Clutter is bad for your health. Teetering towers of everything, piled in every which way can create mess, chaos and disharmony. They can also trigger feelings of stress, anxiety, shame, helplessness and guilt. Clutter not only stops you from being able to relax physically and mentally, it can also block creativity and productivity, drain your energy levels, lead to social isolation and provide a hiding place for dust, mould and all manner of critters.
On a deeper level, our external surroundings are said to be a reflection of our internal state of being, so what does your clutter say about you? Dr Susan Biali Haas says, “People who constantly live in a state of chaos are prone to procrastination and an inability to commit to work or relationships. They get anxious and overwhelmed with change and usually give up before they even start the project. Their finances and time are wasted; they feel stuck and bad about themselves”.
Clutter has been linked to low self-esteem, depression an impoverished childhood and obsessive compulsive behaviours but it can also be caused by a hectic lifestyle, inherited habits, a fear of moving forward in life or downsizing your living arrangements.
If you can relate to any of the above, know that you’re not alone. Clutter is at it’s essence a byproduct of over-abundance and many of us are feeling the effects. In what was described as “one of the most extensive pieces of research into contemporary life ever conducted,” a team of anthropologists at the University of California, Los Angeles decided that we are currently living in "the most materially rich society in global history, with light-years more possessions per average family than any preceding society”.
If you’re fed up of living in disarray and you’re ready to banish clutter from your life once and for all, below are six tips to help you on your way to becoming a permanent clutter free zone.
1. Visualise The End Goal
Think about your goal in cleansing your space of clutter. What do you want to achieve? Try to visualise how you’ll feel when you’ve finally cleared your clutter and how your space will look? How will you reward yourself? Write down the thoughts that came up came up as motivation and pop the note on your wall or fridge. Read it whenever you need a push to keep going. Don’t forget to enjoy your reward once you’ve achieved your aim.
2. Small Bites
Instead of trying to clean up a whole house or room full of clutter in one go. Focus on organising one small area at a time for example a shelf or a wardrobe. Once you’ve finished that area, move on to the next small area. You’ll be motivated by your progress and avoid feeling overwhelmed and defeated. If it helps take some before and after photos to spur you on.
3. Set The Mood
Make tidying up a light, fun process and not a laborious one. Work in the daytime when your energy levels are higher, let some light in, open a window and play some of your favourite music. Setting a bright and lighthearted environment will help you to dispel some of the negative associations that you have built up around your clutter, the time will pass faster and your clearing will feel a lot less like hard work!
4. Hands Off and Separate Your Emotions
We form emotional attachments and assign memories to our belongings but to achieve your clutter free goals you will have to summon up strength and resist any urges to cling onto what are essentially inanimate objects.
If you haven’t used an item for a year or longer, there’s a good chance that you never will. If you have items that bring back very sad memories, maybe it’s time to let them go. Clinging on to the past can create a lot of stuck energy and seriously impede your ability to move forward in your life.
Finally, Limit the amount of time that you spend handling your belongings. Researchers have found that the more we hold our possessions, the more we form a sentimental attachment to them. Be brave and be fearless and let them go.
5. Be Ruthless
Set up four empty boxes and label them ‘Keep’, ‘Bin’, ‘Sell/Donate’ and ‘Undecided’. When you’re deciding what to keep and what to let go of, ask yourself if you really need the item and exactly when you’ll next use it.
Keep the items in the ‘Keep’ box. Quickly dispose of items in the ‘Bin’ box and arrange to sell or donate the items in the ‘Sell/Donate’ box within seven days. Seal the items in the ‘Undecided’ box and keep them for six months. Set up a calendar alert if you need to. After six months open the box and reassess whether you need to keep, bin or donate/sell them.
Be swift and mindful in your decision making whilst you’re sorting through your belongings and don’t allow yourself to drift down memory lane. Your first instincts are usually correct so trust them.
6. Order In The House
Create a system of order and have a home for whatever you decide to keep. Make a habit of putting your personal effects back in their home right after you’ve used them (or after they’ve been laundered). It’ll make it easier for you to find things when you need them and to keep your home clutter free once and for all.
For useful resources visit clutterersanonymous.org