habit to tidy things up, put things in their proper home, keep flat services clear, throw away/recycle the obvious – often. Life is fluid and things flow into our life all the time. Don’t let things pile up; make decisions – daily – as things come in.

11. Ask away! Question what comes into your life and into your space — from the smallest piece of paper to the largest piece of heirloom furniture. Questioning and being honest with the answers keeps your clutter levels down.

You can live without clutter. You have the ability to get rid of clutter. And life does feel much lighter when you make the commitment to live a life free of it.

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