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8.29.2010

Here's how to cut clutter out of your life for good


For my entire life, most of my friends always wonder how I'm able to be so organized and neat. It's because I don't keep anything that no longer serves me. Also, it's primarily because I have little patience to constantly look for things which I find to be equally frustrating and energy-sapping for me. I'd rather spend my precious time enjoying things that make me happy, instead of allowing piles of less important things that don't nurture my soul get in the way of that. Usually, clutter is anything that doesn't belong in a space - whether because it belongs elsewhere in your home or it no longer fits in your life. So, really, clutter is not just the stuff on your floor. It's anything that stands between you and the life you want to be living. If you're struggling at maintaining a clutter-free space, here are some soul-searching questions that might help.

1. Why does your environment remain cluttered?
* It is not a priority.
* I can never get around to tidying it.
* I don't know where to start.
* I fear I will never finish.
* Other

2. How does clutter make you feel?
* Confused
* Anxious
* Hopeless
* Embarrassed
* Indifferent
* Other

3. What is holding you back from releasing old things?
* I am not sure what to keep.
* I'm insecure about making decisions.
* I fear I will need something the minute after I toss it out.
* I am afraid to let go.
* Other

4. What would make it easier for you to declutter?
* Knowing I am making the right decisions
* Not regretting losing something
* Knowing that it won't be time-consuming
* Knowing that it will really work
* Other

5. How much time will I commit to change?
* One month
* Six months
* One year
* As long as it takes
* Other

6. What does an uncluttered environment represent to you?
* Fear
* Excitement
* Work
* Freedom
* Other

After identifying the obstacles that stand in your way, you can begin to tackle them. Choose a space to declutter. Not sure which space to start with? Ask yourself the following questions about the spaces you're considering: Are there overwhelming quantities of one or two types of items {such as paperwork or clothing} in this space? Has cleaning in this space becomes an impossible chore due to too much stuff? Is the floor covered with objects and items you need to put away? Are the tops of the desk, tables, chairs, and other furniture hidden beneath piles? Is this space lacking a proper filing and/or storage system? Has it been more than a month since you've sorted and purged your unneeded items in this space?

If you've answered yes to most or all of these questions, then you know where you need to start. Now it's time to start sorting. Choose one area of that space. Start small and if you're worried that you won't finish, then ask yourself the following questions as you go through each item in that area:

When was the last time I used the item?
What does this item do for my emotional well-being
Is it a collectible that could be displayed and enjoyed?
Is the item outdated, or is it usable?
Are you able to find this item when you need it?
Is the item beyond repair?
What is your treasure?

You've heard the notion that one man's junk is another man's treasure, so why not let someone else enjoy this item(s) if it/they no longer serve you. What does it mean to truly cherish something? This next exercise will help you identify the real treasures in your life, and let them tell their story. 

List your prized possessions.
Describe how you acquired them.
What story or emotion do you associate with each of these objects?
What are your reasons for keeping these items?
How do you honor these items?

Don't let the sentimental journey inhibit you either.

Problem: You assign an emotion or a feeling to an item, and you feel that if you were to throw it out you would lose some part of you.

Solution: Remind yourself that throwing something out does not mean that you are throwing out the memory of that thing or that person. It just no longer serves you or makes your heart sing in the current season of your life. The reason why clutter clearing is so effective is that while you're putting your external world in order there are corresponding changes going on internally too. 

Getting rid of clutter may not be easy. Throwing out cherished but unneeded items can be painful - almost like losing a good friend. That's where I find being a little aggressive on deciding whether to keep an item or get rid of it comes in. Use the one-year rule. If you have not used something for a year, discard it. What if you are still reluctant to throw it out after a year? Put it in a holding area for a few more months. When you look at it again and realize that a year and a half have passed by and you have not used it, parting with that item may be easier. In any case, the objective is to reduce or cut the clutter out of your life for good - to cut your stress level down and make better use of your time by becoming more productive. Happy de-cluttering!