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Published November 8th 2012
The best part of decluttering is the calories you burn
If you want a simple definition,clutter is something created by you when you have more stuff coming in than going out. If you can balance what comes into your home with what goes out you avoid clutter. This means balancing what you buy, get as gifts, hand-me-downs, heirlooms, and freebies with what you discard whether in the form of garbage, charity, garage sale, spring cleaning, selling on eBay, or just giving it away to friends and family. As you can see there are more ways of doing away with stuff than of getting them. Yet we manage to clutter our premises and homes with stuff we don't need or use. What we explore here is why this happens and how it can be changed.
Psychological—you're filling a hole in your life with stuff. Clutter happens when you hoard stuff and hang on to them. One reason is psychological. There may be areas in your life that are not as spiffy as you would like them to be. This emotional lack is something you constantly try to compensate for in the form of gadgets, gizmos, clothes, shoes, and whatever. If you think you have more stuff than you possibly need and then some, examine your self and come to an awareness where that real lack in your life is located. This may help you see the connection between hoarding and clutter and help you work towards clutter management.
Social—you don't care how you look to others. Clutter happens because you are, how do I put it… it's a three letter word…yes, a pig; no offence to the cute little creature or to you. If this is the case, embrace the pig in you. It's just that clutter doesn't bother you or cause you stress. Now you need to consider whether your clutter affects your relationships. If it does, you might want to weigh your priorities to see if your right to be messy is more important than your relationships. In the highly unlikely event that your clutter does not bother you or your relationships, there is still the need to consider your need for self-improvement. So declutter even if it doesn't bother you as an act of self-improvement, just as you would learn a new language or art form.
Personal—you grew up in a home with clutter and it appears as natural as breathing.
You don't realise you're living with clutter because it has become invisible to you. Or, you see it, but your definition of clutter is not negative. Close friends or family may point it out to you but you will not be convinced that it is a problem. No one can help you, least of all you, if you don't acknowledge that you have a problem. Often people who grow up in cluttered homes come to a realisation that has them do an about turn and become obsessed with tidying up. You can wait for this to happen or just decide to turn your life around now.
Extreme clutter can also happen if you are lazy beyond all reason, or time-poor. You might be the best-dressed at your work place but your personal space might be dust mites' delight. If you're time-poor, read on to find how you can strategically cut down cleaning to make it bite-size and doable. The trick is to turn this mountain into a series of molehills. If you're lazy, you're probably procrastinating and promising to tackle it first thing next Nevermber.
Procrastination—you put it off for that glorious day when you will give it your all and get it done. The sad thing about this is that the day never comes. This is because you view it as a monumental task that requires enormous effort and logistics, like preparing for the Olympics. No, it's not. It's just routine chores that 90% of the population go through in a matter-of-fact manner. The more value you attribute to tidying up, the more stressful it becomes for you, and the longer you procrastinate. And you've just taken a running dive into a vicious cycle. It's just a chore; don't give it the value of a do-or-die Math exam.
Where does clutter come from? Clutter is not always inexpensive junk or sentimental crap that you hang on to; it can also be the $200 shoe that pinches or the $500 dress that makes you look fat. For some reason, probably guilt, you hang on to them hoping some day, by way of some magic, you'd be able to wear it. The amount of money you spend is not directly proportional to the usefulness of a product. If you can't use it, donate it or sell it on eBay.
Ebay for clutter busting EBay is your friend when it comes to getting rid of clutter. Often, sentimentality goes out the window when money starts piling up in your PayPal account. Seen this way, eBay is the antidote to cluttering. Get the hang of it and hang in there. Once you get started getting rid of clutter, it becomes easier. It's the first step that's the most painful, quite like in other life situations.
The Meaning of Clutter—what it says about you Mirrors your internal chaos—no clear thinking No short term goals or long term plans
Hanging on to past
Affected by past
Fear of poverty—want, lack, not having enough
Don't know what you want in life, work, marriage, friendship
Will take, not give
No room for others in your life
Some Myths—none of them are true
If I clean up, I won't find my stuff
I need and love all of that stuff
I can't throw this away because it'll come in handy some day
Clutter is a sign of genius at work
Cleaning is neurotic
This is who I am; love me love my clutter
How to reduce clutter
Distance yourself from your clutter; move it away from your physical vicinity. Put what you haven't used in a while in a box, whether it's clothes, shoes, utensils, gadgets, gifts, whatnot. Keep this away out of sight. Now your clutter is in limbo; it's not gone but you don't have it at hand. Mark a day 6 months into your calendar and give yourself this time period to dispose of the contents of this box. If you never had to use anything from this box in the meantime, it proves to you that you didn't need any of it.
A place for everything and everything in its place is a good motto to follow: one of the things my Grandma drummed into me. If you have space for ten pairs of shoes, don't buy twenty even if you have the money for it. When you buy a new shoe, give away an older pair or two.
Start with personal clutter
Do your hair—get a neat cut, shampoo and blow dry.
Do your nails—get a mani/pedicure or clip your nails straight across.
Throw away old t-shirts, shorts, jammies—get a few new ones that are your exact size.
Get a pair of new footwear for home—nothing fancy, just nice and new.
If you do this much, you'll feel a few degrees better and more in charge.
Tackle one type of clutter a day
Start with books, magazine, newspapers—recycle; you're done for the day
Get CDs in a stack, sort, and put them away in boxes or racks; that's it, you're done for the day
Next, go on to plastic bags, fast food containers, empty bottles, left over or expired food packets; you're done for the day
Sort out clothes into good, bad, ugly—hang the good ones in the wardrobe; put the bad ones in the laundry; get rid of the ugly useless ones you'll never wear—you're done for the day
Do the same with gadgets, bed linen, towels, napkins—you're done for the day
Day 7—you're free to rest in a clutter free home.
Now clean your clutter-free home.
One Chore at a Time
Vacuum, & Dust —one day
Sweep & Mop—next day
Do all the loos—third day
Do the shower stalls-fourth day
Do the bathroom counter & floors—fifth day
Do window sills—sixth day
Clutter management with time
If you don't want to do one chore a day but would like to mix and match, limit yourself to a fixed time. This way, it will not seem an endless insurmountable task. Clean for 30 minutes (or an hour) everyday, even if you have to break it up into 15 minutes each in the morning and evening. Do a mix of the above chores in any order that works best for you and gives you the best results. Stop after 30 minutes or the designated time. Don't move a muscle to clean after that. The rest of your day is then for the other things you need to accomplish including rest and relaxation. This way you take the pressure off you to get the entire job done in one go.
Clutter management by room
Another way of limiting the enormity of the task is to declutter one room at a time. Go through one room, starting with the smallest and start sorting. Have a bin for Salvos, for eBay, for not-sure, and for garbage. Be ruthless about it. What you can't, at this stage, bring yourself to give up, put in the not-sure bag.
If you follow these suggestions, you will have a clutter-free, clean home in about two weeks' time. After that, if you can spend 30 minutes every other day running a duster and mop through your home, picking up stuff immediately rather then letting it remain on the floor, and follow the 'a place for everything motto,' you will have and maintain a reasonably tidy living space. That still leaves you 23 hours and 30 minutes, or 1410 minutes a day for eating, sleeping, working, relaxing, playing, socialising, loving, and doing stuff that makes you happy. How cool is that?