Are you a “stuff-aholic”? Many people collect stuff. Some even pay for storage units to house their extra stuff. Answer this honestly…when you walk into your home, is there a sense of overwhelm and frustration as you see piles of clutter from papers, magazines, clothes, gadgets and dishes?
Don’t feel badly if this describes you. Some of the world’s nicest people attract clutter, and there is some rationale behind it. You may think you’ll need it later or perhaps you spent serious money on it, so you feel obliged to keep it. Maybe it has sentimental value. Some clutter bugs will delay downsizing to a smaller home so they don’t have to deal with their stuff. Others won’t have friends over because they are embarrassed about their clutter.
Why should you declutter? Clutter robs you of energy and cuts into your productivity. How much time do you spend looking for items that aren’t where they‘re supposed to be? The stress of a cluttered life means you may work longer hours, miss deadlines and misplace important documents. A Princeton University study found that physical clutter in your surroundings competes for your attention and can have a negative impact on your ability to focus, process information, make decisions and think creatively.
Where do you start?
First, realize that you may resist decluttering. If you’ve ever seen the TV show Hoarders, you’ve watched people resist parting with their stuff. You may feel the same way as you tackle the project.
Set a SMART goal for your decluttering. SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Result-oriented, Time-bound. Last year, my SMART goal was to declutter and organize my garage by December 31. I took a whole year – and I achieved it.
Select 4 boxes for your items and apply labels: “Keep”, “Maybe Keep”, “Trash” and “Charity or Consignment.”
Start small. Tackle one drawer or shelf at a time. Do not empty all your drawers simultaneously, but one at a time. Do not progress to another area until you’ve finished with your first small area.
Declutter one room at a time. Choose a room where you will be successful quickly in achieving your goal of being clutter-free. As you declutter you will feel freer and lighter. One client said she felt “100 pounds lighter” after decluttering her first room, plus she felt motivated to keep going.
Set a timer for 15 minutes. You’ll be amazed by your progress after 15 minutes of uninterrupted, focused time. If you have time, set it for another 15 minutes. Don’t declutter for more than one hour the first day, so you will save your energy and enthusiasm for the next day.
Extra tips. Avoid putting paper in horizontal piles – it’s more peaceful to see some open space on desks and surfaces. Take photos to remember items – one guy took pictures of his 1000 beanie babies before donating them. Stick to the Rule: “When in doubt, throw it out.”
Enjoy the process! You never know, you may find some hidden treasures among your clutter.
Dr. Susan Murphy is a best-selling author, coach and speaker who specializes in relationships, conflict, leadership and goal-achievement. Dr. Murphy can be reached at Dr.Murphy@LiveWellClinic.org and (760) 674.1615.