Stop Accumulating Clutter: How to Clear Your Environment and Your Mind
Rev. Dr. Kitty Boitnott, NBCT, RScP
Heart-Centered Career Transition & Job Search Coach | Life Strategies & Stress Management Coach
Few people set out to accumulate a lot of stuff. They just do it. I am amazed by how much stuff I can collect in a very short time. Every time I move, I swear to myself that I will not buy so much stuff this time. And I always somehow manage to have more in the next move than I had in the previous move.
I am on a mission to change that, however. I have shared with you that I started a clearing project a few weeks ago. I am using a modified version of the "KonMari" method to overhaul my entire living space. And I am almost done! Believe it or not, it has been an exhilarating experience. Exhausting...but exhilarating.
Last week, I hired Junkluggers. Two young guys came in their truck and hauled off trash and miscellaneous junk. Additionally, I had them take seven boxes of books, two old computers, an old telephone, and a whole assortment of outdated electronics. They will recycle what they can and discard the rest.
I also made a trip to the Apple store and turned in four old iPhones, an ancient iPod, and an old MacBook Air. The guy I talked to there marveled at the age of the phones. You might have thought I had brought in dinosaur bones for him to inspect the way he acted. And I got $60 for one of the more recent iPhones that I can use when I trade in my current MacBook Pro.
I am still gathering small things here and there to take to the GoodWill. And I haven't tackled my sentimental items yet. They are the last thing on my list, and I want to take my time doing it so I can do it right.
The thing is that once I started this process, I discovered that there is something deeply satisfying about creating cleared space. It feels good to have things organized and "tidy," as Marie would say.
No one sets out to have an untidy or cluttered living space.
It just happens. We live in a consumer-driven world, and as consumers, we like our stuff! So, what do you do? You keep buying more and more stuff without any thought of letting go of the old stuff you no longer use.
Suddenly, there is no room for everything that has been accumulated. Everything is a jumbled mess. You don't know where to put it all. You start to feel overwhelmed, and that leaves you feeling stuck!
As I pointed out in an earlier newsletter, too much clutter can be bad for your health. It is especially bad for your mental health. But it is also potentially harmful to your physical health. Environmental contaminants in a cluttered environment cause physical as well as psychological issues. Health problems related to respiratory conditions like asthma, allergies, etc. abound in homes where there is a lot of clutter.
So, how do you stop accumulating clutter?
Minimalist, Joshua Becker recommends that you start by getting rid of everything you don't want in your life.
Getting rid of clutter that takes up space but is not performing a useful purpose will almost instantly relieve your stress level. And the good news is that you can stop accumulating physical clutter by merely making a decision. Decide that you are going to clear out the old and stop bringing in anything new unless it is something you need and will use.
I am not saying you don't get to keep any of your stuff. We rely on many things to help our lives be better. I am talking about getting rid of the stuff you no longer use or need. Let someone else get some use out of it. If you haven't used something for the last year or so, assess your real need for it. If you don't anticipate needing it for something soon, consider tossing it or giving it away.
The first step is to assess your stuff.
Take a good hard look at all your belongings as a first step in the decluttering process. If you decide to adopt Marie Kondo's method, you will tackle your stuff by category. But that may not suit your particular style. So, consider what works best for you.
Consider everything in your house and determine what to trash, sell, give away, or keep.
As you go through all your stuff, note whether you want to trash, sell, give away, or keep the items. Stock up on extra trash bags while you go through this process. I also got boxes from the store that I used to carry things to the Good Will. You will need boxes for breakable items. You can use bags for the trash.
Marie Kondo says you need to touch every item to get a feeling from it. Note how you feel as you touch each item. Does it bring you "joy" or not? Her advice is to get rid of anything that doesn't bring you joy.
I think that might be a bit simplistic, honestly. My vacuum cleaner doesn't bring me joy. But I am not going to discard it on that basis, right? So, perhaps you also need to consider an item's utility as well as its capacity for bringing you joy.
What I decided to do was to get rid of anything I haven't used for a while and didn't anticipate using anytime soon. The only exception to this so far has been cleaning items and holiday items. I will go through my Christmas stuff closer to the holiday.
I have given away a lot of clothes, old, odd housewares, including glasses and cups I don't ever use. And I packed dozens of books that I let go because I knew I would never read them, or I had already read them and enjoyed them.
Once you have decluttered, organize the stuff you are keeping.
When you’re finished clearing your home of stuff you no longer want to need, you will want to organize what you kept. Marie even teaches a method for folding that helps things look neater in their drawers. And she recommends a particular way to organize closets, too.
One caution she offers is to avoid plastic storage bins. They take up space and you rarely use any of the things that you store there. You might as well discard those items.
I have taken several "organizers" to the GoodWill that I had good intentions of using but never did. As a result, they just took up space.
Create sanctuary spaces in your home.
It's especially important to do an excellent job of organizing your bedroom so that it is a truly restful space. Think of your bedroom as a sanctuary. Speaking as a Sleep Science Coach now, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of treating your bedroom as a sacred space in your home. It is meant for sleeping and having sex. Period.
Your bedroom should not house your office. I don't even recommend that you have a TV there although I admit that I do. Avoid eating in your bed.
Make your bed every day. And clear out anything that may be distracting and keeping you from getting the refreshing sleep you need.
You might also consider your living room space as a sanctuary of sorts. As you look around the room, do you feel happy or stressed? If you note a feeling of stress, is it because there are discordant items there? What needs to be moved to another room or tossed altogether?
When you aren't using your stuff, put it away.
When you get something out to use, put it away as soon as you’re done with it. This is much easier to do when you have created a place for everything. Create "homes" for everything from your nail file to your underwear. If you own it, it should have a specific place to be when not in use.
If you are committed to keeping your home clutter-free, it will be easier to stick to your guns about putting things away. If you live with other people, you will need their help, of course. But teaching children--and your spouse--about the importance of creating a clutter-free space can also help bring harmony into your home. And you won't have everyone yelling at you wanting to know where they can find their stuff. They will already know where all their stuff is.
You don't have to "Marie Kondo" your home but...
Of course, you don't have to go all "Marie Kondo" to create a safe, clutter-free, harmonious living space. I did because I just felt the need to do a major overhaul in my own living space. I had been living with some of the stuff I got rid of for far too long. And getting rid of stuff I no longer need made me feel good about my living space and myself.
If you are happy in your living space with lots of your stuff surrounding you, you don't need to do a single thing. The idea is to be happy and to feel safe and cozy in your home. Cluttered or not, if you love where you live and how your place looks and feels, you don't need to take any action at all.
But if you have been feeling a need to declutter your life like I was feeling, Marie Kondo offers one useful approach. Hers isn't the only method, however, and I recommend that you find the way that works for you.